Stab Magazine | Cut through the heat with Sprite: Mick wins third World Title
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Cut through the heat with Sprite: Mick wins third World Title

All photos by Joli Sprite’s Cut Through The Heat is an ongoing series of fabulously awkward moments in surf, some of which you haven’t heard. Yes we’re talking the behind the-scenes stories of some of the most famous incidents and mishaps in surfing’s rich history and the eventual resolutions. Here we remember the intensity, and […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

All photos by Joli

Sprite’s Cut Through The Heat is an ongoing series of fabulously awkward moments in surf, some of which you haven’t heard. Yes we’re talking the behind the-scenes stories of some of the most famous incidents and mishaps in surfing’s rich history and the eventual resolutions. Here we remember the intensity, and last-minute suspense, of Mick Fanning’s 2013 World Title win…

Keen observers of the sport of surfing will certainly remember Mick Fanning’s World Title victory in 2013. It’s a story that, given the year he had in 2015, and the fact he was in a similar race heading into Pipe this year, is worth retelling. Let’s glance in the rearview for a moment!

“The world title is something that takes a whole year,” says Mick. “But sometimes it can feel like it boils down to the final day and the final heats.” And it certainly did in 2013. In particular, it felt like there were two moments that really, really won Mick the title. Here’s what happened.

Rolling into Hawaii in 2013, it almost seemed preordained that Mick would be the World Champ. There was just one big, scary speed hump standing in his way: Kelly Slater. #cmonmick had three times as many hashtags as #onlykellycan, but Kelly is the sport’s most winning surfer in history. Never to be underestimated.

Mick had brought his whole family and crew to Hawaii. He wanted them to be there when he won. It’d come down to eight waves and 120 minutes: the eight scoring waves Mick required over four half-hour heats to claim the 2013 world title from Kelly. The heat was real for Mick.

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Mick was seeded straight into round three, where he faced Kaimana Jaquias. Any World Tour surfer is scared of Hawaiian wildcards at Pipe, so Mick would take no chances against Kaimana. He opened strong on an 8.33, and backed up with a 7.30. Mick moved into round four, where he fumbled at the end of the heat in the form of an interference against John John Florence. At the time, many questioned whether this was done on purpose (putting Mick against CJ Hobgood and Yadin Nicol in the next two heats rather than Julian Wilson and John John Florence again), but Mick’s never been one to listen to critics. Either way, the next morning he’d face CJ Hobgood in round five. A third world title was only two heats away for Mick. But at a place like Pipeline, nothing is certain.

Competitors, contest organisers and webcast viewers woke up to postcard Pipe for finals day. Pristine, fluoro blue barrels were draining perfectly along the reef. It was on.

Mick paddled out for the first heat of the day against CJ. CJ is a world champ himself and terrifyingly good when it comes to big, left barrels. Mick had a serious job on his hands. And… the ocean decided to play hardball. No matter how good it may look, Pipe is a shifty wave. Mick and CJ scratched around for 28 minutes, CJ having more luck and managing to find a 6.83 and 3.67. Mick was sitting on a 2.50 with one minute and 35 seconds remaining. All seemed lost for the Gold Coaster. That is, until, a peak jacked up and Mick scratched in. This was his last shot. The whole surfing world was watching. He rolled in, casually bottom turned up beneath the lip, and burned through the heat’s most perfect wave. He was blown out and the beach erupted. The score… 9.50 points. Mick had advanced. “It wasn’t easy,” said Mick at the time. “If you want to win a world title, you have to put it all on the line. I basically got flogged for 28 minutes of that heat before that gem came through. I heard from all the boys whistling on the beach and I knew it was going to be a good one when it came in. I got a roll in off second reef and it set up for a really good section on first reef. It came through at the right time and that was definitely a magic moment for me.”

Billabong Pipe Masters

If he’d thought that heat was intense, then the quarterfinal match up against Yadin Nicol was a heart attack. Yadin needed to win to hold his place on the tour. If Mick won this heat, Kelly Slater could win the whole event and it would matter: Mick would still be World Champ. All that remained now were two scoring rides.

Yadin was on. He wrangled a 7.57 and a 9.33. Mick was sitting on a 7.33 but needed a 9.57 if he was to win the heat, and world title. Time waits for no man and the clock was running out. Mick couldn’t believe he was in this situation again. Surely he couldn’t lose like this? And then, it came: The wave that would change it all.

Mick rolled in, and with a display of the freakish composure that he possesses, drove the foamball through an impossibly perfect barrel, finding an exit and screaming at the sky. Beach reactions don’t come any louder.

The wave was so last-minute that Mick had reached the sand before the score had dropped. The year prior, when Joel Parkinson won his first world title, Mick was the first person to meet him in the shorebreak and chair him up the beach. This year, Joel returned the favour, meeting Mick on the sand immediately after his heat with Yadin, waiting with him for the final deciding score. The score dropped: A 9.70. And that was it. Mick was the World Champ.

“I’m sure I gave my wife Karissa and my mum enough stress today to last a lifetime,” said Mick. “I was never worried myself now that I think of it. I knew what I needed to do and if the opportunity came, I knew I could do it. That opportunity came in both heats today. It’s an incredible feeling. I’ve been having fun all year and to clinch on a day like this at Pipeline makes it that much more special.”

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