Date: November 5, 2007
Location: Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro, Praia da Vila, Brazil
Moment: Australian Mick Fanning secures the 2007 Foster’s ASP World Tour Championship when competitors Kelly Slater and Taj Burrow — the only two left aside from Fanning left in contention — fell in Round 4 and the Quarterfinal, respectively.
“You can’t be successful without a bit of an ego. But for a three-time world champion, he’s as normal as they come.” – Mark Richards
Before he was hoisted up on the beach in 2007 as world champion — and again in 2009 and 2013 — Mick Fanning, the regular-foot from New South Whales affectionately known as “White Lightning,” wasn’t always a guaranteed fixture in Australian lore. In fact, in order to become the legend he is revered as today, the Coolangatta kid (who shared the nickname with Joel Parkinson and Dean Morrison) overcame both physical and mental obstacles that had long stood in the way of fulfilling his outrageous potential.
In 2004, after a fast start on tour winning the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay and finishing 2002 ranked #5 as Rookie of the Year, Fanning tore his hamstring in Indonesia, an injury that would see him out of action for six months. Thus began the arduous trek back to the top, a top he only had experienced momentarily, and from something of a distance. In an effort to regain his form, he immersed himself in a Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology (CHEK) regimen, a holistic approach to fitness that evaluates individual clients, creating programs that focus on core strength and mental wellness through corrective exercise, and high-performance training, as well as healthy eating. The personalized program not only saw him return to past fitness levels, but the intense and tailorable workouts pushed him to new heights, especially in the way of stabilizing muscles, which are largely responsible for his unconscionably aggressive cutbacks off the top.
But physical obstacles were not all that stood in his way. In 1998, his older brother Sean, an up-and-coming Queensland surfer, died in a car accident. The toll was expectedly heavy; yet, Fanning pushed on, winning the 2001 Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach on a wildcard entry, going on to claim the World Qualifying Series to earn a spot on the tour. The young pro also struggled with alcohol, so much so that one of his friends began calling him “Eugene” when Fanning had been drinking, a nickname that alluded to the noticeably different person who would come out after a few. This “different person” would even stumble onto stage at the 2005 Surfer Poll during Kelly Slater’s acceptance speech, heckling the King.
However, as he overcame injury, he also overcame these mental and personal obstacles, zeroing in his focus on the one stable force in his life: surfing. And in 2007, all his hard work and commitment paid off — Fanning became the first Australian in 15 years to usurp Slater, a victory he dedicated his brother.
The 33 year-old from Tweeds Head has since married his then-girlfriend Karissa Dalton in 2008, and gone on to win two more world titles (continuing his CHEK regimen), the most recent coming last year. Suffice it to say, he has found his line and is sticking to it. And while his raw talent and natural enthusiasm is undeniable, his ascent should be primarily attributed to a training and fortitude took him from life of the party, notorious for boozy showings, to podium regular.