Mick Fanning will be looking to adopt a laid-back approach to the defense of his ASP World Surfing title when the 2010 season begins in earnest next month.
The 28-year-old hopes the benefit of experience will prevent a repeat of what happened the last time he defended the title (in 2008), when he suffered his worst year on the Tour, finishing in eighth place overall.
He spearheaded Australia's domination of the 2009 championship, claiming the crown from close friend and early Tour leader Joel Parkinson, while fellow Aussies Bede Durbidge and Taj Burrow completed an all-Australian top four.
Following a stuttering start to last year’s campaign, the New South Wales surfer attributed his end of season surge to implementing a more relaxed attitude.
"I just changed a little bit and just had a lot more fun,” Fanning said. “I changed my preparation a tiny bit and made it a lot shorter and a lot more exciting. I just felt more relaxed towards the second half of the year."
Mick’s keeping that same maxim in his quest to stay one step ahead of the pack in the coming season – ‘if it's not broke, don't fix it’.
Fanning is expecting another huge challenge in 2010, from both returning stars and exciting new additions to the tour.
"I think Jordy Smith (South Africa) and Dane Reynolds (USA) have finally found their groove after two years of being on Tour,” Fanning explained. “Those two guys are super exciting and they are going to do some damage this year."
"We've got Andy Irons (USA) coming back on tour and he was surfing great in Hawaii, so he's going to do some damage as well. Then there's some amazing rookies that are coming on board too, with Owen Wright (Australia) and Dusty Payne (USA), so it's going to be a really exciting year. There's nowhere to hide, you've just got to go for it."
Fanning also acknowledged the threat likely to be posed by nine-times world champion Kelly Slater, who ended 2009 in sixth place.
"It doesn't matter how old he is, he's still surfing amazing," Fanning said of Slater, who will be 38 years old by the time the new season starts. I think it's always great to have Kelly on tour, he brings out the best in everyone."
Fanning is also a supporter of the new ASP One Ranking system, which is set to go through a trial year this coming season with a view to becoming fully integrated into the tour in 2011. Under the new system, events on both the Qualifying Series and World Tour will contribute to a surfer's year-end ranking.
"I think it's going to be a really good change," Fanning said. "I think what we had over the last 10 years or so with the two-tiered system, it just created a lot of confusion. You won't have to wait until the end of the year to see new guys get on (the World Tour) and old guys fall off."
Keep up-to-date with the new ASP season at Red Bull Surfing and find out more about the world champion at Mick Fanning's site.