3x World Champ Mick Fanning graced the cover of SURFER magazine in 2016. Photo by Grant Ellis
3x World Champ Mick Fanning graced the cover of SURFER magazine in 2016. Photo by Grant Ellis

A Tribute to Mick Fanning’s Historic Career

On the coattails of Fanning's retirement, we take a look back at the 3x World Champ's illustrious career as a competitive surfer

Well, that’s it. With a loss in the final at the Rip Curl Pro, Mick Fanning has officially hung up his jersey. The champ went down in style, making it through to the final and going down against Italo Ferreira, giving it one last throaty hurrah as a full-time competitor. With that, one of the all-time greats says goodbye. We’ll miss ‘ya Mick.

In honor of White Lightning’s departure from competitive surfing, we took a nostalgic walk down memory lane and compiled all the photographic highlights from his career.



After moving to Tweed Heads with his family at age 12, Fanning started surfing the area’s perfect points and wedges. It didn’t take long for him to start performing well on the Junior circuit. Honing his skills at D-Bah, circa 1996. Photo: Joli



Even as a teenager, Fanning surfed with the fire and finesse of a seasoned vet. This photo was taken in 2000, on the cusp of his competitive surf career. Photo: Joli



In 2001, at the ripe old age of 19, Fanning won the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach contest as a wildcard. Little did the surf world know that ringing the bell that year would set off a long, decorated career for White Lightning. Photo: Joli



Fanning claimed the top spot on the WQS that same year, qualifying him for the 2002 World Tour. Photo: Joli



Fanning and fellow Coolangatta-based regularfoot dynamites Dean Morrison (middle) and Joel Parkinson (right) were oft referred to as the “Coolangatta Kids.” In the early aughts, these three amigos were touted as the surf world’s most talented trio of friends. Photo: Williams



Fanning, tucking for cover during the 2002 Quik Pro Gold Coast-his first event as a full-time ‘CT competitor. Later this year he hoisted the first-place trophy at the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay and took home the award for Rookie of the Year. Photo: Ellis



After tearing his hamstring clean off his thigh bone in 2004, Fanning made a memorable comeback to the tour in 2005 and won the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in typical Fanning fashion. Photo: Sherman



During the 2005 SURFER Poll awards, Fanning wandered onto the stage and started heckling during Kelly Slater’s acceptance speech. Maybe not a highlight of his career, but funny nonetheless.



It took five years of competing as a full-time WCT surfer to pocket his first world title. In 2007 at the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro in Brazil, Fanning overtook Taj Burrow and Kelly Slater in the rankings and cemented his name into the long list of world champions–becoming the first Australian world champ since Mark Occilupo won in 1999. Photo: Sherman



In 2009, Fanning and close friend Joel Parkinson each won three events, and both were title contenders leading into the Billabong Pipe Masters at the end of the season. Fanning paddled out for his Round 3 heat while Parkinson’s Round 3 heat was still in the water (Parko had to advance through his Round 3 heat to keep in title contention). Parkinson lost, bowing out of the tight race and handing Fanning his second world title. Photo: Joli



Fanning, being chaired up the beach after claiming the 2009 Title by Parkinson and Morrison. Photo: Joli



Fanning, during the late Andy Irons’ memorial paddle out in Puerto Rico in 2010. Photo: Sherman



If you remember anything from the 2013 Billabong Pipe Masters, it’s probably this wave. In order to win his 3rd world title, Fanning had to make it through his quarterfinal heat against Yadin Nicol. With only 5 minutes left on the clock and needing a 9.57 to beat Nicol, Fanning rolled into a bomb and got spat out. He scored a 9.7 and took his third and final world title. Photo: Joli



Fanning’s mom Liz Osborne will be missed among the competitor’s area, possibly as much as Mick will be. Here, mother and son embrace after Fanning secured his third title in 2013. Photo: Joli



In 2015, Fanning was dealt a difficult year. Within a short amount of time he lost his brother, his marriage, and the chance at a fourth world title. Earlier that year, in one of the most shocking moments in the history of competitive surfing, Fanning was attacked by a shark in his final against Julian Wilson at Jeffreys Bay. Photo: Miller



The 2015 Pipe Masters was an emotional one for Fanning, after learning of his brother’s passing and dealing with the title race going down to the wire. Fanning unburdening himself after one of the most memorable rides of the event. Photo: Moran



After Fanning’s tumultuous 2015 season, the Gold Coaster decided to take a personal year in 2016, choosing to only do a handful of events, including the OK Fiji Pro, to celebrate Taj Burrow’s last event on tour. Photo: Joli



In a feel-good moment, Fanning won the 2016 JBay Open, a year after his tussle with a great white. Photo: Miller



Fanning nearly broke the internet at the beginning of 2017 when Rip Curl released a video titled “Ain’t No Wave Pool,” in which Fanning threaded barrel after dredging barrel at an undisclosed location.



After an amazing farewell performance at the 2018 Rip Curl Pro Bells and a second-place finish, Fanning takes a bow from his competitive career after leaving an unforgettable mark on surf history. Photo by Moran

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