Stab Magazine | Has Mick Fanning's approach reached its competitive use-by date?
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Has Mick Fanning’s approach reached its competitive use-by date?

Words by Jed Smith It was written all over his face. “He was asking the judges, what more do you want?” recalls Jake ‘the Snake’ Paterson of the moment the WSL judges sunk a dagger into Mick Fanning’s title charge. Crunch time had arrived in Fanning’s round three heat with local wildcard, Frederico Morais. With […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Mick_Approach_cazWords by Jed Smith

It was written all over his face. “He was asking the judges, what more do you want?” recalls Jake ‘the Snake’ Paterson of the moment the WSL judges sunk a dagger into Mick Fanning’s title charge.

Crunch time had arrived in Fanning’s round three heat with local wildcard, Frederico Morais. With his title on the line, and requiring a score in the excellent range, he’d laid down exactly the kind of clutch surfing you’d expect – a sizzling float to reo-to reo-to reverse combo, flawlessly executed, with not a drop wasted.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see it fall right in the same zone as (Frederico’s) 9.13 but it could go higher. I’d be really surprised to see it go under,” called Ross Williams.

His opponent, Portuguese wildcard, Frederico Morais, had just laid down one of the turns of the event – a severe “meat hook” in a steep juicy bowl. Fanning replied with the kind of surfing we’ve seen 1000s of times from him – a result of the most meticulous, professional, and progressive approach to competitive surfing any athlete has taken in the sport’s history. It would not be enough today. The score, an 8.4, condemned him to a shock round three elimination and placed his remarkable shark-gate title run in serious jeopardy. The confusion was written all over his face.

An event earlier, in France, he’d been beaten in the quarters by a bucket-throwing Bede Durbidge. Less turns on steeper waves was the recipe for Fanning’s demise. It begs the question whether Fanning’s rail game has finally fallen foul of the judges?

“The judges want to be entertained like the fans,” explains Surfing Australia National coach, Andy King. “I think they crave different lines and speeds from the crew they have been watching for over decade.”

King was on the beach for Fanning’s shock loss in Portugal. While he doesn’t believe Fanning has all that much to change, he has identified a shift in what the judges want.

“It’s variety, which is a real common theme that John John Florence and the younger crew have created by maximising the speed out of the lip,” he says.

Not variety of moves, says King, but lines.

“Variety and innovation doesn’t just come from airs… By altering the angles of the bottom turn you can create multiple different snaps and carves,” says King.

This is where the veterans, or OGs as King calls them, are falling over.

“The OGs (i.e Fanning) are burning to much speed on their bottom turns and sacrificing this maximum speed out of the lip,” he says.

Photo: WSL/Kirstin

Photo: WSL/Kirstin

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