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“There’s Nowhere To Hide Now”

Mick Fanning on the current state of competitive surfing, wavepools, olympics, dealing with adversity and more.

news // Apr 27, 2018
Words by Rick Snowden
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The most talked about thing in surfing pre-shark meltdown in Western Australia was Mick Fanning’s World Tour departure. 

Rightfully so, considering how tremendously the three-time World Champ and had brightened our view of surfing for the past few decades. 

While he may have clocked off from his days on the WSL’s roster, and the #cheersmick hashtag has dwindled in double taps, as an icon, a role model and highly inspirational surfer, he’ll remain in the upper echelons for years to come. His opinion and wisdom retaining its validity as we enter a new age of Griffins, Keramas and wavepool events.

Just prior to his official announcement at Bells, Mick took Australian GQ Editor, Michael Christensen for a tear around his local Gold Coast hunting ground before sitting down to chat.

Obviously, we’ve covered most of what Mick’s planning with his years ahead (more Searching, healthier living, biz ventures and tending to the mysterious sunbathing colony that has sprung up out front of his Tugun residence), however the pair did cover some interesting ground around the evolution of the tour, overcoming tragedy and fear, the Olympics, wavepools and more. 

So bear with us while we cut and paste a few bites from the interview.

On the retirement decision:

Yeah, it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction – it had been building up for a few years. Through 2014-15, I spoke to a couple of people and it was a scary decision but it just seemed like I didn’t have the energy to do the tour.

The desire to wake up each morning and go to the gym wasn’t there. In comps, I felt like if I win, I win – but it just didn’t matter anymore. I was lying to myself in a way, trying to get myself crazy excited for heats, trying to beat someone so bad.

On the evolution of Tour life:

Before when we went on tour, there was no social media. We’d all go and sit in internet cafes, so the professionalism has changed. It was just such a fun party the first couple of years – being young and excited and falling into what everyone else is doing.

I also feel like there was a lot more camaraderie back in those days because not everyone would make that much money and so everyone would travel together. Now people have their own entourage; they all have their own filmers and stuff. So it’s very different.

There’s nowhere to hide now. If you have it out and have a shit heat, then the whole world will see it. Even before you’re taking your wet shirt off, you’ll get written off by your mates. So you don’t want to have a shit heat on live TV or they’ll rip into you. 

On conservation work:

I’m also interested in saving animals and places in the world with a conservation group called WildArk.

Their aim is to preserve natural places around the world so animals can live in their natural habitat, so that’s stopping loggers and poachers. It’s been good to get on board and show the severity of the situation in places like South Africa but also to encourage people to raise awareness around these things.

On overcoming adversity:

There isn’t any right way to deal with things like that. The main thing that really helped was talking to mates, talking to a psychologist. Not only Aussie men, but men in general have a hard shell in that they’re strong and can be afraid to talk and that’s the one thing that I hate.

When the shit hits the fan, they go and be all strong, when really they just want to bawl their eyes out. I just don’t have the energy for that. Also there’s always someone worse off out there. I’m very lucky – sat here with this view in this house, but there are people out there that don’t have a house or food or a clean living so I always think of others when I feel sorry for myself.

On grom parenting:

I was having this conversation the other day and people who get to a certain level of winning seem to be the most mellow parents, not forcing stuff on their kids. Then those that still have that hunger to try and be the best, they are the ones who push their kids until they turn themself into a soccer mum. 

On the Olympics:

The idea of going to compete for a gold medal is out of this world, it’s so cool, but the thing that scares me is that the surf at Ichinomiya [Japan] isn’t the greatest. So for the first time as an Olympic sport being watched on a global scale, it’s a bit of a gamble, as bad conditions might reflect badly on surfing. But for the next two games, Paris and LA, they are two spots that get incredible waves, so we’ll see.  

On wavepools:

They’re awesome! There are four or five different projects going on around the world at the moment, all with different technologies. We’re going to get people from middle America, Europe, China – all these places where people can’t get to the ocean will now have the opportunity to surf. 

It’s definitely different because the waves are exactly the same; it’s going to be like skating or snowboarding on a half-pipe where you can plan your wave and the manoeuvres and turns, so commentators will know exactly what they’re going to do. Look, I don’t know exactly the format of it all, but I just love the way the sport’s evolving.

Being on tour for 16 years, I’m always happy to see some change. At the moment it’s just one event, and the No.1 go-to place will be the ocean. That will never change. And besides, if I know the swell’s going to be crap for a month, it’s not bad to know you can guarantee you’ll go and catch 10 perfect waves.

On equality in surf:

I’ve never really gotten into that debate. The girls bring a lot to the sport. There are some very, very strong personalities, and they tell amazing stories. So, yeah, I hope they’re getting paid equivalently. It also helps when the CEO of the WSL is a woman [Sophie Goldschmidt] who loves surfing, so they get tremendous support there, which is awesome.

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