Stab Magazine | Mick Fanning Talks Beating A Unique Anxiety, Twin Fins, And The Next Six Months

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Mick Fanning Talks Beating A Unique Anxiety, Twin Fins, And The Next Six Months

Surfing’s most interesting man speaks, Stab politely listens; An exclusive interview.

news // Jul 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Sick of the shark talk? So is Mick Fanning. Me too, to be honest. But, it inevitably surfaced during a conversation with Mick yesterday, a few days after he won the J-Bay Open, a year after he wrestled a shark in the final of the same event. Prior to jumping on a call, Mick warned that he was foggy from travel, but the lucidity in his conversation would never have suggested it. God, I love a professional. Especially one who humours you through topics they’ve discussed a thousand times already. Once we’d covered the inescapable subject, Mick lit up on the pleasure of a (self shaped) twin fin, his biggest focus right now (hint: It isn’t competition), and, what comes next…

Stab: Hey, um, that’s gotta be up there with the best event wins you’ve ever had, surely.
Mick Fanning: Just different, I guess. The last few years, event wins have been going towards a World Title, whereas now it’s just more for fun. It was an event where I just wanted to right some wrongs and move on from last year. The whole plan for going back was… if I won, awesome, but that wasn’t the be-all and end-all. It was about actually just going back there. I have so many good memories from J-Bay, I just wanted to try and create more. 

Like, not leave it on a bad note. For sure. The way everyone left last year… everyone was questioning if we were gonna go back, and even just the people that live there, it felt like they were bummed that it happened. But it was great to go back, and I had a really fun time.

Mick J Bay 3 Pierre Tostee

Very few surf J-Bay flawlessly. Tom Curren is one. Mick Fanning is another. Photo: WSL/Pierre Tostee

Were you just thinking, shit, I just wanna get in the water so I can stop thinking about that first surf? Yeah, it was weird, I got there on the Sunday night, woke up Monday morning and it was flat. I wasn’t that keen on surfing. So we just did the things you normally do when you get to a spot. But in the afternoon it was like, ah, let’s just go for a surf, go wash the plane off. When I first looked at J-Bay there was definitely some anxiety that came up. But once I caught that first wave, it was fine.

How many surfs did it take before you stopped thinking about last year, stopped feeling those anxieties? It’s something I’ve been working on for a while, so it’s not like it was just at that spot. Once I caught a couple of waves… I was riding a regular board, it was pretty small and I was feeling comfortable, and I wanted to have some more fun so I went in and grabbed my twinny and paddled back out. I had a ball, then. Those feelings were pretty much gone straight away.

Mick J Bay 1 cestari2

On that competitive tip, Mick didn’t lose a heat at J-Bay this year. And, he only clocked a combined total lower than 17 on one occasion. To nobody’s surprise. Photo: WSL/Kelly Cestari

I’m sure you’re so sick of talking about this, so I’m sorry, but you just mentioned you’ve been dealing with it for a while: What have you been doing to equip yourself mentally for this return? Nothing, really. When it all happened a year ago, that was something that… I didn’t know how to deal with. You try to deal with it each and every day.

No one should really know how to deal with that. Yeah. I just try and forget about it, but… I get reminded about it by everyone every fricken day, so…

Sorry. (Laughs), Yeah, it was good to write a different chapter (winning), so hopefully everyone will talk about that, rather than reminding me of what happened a year ago.

Well, I promise I’ll never ask you about it again. Cheers mate (insert sympathy laugh here).

MillerR SA16 0512

The magic 5’9″ four-channel DHD that Mick rode to three 17-point heat totals on finals day. Can’t argue with numbers.

Photography

Ryan Miller

We haven’t seen you deviate from your standard performance shortboard (5’11”) in competition much. But, that channel-bottom 5’9” you won on has been buzzing online. I was surfing with Maxime Huscenot in France two years ago, and I was looking at his four channels thinking, maybe that’s a good idea. So I sent some texts to DH. He’s always reluctant to make me channel bottoms – in those dimensions, anyway. I rode that 5’9” throughout that first swell this year on the Goldy, so, I knew it worked. And the waves were pretty gutless at J-Bay, and going up against Filipe I knew I had to do something different, to make it stand out. But it’s a board that I just love riding. When I get home and I’m going to surf the point, I’ll usually jump on that rather than a normal shortboard. You can definitely notice the channels. A lot of the traditionalists are all about six channels, but I find the six channels to be a little too tracky. The feeling of four channels is like a quad, but without the trackiness. But when you’re doing a turn, it feels like you’re on train tracks. It just holds in and gives you that extra bite through the turns. I really enjoy them, and I’ve been riding them a fair bit. 

And, you’ve been getting in the shaping bay a little? Yeah, I made a little twinny, which I took over to J-Bay as well, that’s the one I rode on that first afternoon. I borrowed one of (Rob) Machado’s on a Reef trip we did recently, and had so much fun on it. I got inspired to make one and ride it. The thing is so fast, so fun. Especially since we had a lot of smaller days at J-Bay this year, and with my ankle (injury, in the first few days), it wasn’t the most fun going surfing on a normal shortboard, so I rode the twinny a fair bit. I lent it to Ricky Basnett, and he really loved it so I ended up leaving it there with him.

Ricky Basnett Mick Twin

Ricky Basnett, the lucky recipient of Mick’s self-shaped Twin Fin.

How generous. Twinnies are good for reinvigorating small waves, since they’re a little more challenging. I think it’s all about riding boards that you’re having a lot of fun on. If you’re always riding shortboards, you might get a little stale sometimes. Every time I go surfing these days, I just want to be on something I’m having the most fun on. It’s always changing.

Have you always been like that, or in the past during an event window have you stuck to boards you’d be riding in your heats? When you’re at events, right in that zone, you want to keep fine-tuning the equipment you’ve got. I always enjoy riding singles or twins, but sometimes you get stuck in that shortboard rut, and it can be hard to break out of. So now, I’ve been changing up a lot this year, I barely ride the same board.

Mick J Bay 6 Kirstin

Though it wasn’t really needed, the 5’9″ four-channel gave Mick’s surfing a little extra something on finals day. Props to quarterfinal opponent Filipe Toledo, who inspired the choice. Photo: WSL/Kirstin

And so, you’re skipping Chopes? Yeah, skipping Chopes and I’m going to go do some more exploring, then I’ll be back for Trestles. And Trestles will probably be my last event.

You said after the win that World Titles weren’t the biggest thing for you anymore. What is? Just having fun. I’m more inspired now to go and enjoy my surfing, enjoy time with my friends, and going to see different places. I’ve been on tour for a long time and it can get stale. Sometimes you’ve just gotta change it up. It feels really good, just being on my own program, rather than having a set schedule for the whole year.

You’ve certainly earned it. But finally, I’ve just gotta ask about the rock, paper, scissors with the Harringtons(Laughs) We were actually just sitting around at home, and they were asking me about J-Bay, and I was like, ‘I’ve gotta figure out who I’m gonna take.’ They were both like, ‘I’ll go!’ I thought, there’s one way to settle this: Paper, scissors, rock. Ha!

Mick J Bay 4 Pierre Tostee

“World Titles aren’t my focus anymore. Having fun is.” Photo: WSL/Pierre Tostee

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