What He Rode: Mick Fanning

Darren Handley breaks down Mick's winning board from the Quik Pro France

Mick Fanning and his trusty DHD—the product of a 20-year collaboration with Australian shaper Darren Handley. Photo: Miller
Mick Fanning and his trusty DHD—the product of a 20-year collaboration with Australian shaper Darren Handley. Photo: Miller

MICK FANNING
HEIGHT: 5’10” (177 cm)
WEIGHT: 161 lbs (73 kgs)

SHAPER: Darren Handley (DHD)
LENGTH: 5’11”
WIDTH: 18 3/4″
NOSE WIDTH: 11 5/8″
TAIL WIDTH: 14 5/8″
THICKNESS: 2 1/4″
NOSE ROCKER: Flat
TAIL ROCKER: 2 1/2″
TAIL: Squash
BOTTOM CONTOUR: Single-to-double concave
VOLUME: 26.38L
GLASSING: Single layer on top and bottom with carbon reinforcement in the tail

FINS: Thruster—FCS II with MF2 template
BASE: 4.35″ / 110mm
DEPTH: 4.50″/ 114mm
AREA: 14.62″² / 9434mm²
SWEEP: 35.9°
FOIL: Flat

What was the model that Mick rode during the final in France?

Mick has three signature models, and this one is called the Ducks Nuts, which is basically his standard board for good waves. You can nearly say it’s exactly the same board that he rode at Bells when he won two years ago, with some tiny refinements in the concave, fin measurements, and rail design. He rides single-to-double concave whenever the waves have some push, and then just straight single when the waves are a little weaker.

Was he riding that board for the majority of the event?

He went back and forth on two different boards in this event depending on the conditions. They were almost exactly the same, except one was a little bit wider in the tail for the smaller days. All the boards that we make, when he’s ridden them and tested them, he puts them in different lots based on what waves and events he thinks they’ll be good for. When he goes on Tour, he’ll take those boards that he’s tested as well as some fresh ones.

What are some of the design elements to consider when making a board for France?

You’ve got to control the power that France gives you, so the extra tail lift and the double concave helps you release some of that power. If you were to ride a really flat board out there, you’d be going really fast but wouldn’t be able to control your turns. Concave, tail rocker, and fin measurements are the factors that we play around with to make boards right for France.

I know that Mick has ridden quads at Teahupoo before with great success. Does he ever ride quads anywhere else?

Mick and Joel pretty much only use the quad setups for barrels. They haven’t really found a quad that can not only make a line through barrels but also come out and link proper turns the way that they can on three fins. They both also enjoy riding fishy shapes with wider tails as quads, but they just ride those for fun. They don’t ride boards like that in competition.

How many boards do you typically make for Mick through the course of a World Tour season?

A shitload [laughs]. We’re up to 92 so far, and then we’ve got Hawaii to think about. If the title comes down to Hawaii, then he’s gonna want a lot of boards. He actually needs less and less boards every year because over time we’re getting a higher success rate as far as making him boards that go well. Also, I think that boards don’t seem to break like they used to 5 years ago, which I think is because blanks and materials have gotten better.

How long have you been shaping boards for Mick and what is that relationship like? Is he pretty hands on with the designs?

I started shaping boards for him when he was 12, and he’s 32 now, so it’s been 20 years. He’s really hands on. Mick is in the shaping bay once a week and in the factory three times a week when he’s home. He shapes some stuff himself every now and then, but he doesn’t finish them, it’s more just to show me an idea he’s got for a board he’d like to try. I’ve been educating him over the last 20 years on how boards work, and now he’s educating me on how to make them even better for his turns and specific things he wants to do. It’s a really good working relationship.

Does he have some skills in the shaping bay? Do you think he could shape a decent board if he wanted to?

Hmmm, well…no…[laughs]. He and Parko have shaped boards for each other for fun, and also to see who could make the best or worst board. Mick actually really understands the concepts and what will make a board work, but as far as the fine art of finishing a board, making them look and feel right, and getting out all the bumps, that takes a few years to figure out. But yeah, if he retired from pro surfing and you gave him about a year to work on it, I’d say he could make some good boards, for sure.

Obviously Mick’s frontside carve is one of the most iconic turns in surfing today. Is there anything about these designs that really cater to that kind of on-rail surfing?

I think a lot of it has to do with the tail lift. The tail lift is 2 1/2″, which is a lot. Most boards, especially in California, are about 2″, maybe up to 2 1/4″. So Mick’s boards have a fair amount more than that, which helps him really lean on that tail and get that board to wrap around. He knows that’s his money turn, and that’s why all of his boards have developed with that turn in mind. He understands the judging and what they’re after, and powerful surfing with big arcing turns is being rewarded more than flying down the line and doing an air reverse. He knows that the judges don’t throw big scores at that like they used to.

Is there anything else specifically about Mick’s surfing that you take into account when making boards for him?

I know Mick’s boards so well that I could shape them blindfolded. Its just the little tiny things that we focus on and play around with now, like fins and concave. And we’re talking in millimeters here. After working on and refining these designs for 20 years, that’s the scale we’re working on now. I make Mick’s boards for other surfers, and they all love them, but I’d do a few small changes for everyone else.

With lots of tail lift and a single-to-double concave, Mick was able to maintain control in the powerful French walls. Photo: Miller
With lots of tail lift and a single-to-double concave, Mick was able to maintain control in the powerful French walls. Photo: Miller
Mick Fanning is one of many World Tour surfers to adopt the new FCS II system. Photo: Miller
Mick Fanning is one of many World Tour surfers to adopt the new FCS II system. Photo: Miller