Mick Fanning's amazing, 17-year career is being celebrated all over social media after the 3x World Champion announced that he'll be retiring from full-time competition after the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach in April. It's the same event where the Australian legend began his storied pro career back in 2001, when he won while surfing as a wildcard.
"The Tour has given me so much but I need a fresh challenge," Mick announced on his Instagram. "I still love the game but can't find the motivation and dedication required to compete for World Titles anymore."
To those who've been watching Fanning closely this doesn't exactly come as a shock. After 15 straight years on the Championship Tour that netted him 22 career wins and his three Titles, he endured an emotional roller coaster in 2015 after being attacked by a shark in the middle of the Final at Jeffreys Bay in July, and then losing his brother Peter in December, in the middle of another World Title race.
To clear his head, Fanning spent the bulk of 2016 away from the contest scene. Though he returned to Jeffreys Bay to claim his fourth victory at the legendary break, and put the shark encounter behind him, he spent the rest of the year traveling to places he'd never been, like Alaska, and hanging at home. He returned full time in 2017, but never really caught fire. The smile was still there, and so too was his incredibly clean surfing, but Mick's motivation was clearly waning. It was his first winless season since 2011.
Now that he's decided to hang it up for good, his fans all over the world are congratulating him on a remarkable career, and thanking him for being such an incredible source of inspiration through the years. Fanning has become one of Australia's biggest sporting heroes for his legacy of bravery in the face of adversity.
In 1998, when he was already one of Australia's hot up-and-coming amateur prospects, Fanning's older brother Sean was killed in an auto accident. Sean was not only Mick's best friend, but his hero, and the blow was devastating.
Losing Sean made chasing the pro surfing dreams they shared all the more important, and Fanning's career got off to an incredible start with his first victory at Bells Beach in 2001. The next year, which was his rookie season, he nabbed another one of surfing's majors, winning the first of his four J-Bay titles on his way to finishing the year ranked No. 5.
After finishing No. 4 the following year, Fanning was considered a viable World Title contender, but suffered a brutal injury: He tore his entire hamstring muscle off of his pelvic bone, ripping the ligaments that attached to his buttocks. Needless to say, that forced him out for the season, and it appeared at first like it might threaten his career.
Fanning described the surgery to repair it during a 2004 interview with Surfer magazine. "They slice the back of your arse open and peel it back. Then they drill into your arse bone and put, like, a grappling hook in there. It's so strong, the doctor said he was lifting me off the table just with the hook. And then they sew the ligament on to the grappling hook."
Incredibly, by early 2005 Fanning was back in top form. He celebrated his return with his first Champion Tour event in his backyard, at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. He won again at the event on Reunion Island, and finished that season -- and the next -- at World No. 3.
To this day, one of the most overlooked stats of Mick Fanning's remarkable career is that he's finished in the Top 5 eleven times. It's understandable, of course, given his World Titles in 2007, 2009, and 2013, but it's something that will be appreciated more as the years go by.
Fanning's career highlights are nearly too numerous to mention, but one of the best certainly has to be his last World Title in 2013, when he clinched it at perfect Pipeline. That vaulted him into esteemed company, with Tom Curren, Andy Irons, Kelly Slater and Mark Richards being the only other male competitors with three Titles or more.
Fanning's 22 Championship Tour wins include the aforementioned four at Jeffreys Bay, in South Africa, and four more at Bells, plus two apiece at Snapper, Trestles and France (as well as others). Combined, they put him at No. 4 on the all-time leaders list. And who knows -- with his final two contests, at Snapper and Bells Beach, ahead, he might have one left in him.
Wouldn't that be a treat.
Thank you, Mick. Please bear with us as we savor the memories and the milestones: