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Tweed’s grieving Mick Fanning pipped for world surf title

Tweed Heads champion surfer Mick Fanning takes a moment to look up to the heavens before his quarterfinal heat against Kelly Slater (USA) at the Billabong Pipe Masters on Thursday. Photo World Surf League

Tweed Heads champion surfer Mick Fanning takes a moment to look up to the heavens before his quarterfinal heat against Kelly Slater (USA) at the Billabong Pipe Masters on Thursday. Photo World Surf League

Oahu, Hawaii [AAP]

Newly crowned world surfing champion Adrian de Souza has celebrated his first title in style by beating Brazilian compatriot Gabriel Medina in the Pipe Masters final.

The 28-year-old clinched the title at the semi-final stage on Thursday when he beat Hawaiian Mason Ho, after standings leader, Australian champion Mick Fanning, from Tweed Heads, lost the first semi to Medina.

De Souza overcame the excitement of winning the title to take control of the final, which he won 14.07 to 8.50.

He posted a 7.67 with his first wave and added a 5.17 with his third.

Medina, who had already clinched the Triple Crown, struggled in the early stages of the final. The 2014 world champion scored a 4.00 with his first wave, but achieved less than two with seven of his last eight.

De Souza scored a 6.40 with his last wave in the closing seconds to widen his victory margin and become the first Brazilian to win the Pipe Masters.

Fanning knows true meaning of pressure

Pressure is punching a shark. Surfing is not

Mick Fanning and Keith Miller are sports stars who truly appreciate the difference.

Miller, the Australian cricketing great, had several stark reminders of his mortality while serving as a fighter pilot during World War II.

When asked after the war about handling pressure on the field, Miller gave one of sport’s defining quotes.

‘Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Cricket is not.’

A series-deciding Ashes Test or the Pipe Masters? Big, but not life or death.

Fanning is sadly no stranger to tragedy – his brother Sean died in a 1998 car accident. And, only on Thursday, Fanning was back in the water in Hawaii a day after learning of the death of his older brother Peter in Australia.

‘Today was one of the most challenging days of my life,’ Fanning said on his Facebook page.

Adriano De Souza of Brasil winning his maiden WSL World Title at the Billabong Pipe Masters on Thursday. Photo World Surf League

Adriano De Souza of Brasil winning his maiden WSL World Title at the Billabong Pipe Masters on Thursday. Photo World Surf League

‘But I knew I could find the strength to take part in the final event of the season because that’s what Pete would want.’

In between these personal tragedies, six months ago, Fanning had one of the all-time Messerschmitt moments.

For all his achievements, the defining moment of Fanning’s surfing career is his awful incident during the final of the J-Bay Open in South Africa.

On live TV – his mother was watching back in Australia – Fanning was waiting for the next wave as he competed against compatriot Julian Wilson.

Suddenly, a shark was thrashing around Fanning and he punched it in a reflex response.

Wilson would later recall that as Fanning disappeared behind a swell, he wondered in horror what he would see a few seconds later.

But Fanning survived unscathed – at least physically.

‘I still have my ups and downs – my good days and my bad days,’ he admitted earlier this month.

Fanning was saved possibly by his leg rope as much as his pugnacious reaction.

Wilson paddled over to help his friend, not head for safety, and the pair entered sports’ folklore.

The incident received international attention and, two months ago in Melbourne, their mothers accepted the Spirit Of Sport award on their behalf.

Fanning’s is a sporting career that has brought much fame and success, but also a hamstring injury in 2004 that was so serious that a full repair was needed.

Fanning has a metal hook in his leg as a memento of the surgery.

He recovered magnificently, winning world titles in 2007, ’09 and ’13.

Only Australian Mark Richards (four) and American legend Kelly Slater (11) have won more.

Then came this year’s world surf league and its extremely tight battle for the championship, which eventually went the way of Adriano de Souza after fellow Brazilian Gabriel Medina eliminated Fanning in the semis of the Pipe Masters.

The immediate lead-up to the season decider on Hawaii’s North Shore again highlighted the sport’s attractions and its dangers.

The week before, Fanning had his first big Hawaiian win when he took out the World Cup at nearby Sunset Beach.

His decisive wave ride in the final was surfing at its finest.

A few days later, Fanning helped rescue Evan Geiselman after the young American surfer nearly drowned at Banzai Pipeline.

Then Fanning was surfing with compatriot and fellow world title contender Owen Wright, who was in outstanding form ahead of the Pipe Masters.

Wright’s luck turned savagely when a succession of waves landed on him.

He suffered slight bleeding on the brain and was forced out of the season-deciding event.

Not that Fanning needed more reminders about surfing’s inherent risks.

Pressure? Mick Fanning knows all about pressure.

 

 


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