Leading the world tour ratings is bittersweet. For a stint, you’re on top. But there’s pressure. And the fact that, this early in the year, it can shift at every event. For what it’s worth and whatever it might mean, Mick Fanning is currently the world’s number one surfer. Since the white-mopped kid busted onto tour 10 years ago, the power, speed and fluidity in his surfing has not only matured, but also continually adapted (slob air-revs, thanks!). After tasting victory at Bells earlier in the year (made all the sweeter by a win over Kelly in the final), Mick threw down enough of his magic at the surrounding events to slide into the number one slot, post-Fiji. It ain’t the first time he’s been here. D’you reckon he’s letting it faze him?
Stab: What’s it mean to be current world number one?
Mick Fanning: At the moment, I’m not thinking about it. The way I look at it, I’ve got three results out of four. When it comes down to it, you wanna finish the year with at least nine results. So that’s three results I don’t have to get now. I’ve got those ones in the kitty. It’s all about making up the numbers. It doesn’t matter who else is in the race, you still need those results. I look at it as a whole. Once you get down to the last two or three events, you start looking at who’s in the race, but until then everyone’s just building points. If you can get third or better in each event, you’re doing pretty well.
The break between Fiji and Chopes is two months. How do you keep your head clear in that time? I’m just cruising, y’know? I’ve got a couple of trips that I’m gonna do. It’s so early in the year, (the title race) is all so close that you can’t really start stressing out about it yet. There’s still a lot of work to do, so it’s still business as usual.
You had a dig on the big day in Fiji. It looked immense out there. It was massive, man. For me, I just wanted to go out there and have a look. I just wanted to get at least one wave. It was serious. I think they were some of the biggest waves I’ve ever seen. It was exhilarating. From being there, then watching the replays, it was just so much bigger when you were there.
Did they make the right call not to run? When Bede and Kai and those guys surfed it, the wind was pretty bad coming up the face. I guess, because you’re looking into the wave from the channel, it doesn’t look as bad, but they all said it was really hard to surf. Even when they called it off, it wasn’t super amazing. It wasn’t til another hour into the freesurf that guys were getting really crazy ones. It’s a 50-50 call but at the end of the day, they made the right call, even if just based on safety. Those top big-wave guys were wearing life vests and we didn’t have anything. If we did go, it would’ve been crazy, but we got to watch crazy surfing anyway. Win-win.
Does Kelly want it as badly as ever? I don’t know. You never know with him. I think last year he wasn’t all that psyched at the start of the year, then when he didn’t go to J-Bay and people were talking about him, that pissed him off. Then he just came out firing and smoked everyone. So It all just depends. He was on point in Fiji, which you expect. He’s got such a good rapport with Tavarua.
Who else impressed you in Fiji? Gabe (Medina). Everyone was watching to see how he’d do in those sort of waves and he really stepped up and surfed great. He did some great tuberiding and some really big turns. The Hobgoods are always amazing out there, as well. And, John John (Florence), too. I surfed with him before the event and he’s so relaxed, he finds the craziest waves and he just doesn’t seem to freak out. He’s really calm. It’s pretty crazy to watch.
Has your competitive surfing changed in the last year? I think now, I don’t really freak out about getting the result. It’s more about going out and putting on a good show. I’m only trying to impress myself. I’m not really worried about what other people are thinking, I’m just going surfing.
Would that be different if you didn’t have an ASP world cup sitting in your trophy room? I don’t know… it’s a hard one. Maybe it would be, maybe I’d be more furious. At Snapper when I lost, I didn’t take it too well. But then I looked at it and thought, if that’s as bad as it’s going to be, then I’m doing ok. If the results come, they come. As long as I’m surfing well, I’m happy.
Who’s gonna win the world title? You? Hopefully! (Laughs). As I said, it’s still a really long way to go, and it’s close. With Kelly and Joel tied at second… I think we’ll probably know after these two events. That’s when we’ll see who’s really taking control. Maybe this time off will be good for everyone. Hopefully everyone comes out guns blazing like it’s the start of the year again. – Elliot Struck