All Photos: Duncan Macfarlane
Current Issue

In 2007, Mick Fanning won the most blue-collar world title the ASP had ever seen. After sustaining an injury that tore the meat of his hamstring right off the bone, Mick returned to competition a new man. He was as fit as a violin and strung tightly with focus, devotion and an undying will to win. Mick put his towhead down, worked harder than any man has worked before and won the title in a feel-good story of the year. The experience drained Mick emotionally, but in the years since, he has taught himself to better trot the line between focus and pleasure — a line that just might lead to another world title. —Brendan Buckley

MICK: When I came back from that injury, winning the world title was all that I could think about. Literally everything in my life revolved around it. I didn't know exactly how to go about doing it, so I was just making shit up as I went along. It was really draining to do it that way, and at the end of the year I was spent. After I won, I didn't even want to be there anymore. I just wanted to go surfing and have fun again.

The second year that I won the title was a little bit different. I thought Joel pretty much had it wrapped and sealed after J-Bay, but unfortunately he got injured. At that point, I had a couple of results, but nothing major. Then I ended up having a really good run toward the end of the year, but that was mostly just because I was having fun. I guess I started learning how and when to focus a little bit better but it was more the people around me that led me to the win. We were all just having a good time and I ended up with another world title.

I sort of fell out of the race last year after I got last in Santa Cruz. I went into Pipe with the goal to win, but I had already let go of any real title hopes. Dorian got the better of me in Round 3 and I was out, which ended up being a really good thing. I was so stoked that I got to sit on the beach and take it all in when Joel [Parkinson] won. Just to be able to watch a friend reach a goal like that is so amazing, and I fully shed a tear. Seeing all the effort he put in over the years and being his friend through it all — I know exactly what he's been through and the feeling is pretty emotional. I'm really proud of him.

Right now, I'm really relaxed and feel like I'm flowing a lot better than I have in the past. I've learned that you don't have to be focused all the time in order to do well. You can just switch on for five minutes a day and that's enough to be in the zone and you don't have to worry about whatever else is going on throughout the day. You can enjoy a lot more of your time that way. It's been a lot of trial and error, but it's all starting to feel pretty natural.

Kelly is really good at being able to switch his focus on and off. When he's in the first round, he's sort of testing everything out and then when he's in the second or third round he'll start to switch everything on. And I think he can turn it off really quick. But when it gets down to the end of the year and everyone is talking about the title and asking you about it, it gets pretty crazy. It's hard to switch on and off and not think about it. But I guess when you've won 11 it doesn't really matter if you win another one, does it?