THREE-TIME champion Mick Fanning will rejoin the elite world surfing tour full- time this year for the first time since being attacked by a shark.
Fanning competed part-time last year following the infamous 2015 incident when he fought off a shark during the J-Bay Open in South Africa. “It was nice to have 2016 off somewhat and decompress but I’m excited to put the singlet on again,” Fanning, 35, said in a statement on Tuesday. Fanning took the sabbatical after a tumultuous 2015 when he also endured the death of one of his brothers and the end of his marriage.
Fanning admitted the year had taken its toll.
“2015 was a tough year. A lot happened to me on camera and in my personal life,” he said.
“I just felt exhausted by the end of it. Fortunately, I was in a position to step away from the tour and have some time to myself.” It was also a momentous break, with Fanning awarded the Order of Australia and enjoying a life highlight when he surfed for leisure under the northern lights in Norway.
But he said he was ready to again test himself against the world’s best surfers. “Like everyone else I’m getting super excited about this year’s line-up of surfers,” he said.
“It might be the best field from the top seed to number 34 we’ve ever had.
“I also think it’s the biggest group of legit title contenders we’ve ever seen on the tour ever and I want to be part of the race.”
This month’s opening round of the elite World Surf League at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast will be Fanning’s first competition in more than six months. The 11-stop world tour then heads to Margaret River in Western Australia followed by Victoria’s Bells Beach, before competitions in Brazil, Fiji, South Africa, Tahiti, California, France, Portugal and Hawaii.