In our latest interview with Mick Fanning, the 2007 ASP World Champion talks about his preparation for the Billabong Pipeline Masters, where he'll be taking on his close mate Joel Parkinson in the 2009 World Title showdown…
Mick, how are you?
Really well. Just surfed in the final at Sunset and finished third. The waves were big and fun.
Congratulations. Your World Title rival Joel Parkinson got the win, does that make you nervous?
Not really. Joel is one of the best ever surfers out at Sunset and he proved that again with his third win there. I didn’t find good rhythm in the final but I felt really great in my heats. I’m happy with the result and now I can look at getting through some heats at Pipe to make the job a little tougher for Parko.
Before the Trestles event you were eighth on the ratings, now you’re leading the pack coming into the final event. How did you turn it all around?
It's amazing how things can change with a win. Trestles was the first event I'd won since Brazil 2007. I struggled to find my focus in 2008 after winning the title in 2007 but I was very determined to turn that around in 2009. I felt as though I was surfing well enough at the start of the year and I was getting big scores but I couldn't crack a final or get an event win. I think I needed to taste victory to get that winning feeling back.
How are you feeling ahead of the World Title showdown at Pipeline?
I feel unbelievable. I had a great preparation for the Pipe Masters. I took an extended break after my win in Portugal and decided to skip the first event in Hawaii because it doesn’t count in the Title race. That gave me more time at home to prepare mentally and physically for the last contest. It also gave me more time to work on my equipment and that is probably the most important thing heading into a world title showdown. You have to know that the board under your feet is going to perform.
Are you nervous?
I think I’m more excited than nervous. I obviously have that buzz and there’s a lot of anticipation there but I’m not losing sleep. This is a huge event for both Joel and I and I’m pumped and can’t wait to surf some heats at Pipeline. Hopefully there’s a good clean swell running.
You have never won an event in Hawaii, how does that affect you mentally?
It doesn't affect me at all. I haven’t had an event win in Hawaii but I have had a bunch of finals here. Event wins are hard to get, probably even harder at Pipe. I love the North Shore though, I feel like it’s definitely one of my favorite places to compete. I've had some strong results in the Pipeline Masters and hopefully I can bag my first win there this year, but I’ll just be tackling one heat at a time.
Who don’t you want to come up against at Pipe?
At Pipeline we get a lot of Hawaiian wildcards in the draw, these guys surf Pipe every time it breaks so they're definitely major threats to watch out for. But Pipe can be a shifty unpredictable wave so that means just about every guy in the draw is a threat.
What kind of training have you been doing for the Pipeline Masters event?
Just surfing as much as possible. Aside from staying fit and ensuring I've got great equipment surfing is the best training I can do. In Hawaii you want to feel comfortable when the surf gets big so I’ve been getting out there whenever it’s sizey and having a dig. It’s been fun.
What kind of board will you ride at the Pipeline Masters?
It all depends on the conditions but I’ll probably ride a semi-gun because it paddles well and has the extra hold but isn't so big that you can't make quick adjustments on the wave. My step-up boards are generally the same dimension as my shorties, just a little longer and with pintails. I usually ride Tokoro's at Pipe and I've always loved the way they perform out there.
How do you prepare before you paddle out for a heat?
I’ve got a little pre-heat ritual where I generally watch the conditions closely while I listen to some psych-up music. Then about 10 minutes before I paddle out I’ll find a quiet spot to sit down, clear my thoughts and focus on my strategy.
Are you a better surfer now than when you won your first world crown?
I think I am surfing better but I also think I’m a better competitor. However, this year’s been very challenging because it seems everyone is surfing better. It’s a real positive for the sport to have young surfers like Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith pushing performance boundaries because it’s forcing guys like Joel [Parkinson] and me to step up.
"If I were not in the race I'd be supporting Joel… no question."
Is it easier to win a maiden world crown or win a second world crown?
I’ll let you know if I can wrap up a second title!
Are you fit and injury free?
Lucky for me I’m completely injury free right now.
What’s it like battling a good friend for the World Title showdown? Does it make it harder?
I think it’s awesome. Right now it’s a little tough but this is exactly what Joel and I dreamed of when we were in High School together: battling it out for a World Title in the Pipeline Masters. We haven’t been talking quite as much as normal because I think that’s how we avoid having to deal with the World Title scenario we’re in.
I wouldn’t say being good friends makes it any harder. I’ve been competing against Joel since I was a teenager; we’ve always had an intense rivalry but we’ve always remained great friends. If I were not in the race I'd be supporting Joel… no question.
The most difficult thing about taking on Parko isn't the fact that he's a friend but the fact that he's Parko. Everyone knows how well he surfs. It's all a little intense right now, but I'm sure no matter what the outcome we'll look back on it and be glad we were the last title contenders going into the Pipe Masters.
What would a second world title mean to you?
Winning one world title was incredible so winning a second would be insane!
Best of luck!
Thanks so much.