Mick Fanning contemplates life after competitive surfing

With a growing business portfolio and a lust for adventure, Mick Fanning is planning for life in the real world.

Mick is many things. He is a surfer, a survivor, a three-time World Champion, environmental activist and a businessman. Aged 36 Mick is now, however, contemplating his life after the Championship Tour (CT). After competing full time for 16 years, the Australian had his first taste of life away from competitive surfing in 2016 when he took time off what he referred to as a “personal year.”

“I was scared to take that step away from the Tour,” Fanning tells GrindTV. “It’s like if you’ve been in the same job for so long and you decide to leave and I didn’t know where that would leave me.

“However everyone was so supportive. When I made that decision I felt a massive weight lift off my shoulders. Over the year I could feel my inner energy slowly coming back and I could start working on myself and living so many new experiences.”

After that year off Mick was ready to come back and surf full time competitively. His year had had its moments, but he hasn't come close to hitting the competitive heights of the past. Going into the final event, the Billabong Pipeline Masters, he is currently ranked outside the top 10 and with no chance of winning a World Title in 2017.

“The results haven’t been there, but I’ve enjoyed it in different ways,” he says. “I’ve remembered how fun it can be. I’ve been trying to enjoy the locations and more importantly the friends I have made all over the world. I have these families and I know that when I stop competing I won’t be seeing them like clockwork every year.”

That, of course, leads to the question of just when Mick will pull the plug and retire officially.

"I wish I could tell you and give you the scoop,” he jokes to GrindTV. “To be honest I’m still deciding what my future is. I feel my surfing is at a good enough level to compete, but my nature is to go all in. If I don’t think I can give it 100 percent, I simply won’t do it.”

Mick’s dream wave. Photo: Courtesy of Rip Curl

Fortunately for Mick he isn’t exactly lacking options post competitive career. He’s initially eyeing off a freesurfing career, where surfers are paid to travel to find the best waves all over the world.

“Last year showed me that there are so many other waves I’d love to explore and that the journey of finding the waves is half the fun,” says Fanning. “I also want to go and surf these different waves while I can still perform at a good level. I don’t want to get my mid-40s and have my old bones and aches and pains get in the way.”

Away from the surfing, Fanning has also built up an impressive business portfolio. He started a brewery called Balter Brewing Company with his fellow pro surfers Josh Kerr, Joel Parkinson and Bede Durbidge, which has proved an enormous success. The beer itself has won numerous awards while the growth in sales has been exponential year over year.

Mick and fellow CT veteran, Joel Parkinson having a laugh over a brew. Photo: Courtesy of Trent Mitchell

“When I look at business proposals I tend to go with my gut feeling,” Fanning says. “I’m not one to go through spreadsheets with a fine-toothed comb. I’m more like if it feels right, I’ll back it.

“With the brewery we put all our best friends we have worked with over the years in the industry together on one project. That’s what has made it special.”

Like his surfing his business sense tends to run on instinct and friendship.

Another successful recent venture, the Mick Fanning Softboard company, was based on the same principles.

Mick doing some R&D. Photo: Courtesy of MF Softboards

“That started when I was visiting my good mate Mark Mathews who was recovering from a traumatic leg injury. In the corner of his room I noticed a softboard prototype,” Fanning tells GrindTV. “When I picked it up I knew it would work. It was immediate. When Mark also explained that all the materials used were far more environmentally friendly than any others on the market, I knew it was a winner.”

That visit was around Christmas last year and earlier this month Fanning launched the MF Softboard, with product in place in more than 10 countries, from the Canary Islands to Korea.

“With the beer or the boards, I’m enjoying the R and D, but also the marketing side too,” Fanning explains. “It’s great to come up with new ideas and see if they work.”

It seems that post career Mick won’t be kicking back and simply surfing his homebreak. For now though he has the Pipe Masters and then the off season to plan his future.

“It’s a really exciting time for me right now,” he says excitedly. “I can see so many opportunities be it in competition, business or freesurfing. I’m so fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I never, ever take it for granted.”

More Mick Fanning content from GrindTV

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Mick Fanning surfs Eisbach River wave in Munich, Germany; video

Mick Fanning says he will retire from contest surfing in next 2 years