Can you think of a single surfer more universally beloved than Mick Fanning? Go ahead, I’ll wait. Nothing? I figured as much. The reason you’re drawing a total blank is because Fanning did it right. He surfed his way to three world titles, he kept his chin up through unbearable personal hardship, at some point he punched a shark and then won a contest in that same shark’s backyard, and he gave a classy farewell to competition by stepping aside and letting the next generation get to work, even though he could have easily jousted for titles for years longer. So it’s only fitting that Fanning has been living it up in his post-Tour phase. What’s he been up to, you ask? Hear it from the horse’s mouth below.

Surfing waves too good to talk about:
“For me, it’s all about going to new places now,” says Fanning. “Specifically? Umm…yeah…nah, probably don’t wanna throw that out there [laughs.] But there are a whole bunch of areas I’ve never been to that I really wanna visit and just put myself in different kinds of waves. I don’t want to be that guy who chases the best swells to the same place everyone else is going. I’m going to places a bit further out there, places where you know you might only find a couple of guys, or no one at all. I set some time aside so I could be ready to jump on it when it looks like it’s all coming together, and I’m in one of those periods right now where I’m just searching maps all day, every day, trying to find something new and fun. I wake up each day wondering, “Am I gonna be here this afternoon, or am I out the door?”

Rolling those dice, baby:
“I get to roll the dice a lot more on locations and swells that aren’t a sure thing. When it pays off, that’s amazing. If not, then at least you get a bit more intel about the place to help you figure out when to come back. Looking at it like that, you end up with a lot more places on your radar, and I’ve been way more in tune with what’s happening swell-wise around the world.”

Getting borderline-Zen:
“I’m a lot more patient now in the lineup. I can sit and wait for 10 minutes for a wave and not have a single worry, where before I’d constantly feel like I need to stay busy and keep catching waves. When you’re on trips and you’re filming and getting photos, it’s about quality, not quantity. You don’t need to catch a hundred waves like you do in your freesurfs to warm up before an event. Now I can just wait for the best waves and make ’em count when they come.”

Fanning, styling through the tube on something far from his contest thruster. Photo: Wilson

Riding whatever the hell he wants:
“I’ve been trying to get DH [Darren Handley, of DHD Surfboards] to make me weird shit for years [laughs.] Yeah, he’s made me some cool twinnies and we’re talking about doing some single-fins. But we’re still working on high-performance boards, too. I still want to be able to surf at a high level and see if I can figure out something new and different for the guys who are still on Tour. If I find something that’s feeling really good, maybe DH can pass it on to them. It’s always a work in progress, but yeah, there’s a lot more fun, different stuff coming through now, for sure.”

Retired, but far from bored:
“I sort of just fell into some really good projects. The brewery, Balter [which Fanning co-owns on the Gold Coast], is going really well. Everyone’s just super excited that we get to do this and keep it growing. Then there’s the our softboard company, which is going really fun. We can’t make enough of those things, and we’re getting really good feedback, so that’s really cool. Outside of the business world, I’m trying to look at new ideas to help the environment and help animals through Wild Arc. We’ve got some really cool projects that hopefully come to fruition throughout the year in different places. I’m really excited about all of it.”

Enjoying the moment:
“When I do catch up with people, I’m just more engaged and not freaking out about having to go and get in that competitive mindset. I guess I just feel freer in the things that I do and I’m just living day to day rather than worrying about tomorrow.”