Fanning’s Back!

By the time Mick gets to the stage on the shoulders of Joel Parkinson and others, he’s already drank three Fosters. He’s just defeated Californian WCT Rookie Chris Ward in the Quiksilver Pro on Australia’s Gold Coast to win the first World Tour stop of 2005 at his home break.

Fanning’s win comes after an eight-month recovery from a serious hamstring injury (torn off the bone) in early 2004. Fanning’s absence from the the World Championship Tour was grossly appearant last year, as the tour went to most its stops without its fastest member.

Mick’s first public appearance since his injury was in Hawaii in November of 2004, and many commented on how he looked somewhat out of shape after sitting on the couch for over half a year, but today on stage holding a check for $30,000, he’s fit, his shoulders are square, and he doesn’t have an ounce of fat on his frame.

Mick’s win is a statement if it’s anything. Anyone who questioned his ability to recover from what was a potentially career-ending injury now has their answer. Coolangatta’s blond speed machine is back.

And it’s not like he got an easy draw. On his way to victory, Mick beat Kalani Robb and Marcelo Nunes in Round One, former world champ Sunny Garcia in Round Three, Damien Hobgood in Round Four, World Champ Andy Irons in the Quarters, red-hot Trent Munro in the Semis, and Wardo in the Final.

Ward’s second-place finish was no less spectatular. His presence on the WCT is symbolic of its seeming openness to “new” surfing. By that, I mean scoring surfing based on newer criteria: variety of manuevers, airs, everything. It’s not 3 to the beach anymore, and Wardo being on surfing’s biggest stage is atestament to that.

Ward’s philosphy in the water the past week has been fascinating if not a bit nerve-wracking for all the Wardo fans out there. He would catch almost the maximum number allowable every heat. That’s 15 waves in 30 minutes. Think about that. A couple times he got dangerously close to reaching the maximum nuber allowable (15 per heat), which could potenitally backfire. But it didn’t, and Ward dispatched his share of franchise players.

Wardo’s victims include: Peterson Rosa in Round One, Kalani Robb in Round Two, Taj Burrow in Round Three, Troy Brooks in Round Four, some guy named Kelly Slater in the Quarters, Tom Whitaker in the Semis, and then he fell to Fanning.

The surf today was basically shit for Snapper Rocks, one of the best right points on Earth, but that’s part of being a pro. Most these guys can rip in the good stuff, but what happens when it’s small, onshore, and sectioning?

Wardo stands on stage with a check for $16,000, thanks his sponsors, parents, and everyone who came down to watch the event. “This feels great,” he says. “Surfing against guys like this is amazing. Time to party!”

Mick had a couple near-teary moments when he was asked about his comeback from the injury, which must have been a huge strain on him. “I’m so stoked,” said the new WCT ratings leader. “Having the time off was good. Everyone stuck by me. It was awesome. “I’m just so fricken stoked right now. I always wanted one, I got close a couple times, and this feels so good.”

Mick is the third Coolangatta kid in a row to win the event. Dean Morrison won in 2003, Parko in 04, and now Mick. Saying the party tonight will rage, would be the understatement of the century. I just hope everyone can avoid liver injuries.