There are many things I dreamed I would be doing on the night I signed my wedding papers. French Champagne, Five-star hotels, moonlight dinner for two…but hanging out with the reigning world surfing champion was not one of those things. Yet it was, in a way, a dream come true.
When Mick Fanning, the 2007 ASP Surfing World Champion, is brought on stage before a throng of fans, he’s asked what he thinks of the (many) beautiful Japanese women in the crowd. He’s quick to politely say he’s a taken man, and invites his fianceé, Australian model Karissa Dalton, on stage with him (the two married in March of 2008).
Readers, I introduce one of the most relaxed, down-to-earth, humble Aussies I have met. The interview with Mick turned out to be more of a fun chat between Aussies.
Angie: First, congratulations. Are you enjoying yourself tonight?
Mick: Thanks very much; yeah, it’s awesome.
A: How long have you been in Japan?
M: Two weeks, we leave tomorrow night. I’ve been snowboarding in Niseko. The powder was awesome.
A: Did you party it up in Niseko?
M: Yeah, we had a couple big nights. Niseko was so much fun. We had the best time snowboarding, and we met some insane people up there too. We ate sushi and tonkatsu (pork cutlets), and tonkatsu curry. I love Japanese food; I eat it all the time in Australia, at least two or three times a week.
A: Has it hit home now that you’re the world champion?
M: Yeah, pretty much. (Laughs)
A: Any Japanese surfers who inspire you?
M: Mar Ohno. Legend. He rips.
A: Have you had some good surfs with him?
M: Yeah, when he was living at home (Gold Coast, Australia). We had some really good sessions together. And Takayuki Wakita (脇田 貴之). He’s hilarious. He’s crazy at Pipeline.
A: Did you catch up with Wakita this season in Hawaii?
M: I saw him a few times, but we didn’t really get any big Pipe days.
A: Did you know he was invited to the Eddie (Eddie Aikau Big Wave Contest in Hawaii)?
M: Yeah, I know. That’s insane. He deserves it.
A: Have you had any particularly memorable surfs in Japan?
M: Yeah, a few times. The last time the tour was in Japan at Malibu (Chiba) was really fun. Another time I went to Niijima (island in Tokyo). It was flat, but it was a really cool place to check out.
A: What was one of your highlights from the 2007 ASP Tour?
M: Hmm, it was all fun. One heat I had in France was especially cool. It was perfect La Graviere; the waves were incredible. And also probably the final day at Theapoo (Tahiti) was a really fun day too. I was stoked to get a good result there.
A: What’s your favorite wave on tour?
M: It would have to be home at the Gold Coast. But everywhere is fun and every place is so different, which I like.
A: I heard when you actually won the world title you didn’t know you’d won because you were in a heat?
M: Yeah, I was paddling out for my semi-final against Joel (Parkinson). Taj (Burrow) and Tommy Whitaker were in the heat before. Because I was getting ready for my heat, I couldn’t hear any results, so I paddled out and didn’t know if Tom had won (the heat); I was asking him, but he wouldn’t say anything. Then, all of a sudden, he just started screaming, and I realized I’d won. I think I screamed for about 10 minutes. (Laughs)
A: Was it a surreal feeling to be in the water with your best friend, Joel, when you realized you were the new world champion?
M: Yeah, it was so cool. He’s been one of the guys who had pushed me so much, you know. Without being beaten by those guys (Joel and Dean), I wouldn’t have tried so hard. It was cool to win it with Joel right there next to me.
A: What was your most exciting heat in 2007?
M: I think it was the one with Josh Kerr, at Snapper (Gold Coast, Australia) in the quarter-final. That was a pretty good heat. I didn’t know I needed two nines. So that was pretty exciting. And then the semi-final with Troy Brooks in France with the lead changing a few times, it was really cool. I enjoy heats like that.
A: We saw a big change in your surf style last year from previous years.
M: Yeah, at the start of 2006, I was way too serious and think I was bored with my own surfing. Now every time I go surfing, I just want to try something new and different. So it’s become a lot more fun, and I’ve been enjoying my surfing more.
A: When you got back to Australia after winning, I heard there was a big party waiting for you…
M: Yeah, it was incredible. It was a total surprise. I thought I was just going down to the local pub and hang out with all my friends, but my fianceé and some good friends organized this huge party, with 400 of my friends.
A: With your favorite Aussie band, Grinspoon!?
M: That was incredible. I was already just so stoked that everyone was there, and then my fiancé says, “I’ve got another surprise—Grinspoon’s playing.” I was just speechless.
A: Now that you are number one, how do you want to be seen by your peers?
M: Um, I guess I will just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I don’t really think about that. I just get out there and have fun surfing and always try to be a good person to everyone.
A: Do you have a message for the Japanese surfing community, for anyone wanting to be a world champion one day?
M: Yeah, just have a lot of fun and just keep at it. If you fall off, just get back up.
Mick Fanning At a Glance
Born: June 13, 1981
Hometown: Penrith, NSW, Australia
Current Home: Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia
Nicknames: Micktor, Eugene, White Lightning
Marital status: Married film student/model Karissa Dalton in March, 2008.
Family: Mick's mom Liz is his manager, his dad is an earth mover. Mick is one of five children (four boys and one girl). He lost his older brother Sean, also an aspiring pro surfer, in a car accident when he was 17. He dedicated his first elite tour victory to Sean's memory.
In his spare time Mick is: Training or hanging out with friends or Karissa.
Official Web site: www.mickfanning.com.au
Information courtesy of ASP; www.aspworldtour.com
Who inspires a champion?
“Mark Richards is the King. Taylor Knox is, to me, the perfect surfer. Kelly…because he is Kelly Slater (Laughs). Joel Parkinson and Dean Morrison, because they are my best friends, and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. They make me want to try really hard.
Occy (Australian pro surfer Mark Occhilupo, 1999 world champion) because he is so funny and so cool and just surfs so well. Mat Hoy because he does big hacks. Tom Curren because in his day he was so good and so focused all the time. And the Irons Brothers (Andy and Bruce); what they do in big waves is just incredible. If they’re out at Pipeline or Teahupoo, or any big wave, you’re gonna see something crazy.
I’m inspired by up-and-coming groms. I think Dane Reynolds is incredible, the way he can do big turns and big airs as well. If we didn’t have people like him coming through, surfing would get boring. Jordy Smith as well. And then one kid whose surfing I’ve really been enjoying is Julian Wilson; his surfing is insane.”
—Mick Fanning, 2007 ASP World Champion