While the Australian was touted as a champion well before his first World Title, it wasn't until recent years that Fanning established himself as an event favorite in the open-ocean lineup of Cloudbreak and the screaming lefthander of Restaurants.
Fanning's history at the Fiji Pro represents one of consistency. With eight Fiji competitions under his belt, "White Lightning" has improved on his performance annually, going one round better almost each year.
Fanning made his Fijian debut during his rookie year on tour in 2002 and, while the Australian had already proven himself on the elite stage with a wildcard win at Bells in 2001, his early efforts in Fiji would net him only a 17th place finish when he fell to Brazilian campaigner Peterson Rosa in Round 3.
Fanning made up extensive ground on his rookie performance in 2003, netting a Quarterfinals finish before bowing out to Kieren Perrow (AUS), but the proceeding two years saw Fanning tread water in Round 3. In 2004, Fanning was pipped by Cory Lopez (USA) and the following year the natural-footer stumbled in Round 3 once again, this time losing a painfully close heat to Neco Padaratz (BRA) that ended in a tie of 13.50, the Brazilian getting the nod on a count back.
Fanning broke the Round 3 roadblock in 2006, advancing to Round 4, but was taken out by event favorite C.J. Hobgood (USA). With Fiji absent from the event schedule in 2007, he returned with a breakout result in 2008. With eight years on tour and a World Title on his resume, Fanning was on fire but was ousted in the Quarterfinals, again by C.J. Hobgood.
Flash forward to 2012. The Volcom Fiji Pro brought island paradise back to the ASP World Tour for the first time in four years and, now with two World Titles and 10 gritty seasons amongst the world's best, Fanning delivered dominant performances throughout the rounds. He bested former event winner Damien Hobgood (USA) early on and tube magician John John Florence (HAW) in the Quarterfinals. Ultimately, though, he was denied a chance to compete in the final, falling to Gabriel Medina (BRA) in a wave-starved Semifinal heat.
Fanning's maintained composure in the face of defeat and, in 2013, he threaded the needle on technical backhand barrels at Restaurants and picked off the best waves at Cloudbreak in a seemingly effortless fashion with highlights including a near-perfect 19.53 heat in Round 5. Fanning looked on point for a win on the final day, besting 2012 World Champ Joel Parkinson (AUS) and finally getting the better of C.J. Hobgood in the Semis. But with just one man in his way, Fanning was denied by Kelly Slater (USA) in a high-scoring Final.
The Australian has gotten off to an uncharacteristically inconsistent start in 2014 despite a victory at Bells, but with experience and results on his side, there's only one result Fanning hasn't logged at Fiji and that's a title win. The steely veteran will enter Tavarua with 12 years of tour experience and history of progression throughout the draw. 2014 could be the year Fanning takes down the Fiji Pro.