Catching up with Fanning on his many new business ventures, Kelly, Tahiti and more
Three world titles don’t start to tell the tale of Mick Fanning, who’s overcome more in the past couple of years than most will face in a lifetime. Despite all the rigors and rewards and much-recounted ups and downs of the past decade, Mick’s still one of the great guys in the sport, with time for everyone and the cheeky disposition of his youth returning with a vengeance as his ruthless game face starts to relax.
No longer the terminator who was famed for his hour-long pre-heat warm-ups, the modern Mick is more relaxed than ever, and relishing the charmed life afforded to the modern professional surfer.
While Mick’s salty story is well known, it might come as news that Fanning is also one of the shrewdest players in the game, his folio including endlessly upgraded car sponsorships, a shareholder in a phone battery charging company, a signature surf shop, a brewery and, as of this week, shares in a surfing accessories company, just to name a few.After flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, where he was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall Of Fame at Huntington, and then onto Papeete to compete in this week’s Billabong Pro Tahiti, we found Mick on the other end of FaceTime for a quick catch up on all things Fanning ’17.
Congratulations on the Surfers’ Hall Of Fame.
I’m stoked. It’s obviously a massive honor, especially to be inducted alongside Bethany Hamilton. She’s such an inspirational person in everything that she does, carries herself so well, and is a real sweetheart too. It was cool week at Huntington and a bit of a relief not to be competing at the US Open while I was there. I didn’t go to the beach at all, I steered clear, then flew out to Tahiti.
Big news this week is you just bought into Creatures of Leisure. How did that come about?
I did! My contract was up for renewal, and we started talking about future plans. Ownership was put on the table as a way of me becoming more involved in the business and I thought that sounded perfect. I’m my own manager and Creatures is privately owned so it all came together pretty easily after that. I’ve been with them for almost 20 years, and it’s been fantastic. The company has been doing great without me, so I’m more than happy to let those people who’ve got it to where it is keep going, but I’m also really excited to get involved with the research and development side of things, and a few other areas here and there.
Tell us about your sponsorship deal with Mercedes Benz.
It’s been incredible. I went to Germany and did a shoot for the new model they’re about to release, the X-Class, which was cool. After that we drove from Stuttgart down to Munich, and I got to surf the river wave there which was really fun. That was the first expedition we’ve done so far, but there’ll be plenty more to come.
Were you given a car?
Absolutely. And whenever I go somewhere, there’s another one waiting for me at the airport, which is awesome too. They’re a well-connected company, they look after me really well around the world, and I’ve got to drive a few different models on the different legs of the tour, which has been cool. The X-Class comes out next year as well as the Marco Polo, which is more of a touring van so hopefully I can get away on a few camping trips in 2018 as well.
Your great friend and Balter brewery partner Bede Durbidge just announced his retirement. Have you guys spoken?
Yeah, a couple of weeks ago Bede and I had a good chat and he told me his plan with Surfing Australia, which is really solid. He’s such a great guy that wherever he goes he’s going to succeed. Working with him at Balter he’s always across everything, he’s super diligent and checks all the boxes and I can really see him having another hugely successful career after surfing.
Did you chew his ear about getting a start on the Aussie team?
I’ll be on the beach, mate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not our number one choice for Chiba!
Do people truly appreciate what Bede overcame to get back on tour? Youâ€™ve had your share of horrific injuries, but a shattered pelvis sounds as bad it gets.
It really is. Bede being who he is, kept it pretty low key, but he shattered his pelvis, had a 17-inch rod holding him together, as well as another plate supporting his front because he tore all his abdominal muscles off the bone too. A lot of people would never walk again after something like that, so his comeback truly shows his character, and how iron-willed and determined he is. Bede’s the toughest human I know, he inspires me every day.
Have you talked to Kelly since his injury?
I saw him on the plane leaving J-Bay and he sounded pretty low, and that was before he went and got more MRIs and whatnot back in the US. Now seeing how much metal he’s got in his foot, it must be pretty shattering, especially when you spend as much time in the water as he does. It sucks being landlocked, let alone immobile as well. It’s not fun.
Where does he go from here?
It’s hard for me to say without knowing the specifics, but I’d be taking the rest of the year off, using that time to overcome any other injuries and to start refocusing for next year. Who knows, maybe it’s the break Kelly needs to sort out his niggles and get his body back to peak condition so he can come back and blow doors all over again.
Worked out all right for you back in the day?
Yeah! I was a fair bit younger back then though.
How was J-Bay?
It was amazing, probably the best three weeks of waves I’ve ever seen there. It was pumping. Every day got better and better and even after the comp finished, it still kept firing; we all needed a day off. It was one of those contests you’ll remember forever.
You’re currently sitting an uncharacteristic 11th on the ratings, but you’re notoriously dangerous through the back half of the tour. Is the plan to stay under the radar and see if you can’t steal a few wins on the way to the finish?
It’s been a different year for sure. I’ve really enjoyed it and haven’t been stressed about results at all. In the past I’ve had such a one-track mind for competition, whereas this year I’ve been enjoying the company we keep on tour, and the different places that we go. I’m not too fussed beyond that, as long as I go out and perform at a level I’m happy with then results aren’t a huge priority.
How’s the forecast shaping up for Tahiti?
It doesn’t look that great to tell you the truth. We’ll probably start straight away and run Friday and Saturday, Sunday could be on or could be off, and then the swell goes southeast which is not ideal. Hopefully we get a few good days before that happens, and then fingers crossed a swell pops up at the end of the window so we can finish in good waves.
You’ve won there before; let’s see if you can’t do it again this year.
Cheers. I didn’t come here last year so I’m really excited to be back, reacquainting myself with everything, and can’t wait to get stuck into Chopes once again.