Stab Magazine | Now...This: Mick Fanning On The Title Race, Gabes' Interference, And Wavepools On The Tour

Now…This: Mick Fanning On The Title Race, Gabes’ Interference, And Wavepools On The Tour

Mick gives his thoughts on the World Title race, wave pools, social media, burning pancakes and is apparently not listening to anything except Tool. 

style // Nov 1, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 9 minutes

In all honesty, this wasn’t a position many of us envisioned the World Title race becoming for the final event. In the days leading into Portugal, the title conversation revolved around whether Gabriel Medina would secure the title there, and what he would need to do for that to happen. 

Fast forward a week and Italo Ferreira has taken his second event win of the year and the yellow leader’s jersey with it. After Gabriel was knocked from the comp by his own priority blunder, Italo is now in the driver’s seat heading into the year’s final event.

While our own Michael Ciaramella is about to deliver a detailed breakdown of what each surfer in the race – Italo, Filipe Toledo, Jordy Smith, and Gabriel – will need to do in order to win, we thought it would be nice to get the thoughts of a surfer who’s been in many World Title fights themselves. The man we turned to has won three of his own and while he no longer competes, would be a feared competitor if he ever dons a jersey as a wildcard.

That man is Mick Fanning. 

This morning, as Mick cooked pancakes, which he apparently burnt to the shit, he gave a rundown of the current World Title situation and the events which led to it. We also got an update of Mick’s recovery after tearing his ACL (filming for our very own Stab In The Dark), and he answered a handful of innocuous questions about social media, wavepools, and what his favourite band and podcasts are.

Go on, read below.

Mick AVG

Mick in South Africa. One of the few waves he caught before tearing his ACL shooting for Stab in the Dark’s all stars. Photo: AVG

Stab: Mick, how’s things up there? What’s for breaky?

Mick Fanning: Just cooking pancakes now, hold up… need to flip this one. Ah they’re kinda burnt. I’m usually pretty good in the kitchen, not today. 

[laughs] So, that’s what you do now that you’re injured. Speaking of, how’s the recovery going?

It’s coming along. I saw the surgeon this week and he’s pretty impressed with the progression of everything, so that’s a positive. It’s just real slow though.

It’s not like other injuries where you bounce back quite quick [knee injuries] take a long time. I’ve just been in the gym rehabbing and doing a few things for Rip Curl and Red Bull here and there. Other than that I’ve just been enjoying being at home. 

Are there any positives from spending time away from surfing?

If I was still competing maybe, but not really [laughs]. I had some things with my body that needed to be addressed and that was sort of where I was starting to work on [before the injury], but now I guess I’m just diving straight in. Once I get back it’ll be Mick 3.0. 

As long as I’m skinnier than Parko though then I’m doing well, I’m happy [laughs]. 

When can you get back in the water?

Ahh, I probably won’t be fully surfing until the end of February actually, a long long time. 

I hope you’re making Sam [McIntosh] foot the bill for all this for taking you on that trip to South Africa in the first place.

[laughs] Nah, I just wish I didn’t fall apart over there. I wanted to surf pumping J-Bay so bad. 

I won’t dwell on your injury too much then. Did you watch much of the event last night, or the tour in general, this year?

Yeah, I have. I didn’t get to watch all of it last night, I was sort of playing a bit of catch up this morning, but it’s extremely close now. It’s going to be a great end for both the men’s and the women’s. 

I didn’t realise how consistent Italo had been this year either until now – he’s made four finals and won two events. 

Who are you backing to win the Title at Pipe?

Gabe’s record at Pipe is ridiculous. He’s been in the title race so many times before, he knows what to do, and he’s so deadly in that setting. So, even though Italo is in front, I still feel Gabriel is the one to beat.

In saying that though, anything can happen at Pipe. You can get skunked for a heat and it’s out of your hands, or you get a cracker out of nowhere. In many ways the wave itself determines who is going to win at Pipe. A lot of the time, especially when it isn’t pumping, you can’t guarantee you’re even going to get two good waves. There’s times out there where you don’t even catch a wave until it’s the priority section of your heat; add World Title pressure, a handful of Pipe specialist wildcards and it’s a completely different event to any other.

Everyone around you is talking about the World Title and you can’t escape it. 

So like you said Gabe is much more experienced in this situation than Italo, is that why you think he’ll take it?

Yeah, but also, when you piss Gabe off, it’s different, he’s deadly. 

Well he’s ‘pissed’ at the moment with the interference call and all…

As much as I love Gabe that was a mistake on his part. You always check the priority disc. It doesn’t matter if you have priority or not, you always check it. So it’s just a straight up error on Gabe’s part. Things happen like this – I’m sure the priority judge hasn’t slept in a week and is probably getting death threats – it doesn’t matter though, you have to go with that call. 

Gabe was flogging Caio too, he didn’t have to be that aggressive. That wave was never going to be over a four. 

Well he had him combo’d, he would’ve been better paddling in. Adding fuel to the fire too is this endless social media backlash; fans going wild and threatening both surfers and other fans.

That just sucks, it’s stupid. I guess people are always going to talk shit on social media, but still, it’s unnecessary, it’s sport. 

Tom Brady isn’t getting death threats when a ref makes a call that benefits him.  

[laughs] Yeah, it’s not like Caio did anything wrong. He had priority and took off on a wave.

As a whole though you’re always going to get this stuff in a Title race, and looking back from the start of the year it’s astounding how much has changed. Everyone thought it was easily John’s World Title five events in. It’s a long race. 

Medina Pipe

Whether it’s proper Pipe barrels or wind assisted jumps, Medina has every aspect of Pipe covered. Just ask Mick, he lost the 2015 to Adriano after Medina nailed a controversial reverse to knock out the 3x World Champ. Photo: WSL

Speaking of John, looks like the second Olympic spot for team USA is between him and Kelly. Rumour is he might be back for the Pipe Masters.

He’s starting 3000 points ahead of Kelly. If he does paddle out, even if he just makes a heat, that’ll add 1000 points to his tally. Even if he doesn’t compete Kelly still has to find 3000 points to become the pick for Team USA.

John was always going to be up there for qualification after the year he had [Editor’s note: two wins and a third in the first five events]. Kelly on the other hand has had one big result [a third place in Bali], but other than that he hasn’t done too much – one third, a fifth, and then a bunch of ninths. 

Alright, I’m going to shift the tone over onto some, let’s say, less pressing topics. A bunch of quick simple questions – favourite surfer to watch, good books, movies, whatever – so, let’s start with who you like to watch surf the most, right now?

Mmm, I haven’t been watching much outside of contests [laughs].

I’d have to say Gabe. Over the last few month’s he’s been incredible. He’s on another level to everybody else, he’s crazy. I just wish John and Gabe could both be on fire competing against one another. It would be reminiscent of the good old days with Kelly and Andy. I really hope we get to see a few title races go down between them both. 

What about favourite women’s surfer?

I think Caroline Marks has been awesome… she’s just goes and does it [laughs]. She’s bubbly, there’s no fuss, and I genuinely love watching her. She’s a great person too.

I thought this year would be one where she could learn about the title race, but now she has two wins and is actually right up there coming into the last event at Maui. 

I thought they weren’t going to Maui anymore, or have I just lost it?

Aren’t they, I thought they were? Let me check… nah they’re going back to Maui, you’ve just lost the plot [laughs].

I did have a big night so maybe I’ve just made that up. I did have a couple of Balter IPA’s and they’ve twisted me.

Mate, don’t blame it on the Balters!

[laughs]. Okay, favourite surf film maker?

Of all time would have to be Taylor Steele. He was the guy back when I was a kid and even still he makes incredible things. He’s a super fun dude to go and travel with as well, even though he puts me in shit situations [laughs]. 

I guess some newer guys I’ve been having fun with though would be Dyl Roberts, Nick Pollet, and Lachie McKinnon. They’ve all been sick to work with of late

Have to pump Dyl up! Alright, favourite clip from this year? It can’t be Stab In The Dark either. 

Mmmm, what did I like, what did I like… Micah Margieson put out a clip and that was really mental, I was really pumped on that. I can’t even think of another one right now. Let’s go with Micah, he’s ripping.

In a similar vein, who do you think is the next big name who’s under 18?

Have to pump up little Jett Schilling’s tires. I love that kid, he’s so cool. He sends me clips asking ‘if this is alright and that is alright?’. He came and stayed with us at the start of the year and he’s amazing. He’s a sweet kid, but he’s also determined to learn and improve, it’s refreshing to see. 

Next topic then. Wavepools. Have you surfed many other than Kelly’s?

Not really, I’ve only surfed Kelly’s and the first Wavegarden in Basque. I have been paying attention to what’s going on: the Texas one looks super fun, had some friends surf the one in Yeppoon and that looked super fun too. I think they’re good, they’ll never take away from the ocean, but it’s a great way for people to learn and provide opportunities for people to surf who might not be able to make it to the ocean. 

On the other hand you might get your mates together and spend $5000 to go on an Indo trip and get absolutely skunked. If you put that money into Kelly’s pool though, you know you’ll get four to eight minutes of waves and you’re guaranteed to get tubed. 

What about in a competitive format, do you think they stack up? Should there be a pool event on the CT?

Look, to be really honest, I find the wave pool event really boring. The guys are posting their best clips before the event and then when the event starts they’re doing the same thing. There’s no drama there because it’s the same waves on repeat. I don’t know if they need to change the format or something.

Honestly, I think the WSL should really try to get Trestles back. Europe is such a difficult place for waves sometimes and it has so much riding on it; look at this year, the waves just weren’t great, it was tough. If you went to Trestles though, that is pretty much the ocean equivalent of a wave pool. The performance levels go through the roof.

It’s a place I would love to see back on the tour. 

I’ve heard rumours of The Ranch dropping off, Cloudbreak coming back, G-Land coming on, all that. Then again I did think the women weren’t returning to Maui so maybe my sources aren’t reliable [laughs]. 

I’m out of the loop mate. I’ve heard similar things about G-Land too, but until I see it on the schedule I don’t know [laughs]. 

Alright, enough surfing, what are your general thoughts on social media?

It’s certainly not my ‘be all end all’ in life. To me, mostly, it’s sort of a marketing tool. Other than that I don’t see too much value in it. Some people do everything for the gram and I don’t think that sort of mentality is healthy. 

So you don’t spend too much time on it?

I won’t lie, I do end up sitting and looking at it [laughs]…

The endless scroll…

But I’m not freaking out if some big shot isn’t liking my posts, you know. Some people think their existence in life is social media and it’s a little sad.

It’s not like anyone is posting the downsides of their life either. It’s curated to show the best moments. 

Exactly, most people don’t post photos of themselves hungover on the couch. 

[laughs] what are you favourite hobbies outside of surfing? I guess you’re still a little sidelined at the moment, but what would be a few?

At the moment I’ve been gardening a fair bit, I love cooking as well. 

Favourite thing to cook… other than burnt pancakes?

[laughs] I’m shit at pancakes. I guess roast dinners are nice and easy and they’re always great. 

Best thing you’ve read this year? Could be a book, whatever.

Does an interview work?

I guess.

I really liked Ryan Callinan’s interview with Surfing World. It was awesome to hear him open up about his parents, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks while reading it. The courage that Ryan showed in it was awesome. 

It would be good to see Ryan get some big results next year, he deserves it. Generally it’s just great to see him back on the tour, he’ll be a real big threat. 

I’ve only got two more of these out of nowhere questions left [laughs]. What’s your favourite album? Or something you’ve had on repeat. 

Ahh shit, what have I been listening too… Huh? Oh yeah.

Bree just came around the corner and goes, ‘it’s Tool’. So apparently that’s all I’ve been listening to [laughs].  

The new album? What did you think?

It grows on you, the more I listened to it though the more I started to like it. Having them put everything on Spotify too is so sick, I’ve been reliving all the old days. If you see me at the lights driving I’ll probably just be headbanging. 

I guess most of their albums are growers, well, for me anyway.

Except for when ‘10,000 Days’ came out. That first song, I just went mental. I used to listen to their full albums before competition back in the day, that’s probably why everyone thought I was going to kill someone [laughs]. 

Last one, what about your favourite podcast? 

The two that I listen to the most would be Joe Rogan, like everyone else, and then another called Finding Mastery by Michael Gervais. He’s a sports psychologist and he gets some really different and interesting people on there. It’s awesome. I’d highly recommend it. 


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