Mick Fanning Discusses Medina's "Psycho Killer" Headspace, John Florence's Competitive Return
The next non-Brazilian World Champ and more.
Mick Fanning is busy in ‘retirement’. He's part owner of a thriving brewery. He's got a soft board brand. He still ticks off his sponsor and brand ambassador requirements. He just shot Stab in the Dark over three continents.
And, last weekend, he snuck off to Fiji.
“It was the first trip I’ve done with Dingo in ten years. It was really good fun,” Mick told Stab upon return.
Over a decade ago, when the WSL was the ASP, and glass-on fins weren't nostalgic, Mick and Dean Morrison made up two-thirds of the Coolie Kids. Their relationships spanned decades, World Titles, and a number of stories that no-one wants published.
“I got out of the surf back at home, checked my phone and Dingo had hit me up saying ‘there’s a swell in Fiji’” Mick continued. “I was umming and ahing all day because it didn’t really look that amazing. Then the forecast changed a little bit and I went ‘stuff it, let’s go.’”
The only real difference in retirement is that you're not wearing a jersey.
Once they got to Cloudbreak, it was far from pumping. Was it big? Yes. But the wind and swell direction were off. The trip was more leisure than stacking clips – which with nothing left to prove, is more Mick's speed anyway.
We jumped on the horn with Mick to talk the World Title race, Gabriel Medina, John Florence, and Mick’s surprise Cape Fear debut all under the guise of curiosity about the recent Fijian jaunt mentioned above. Let's face it, picking the brain of a 3x World Champ is far more intriguing than a boys trip to Fiji.
Sunscreen application is evidently harder than getting tubed in the Tropics.
Note: We first tried to contact Mick and Dingo as they were dialling in to watch UFC McGregor vs. Khabib, so let's kick off from there.
Stab: How about that fight? Dingo said he had to convince you to go for McGregor.
Mick Fanning: Yeah, Dingo goes, ‘You’re Irish mate you’ve gotta go for your fellow Irishman." It was a wild fight, and the logistics of trying to watch it was hilarious.
The Dad of the friend we were staying with runs a restaurant so we decided to watch it there. We drove through the rain to get there, and he had it up on every screen. Then the fight before the main event, every TV just fell apart and one of the girls behind the bar gave us a phone so we crowded around and watched it on that [laughs].
They’re not bloody ballet dancers, that’s for sure.
What about what happened afterwards? Nothing like that happens in surfing.
Ahh, it used to! Not anymore.
It was really wild though.
Was anyone else over in Fiji with you?
Originally it was just me and Ding, then we took Nick Pollet, and Brenno flew in on Sunday [the day after they arrived]. Russell Bierke and a few of his mates were over there as well. It was pretty fun.
Did it reduce any jealousy you might have missing out on France?
What they had yesterday at La Graviere was what you live for in France, but you can always fly over and get that so I’m not too worried.
Well, it wasn't pumping by Cloudbreak's standards.
So you don’t miss competing?
Not really hey, I’m totally fine with not being there. I still enjoy watching the comps, but I really don’t miss the crowds. And I don’t have the stress involved either.
It’s a real shame they didn’t hold the comp at La Grav.
It’s hard for them to pick the spot they want to surf, because with their set up, they need to pick the bank a month in advance. It’s always a gamble with the constantly shifting banks.
I think they need to go back to the days of popping a couple of tents up on the beach a day beforehand. They don’t need the broadcast to be on the beach, the commentators are just commentating based on what’s on the screens, so they can be anywhere really. They just need the cameras and a bit of an area to set-up, other than that, just mix up the location I think [laughs].
Back in the day you had to surf about six different banks [throughout the event] and it was awesome fun trying to figure it out.
What about this sudden resurgence of aerial events from their 90’s origin?
When you have guys like Gab and Filipe doing crazy airs in competition it’s a bit different to the 90’s where we were all doing floaters and cutbacks [laughs]. It’s a lot different now. These air events are cool because there’s more eyeballs on it.
Mick was far from known for his punts, but post competitive life he's been able to free himself from the shackles of open face surfing.
Speaking of Filipe and Gabriel, who’s your pick for the title this year? [Note: This conversation occurred as Round 2 kicked off, prior to Filipe’s elimination]
I think Gabe has a few more weapons than Filipe, but we have a lot out to find out in this event. If Gabe get’s a few rounds on Filipe [he will] in this event it’s going to be crazy close. Gabe is in that psycho killer mode right now and I wouldn’t be surprised if he stole the title.
What’s he like to compete against in that ‘psycho killer’ headspace?
He’s just an iceman. It’s amazing. He’s so on the money.
It sort of reminds me of Kelly and Andy back in the day. You think you have them and then they come back and just flog you, which is so disheartening [laughs].
That’s his job, away from competition he’s a great kid. A lot of people portray him as the person they see on camera, or on the WSL stream, but look, they don’t see what he’s like at home. He’s amazing with his family, and a really great guy to hang out with, he cops more than he deserves.
Everyone did that with Andy too, but in the end everyone loved him. Everyone’s weird like that, I guess it’s just human nature.
Yeah, we always need a scapegoat for our WSL anger. Who are our hopes for the next non-Brazilian world champ?
It will be interesting to see what Griffin does in the next few years. As a rookie he came on and just exploded blowing everyone away. He’s such a likeable kid too.
I always keep going back to Julian though, I think he has more in him. Last night was one of the few heats this year where everything went his way.
I think he’s been struggling with his shoulder a lot of the year, but he’s also learnt a lot. He’s learnt that he can grind through a heat, whereas previously he wouldn’t allow himself to do that – he was either knives or nothing.
In saying that, it’s only been 10 months since the last title and that was John John.
And the time off will do John good. After a couple of World Title years it does take a lot out of you. He’ll upset the card a bit when he’s back.
A friendship which extends beyond shared stickers. Mick and Medina Portugal, 2017.
Aside from the injury, do you think John John lost his competitive drive?
Mate it happens, your mental edge starts slipping and you slowly lose that extra little drive that you need. That time off is going to be really good.
Back to yourself, have any more Search trips in the work with Mase?
It’s coming into Hawaii season so it’s going to be hard to drag Mason away from Hawaii [laughs], but we’re still planning.
It’ll probably be early next year and maybe I’ll drag him away. He goes nuts over there, it’s so good to watch.
Are you heading over?
I’m gonna head over and watch Parko for his last event and be there for his twelfth retirement party [laughs].
After Hawaii, Mick and Mase might turn to bootie conducive waters once again. Till then we can only relive their last trip.
You have the Cape Fear comp lurking too, how are you feeling about that?
It’s one of those things, when I first got told it might be on – like the other day – I was shitting myself, then I built myself up, but when it was called off I was relieved [laughs]. It’s a good rollercoaster situation with the waiting period.
I'm not fussed about the water temps either, I'm more concerned about how big they want it to be. I’ve only surfed Shipstern once.
How did you get conned into competing in it?
Originally I told them I was happy to be an alternate, and then when they dropped the press release, I was in it!
I sent my team manager a ‘thank you’ card after that [laughs].
I’ll just be stoked to get a couple and hang out with the Tassie boys, they’re all legends.
If it comes close to Cape Solander in 2016 it’ll be a hell of a show.
Nah, we don’t need that, I’m fine. I’ll be sick under the bed if it’s like that [laughs]