Dueling Keyboards: The Case Of Mick Fanning

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All Photos: Jimmicane

Good surfing has always been subjective. What appeals to you might not appeal to me and what appeals to me probably doesn't appeal to him. And that's what makes it so fun…unless you're a judge. ASP judging is scrutinized with every fin-throw and often times, people vehemently pick apart the ruling. One such audit: Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson's semifinal heat at the 2014 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. In chest-high Winkipop, Mick surfed damn near as well as you could surf a wave without going above the lip. And Julian did damn near the best airs that the conditions would allow. Mick won, and you can analyze the heat here. Sure enough, arguments ensued. SURFING Magazine online editor Brendan "The White Lion" Buckley and editor-in-chief Taylor Paul pick sides.

BRENDAN BUCKLEY: So, what do you make of that Mick Fanning VS Julian Wilson semifinal from Bells Winkipop?

TAYLOR PAUL: I think Mick earned his trip to the finals. Why, do you disagree?

BB: Earned, interesting word choice. I suppose Mick earned a trip to the final in the same way a crooked investment banker earns a living. Sure, he did something and that something served as a means to an end, but earned? No, I don’t think he earned it.

TP: His best two waves were better than Julian’s best two waves in that heat. It’s simple math and the judges added it up. The beach announcers, on the other hand, apparently forgot their calculators. But I’m curious to hear why you’re so stressed about the word “earn.” How can you suggest that his approach is corrupt? Do you have an issue with Mick’s surfing?

BB: I think Mick has learned the system and figured out how to manipulate it in his favor. He’s taught himself how to turn all the right dials, twist all the right nipples. He’s figured out how to go out every single heat and grind out a couple of 8s — and how boring is that? It’s more predictable than a 48-year-old dude buying a lime-green corvette during a midlife crisis. He walks out of that dealership and you’re like, that guy is for sure about to dye his hair blonde and bring some obscure drug like speed to Coachella. That’s the feeling I get every time Mick surfs a heat. And I actually love his surfing — he’s one of the best of all time in my book. But he is an enemy to excitement. That’s corrupt.

TP: Your problem is with the system, then. It’s not with Mick. Because you can’t blame a man for learning the system, for surfing smart. I agree that Mick is predictable, but how much worse is it when he does airs? They look awful. Mick is a brand and he built his brand off of clean, fast, powerful surfing. Mick does a few things well — like In-N-Out Burger — so you can’t expect him to try and be The Cheesecake Factory just for your entertainment.

BB: You know what, you’re right. I suppose my problem is not so much with Mick and his cloudy with an 90% chance of rail surfing and more with the system. Oh, the system. That damned system. It has to evolve. Every system does. If not, women wouldn’t be allowed to vote and slavery would still exist. That’s what’s happening here, progressive surfing is enslaved. Do you agree?

TP: I think there’s room for improvement, for sure. Because Julian was really fun to watch in that heat. Way more entertaining than Mick, but I think Mick won based on what the criteria has consistently been this year. Granted, that criteria seems to have regressed a bit to the 3-to-the-beach mentality. Maybe that’s why Pottz is so excited about guys “finishing waves” with lip kiss?

BB: Consistent, another interesting word choice. Consistent…John John gets a 10 for that air and Jordy gets a 9.93 for literally breaking a wave? Consistent as what, tartar sauce? Consistent as the color of Luke Davis’ hair? Certainly not as consistent as kevlar, or as Mick Fanning’s surfing which they hold so dearly. But hey, you know what? I learned something today. I don’t dislike Mick Fanning’s surfing, and that revelation feels good. The judges/criteria though? Take a lap, boys.