Since he won Bells for the first time as a wildcard back in 2001, Fanning's affinity for the wave has been well known. But for him to make the Final at the last event of his career, at the very place it all started, was especially meaningful. Fanning's accomplishment Thursday morning proves that the Australian is going out on his own terms, at the very top of the sport.
"It's easy when you're surfing against guys that you really respect," said Fanning. "It's amazing looking back on the crowd and looking back on the cliffs. It's a beautiful sight. The boys have been saying, 'If you can't ring it, send it,' so I guess I'm trying to do that."
"It's been an amazing career," Fanning continued. "Thank you to the WSL and my sponsors for everything. I've learned so much. I'm walking away with so many great memories. I'm just going to miss the friendships and those morning surfs and watching everyone rip."
Fanning faced a scorching Italo Ferreira during the Final, with the two going blow-for-blow throughout the heat. Both surfers were putting it all on the table and taking turns for the lead. Fanning took things over toward the beginning, with an 8.10 on his first scoring wave. And at first, as the clock ticked down, it looked as though Fanning could win it. But the Brazilian fought back, earning a 8.33 backup score to re-take the lead, and hold on to it until the tense, final moments. This is Ferreira's first win on the CT, and he was full of emotion before he even paddled in.
Fanning, meanwhile, despite thunderous cheers from the people packed on the beach, was visibly disappointed as he walked up the famous Bells staircase, attempting to bounce back prior to his post-heat interview. Although he didn't get the ending he wanted, it doesn't make his contributions here any less significant. Not many athletes can say that they've made it to the Final at the last event of their career. With or without today's results, Fanning can hold his head high as he marches on to retirement.
Congratulations Mick! The Tour will be a little less bright without you.