Farewell Fanning - White Lighting bows out with class
IN 2001 the teenage wildcard of the Rip Curl Pro staggered out of the freezing surf, sculled a can of beer then marched onto the stage to ring the highly coveted winner's trophy at Bells Beach.
"Don't worry,” he said to the waiting officials.
"I won't spew.”
It was a bravura performance from the skinny youngster in front of the cheering crowd in the Bell's Beach carpark.
It was a time when Hawaii's Sunny Garcia and Shane Dorian and Australia's Mark Occhilupo, Danny Wills and Damien Hardiman literally ruled the waves.
Now there was a new contender.
Standing in the media pack, as we watched the 19-year-old who out-surfed Wills 20.85 to 19.15, make a short but heart-felt speech, we recognised a new era in the sport was upon us.
Now the era is over.
It ended on Thursday morning when the natural-footer's chance of a ending his career with a win at the place he first came to the world's attention was ended with a defeat, when Brazil's Italo Ferreira scored 15.66 to beat his numbers of 12.83 in the final.
In the past 17 years, Mick Fanning, 36, a three-time surfing world champion overcame everything from family tragedy to personal injury to make his sporting dreams a reality.
He was always a surfer who followed his own tide.
Not many adult surfers would feel comfortable admitting they travelled on tour with a parent, but Fanning's mother very ably managed his career for many years.
He achieved social media fame for the 2015 shark punching incident at J-Bay, Fanning managed to make surfing exciting every time he paddled out.
Where many surf journalists would be blase at the chance of interviewing world leaders or other sporting stars. those about to chat with "Our Mick,” were often be a nervous, blathering mess.
After a career which saw him win 22 world tour events, including four at Bells, Fanning announced earlier he would call halt after this event, saying the hunger to compete is no longer there.
Bells today was bitter-sweet ending for Fanning's final surfing contest, but it's also the opening of a new chapter for the man who rang the bell again in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Over the years the man nick-named White Lightening for his all or nothing approach to tackling waves of all sizes, was six times named Australian Male Surfer of the Year and ASP World Champion in 2007, 2009 and 2013.
Thank you Fanning for the years of amazing surfing you gave us.
Good luck for the future.
You've earned it and deserve it.