Mick Fanning: the White Lightning won three surfing world titles | Photo: Corey Wilson/Red Bull

Mick Fanning is a three-time surfing world champion and one of the most active free surfers on the planet. Time to paddle into White Lightning's world of waves.

He is fast, athletic, strong, agile, and ultra-competitive.

With nine Australian Male Surfer of the Year awards and 22 Championship Tour (CT) victories, "Fanno" is, for many, the best professional Australian surfer of all time.

"Fanning rides by touch as much as he does rehearse athleticism, charging into critical positions - a vertical takeoff, a deep tube, a gouging frontside hack - and trusting his reflexes and intuition to bring him back to center," notes Matt Warshaw, author of "The Encyclopedia of Surfing."

Michael Eugene Fanning was born on June 13, 1981, in the Sydney suburb of Penrith, New South Wales.

His mother, Elizabeth Osborne, and father, John Fanning, are Irish.

Mick is the youngest of four siblings: brothers Peter, Sean, and Edward, and sister Rachel Fanning.

He got in touch with surfing for the first time at the age of three at Mount Gambier's Brown Bay in South Australia, around the time his parents split.

However, the young blond only started surfing regularly at 12 when his mother moved to Tweed Heads, NSW.

By that time, Mick was already a highly competitive teenager, whether playing soccer, cricket, rugby, or running.

In 1997, Mick Fanning was crowned Australian junior surfing champion and started shining in pro junior contests.

Mick Fanning: a fast, agile and powerful surfer | Photo: Red Bull

Tragedy and Ambition

One year later, the Fanning family suffers a major loss.

Sean, who was 20 and en route to becoming an ASP World Tour surfer, loses his life in a car accident in Coolangatta.

His good surfer friend Joel Green also died in the tragic event. Mick was 17 years old.

With sponsorship deals coming in, Fanning was already an ambitious professional who wrote a list of goals on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall above his bed.

"My older brother Sean had the same goals, and it bound us," Mick Fanning once explained.

"We dreamed of making the tour together. He encouraged me and looked out for me. He was my hero."

Right after the huge personal loss, the regular footer entered hyperdrive mode.

In 2001, he got a wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and ended up surfing the final against his childhood idol, Danny Wills.

After winning the prestigious contest, Mick dedicated the trophy to his dear brother.

At the end of the season, the Australian claimed the Qualifying Series (QS) and earned a spot in the CT circus.

Mick and Sean Fanning: two talented surfer brothers from Penrith, New South Wales | Photo: Fanning Archive

The Maiden World Title

In his first year in the surfing elite, Mick Fanning won the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay and was named Rookie of the Year 2002.

It was a sign of the things to come.

The "Coolangatta Kids," a group of young guns that included Fanning, Joel Parkinson, and Dean Morrison, were regarded as Australia's hottest young surf trio since Michael Peterson, Peter Townend, and Wayne Bartholomew shot forward as a unit in the early 1970s.

Time would prove they were as good as their predecessors.

In 2004, a hamstring tear almost put an end to a promising career.

After recovering from surgery, Fanning realized he had to do more if he wanted to become a world champion.

And so, he embraced a new training regime, paying more attention to his diet and overall health than ever and cutting back on his drinking.

In 2007, Mick Fanning clinched his first ASP World Tour title.

"On the day I won my first world title in Brazil, there was a dolphin out there in the lineup," revealed the Australian.

"It wasn't part of a pod. It was just cruising around solo and kept popping up during my heats. I felt the presence of my brother, Sean."

Fanning became the first Australian surfer to win the surfing world title since Mark Occhilupo in 1999.

After receiving the trophy from the hands of Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning dedicated the achievement to his late brother.

His country rejoiced, and he was welcomed home as a hero.

Mick Fanning: the Australian surfer won his first world title in 2007 in Brazil | Photo: ASP World Tour

Shark Attack: The Event That Changed His Mindset

In 2009, MF and his best friend and rival Joel Parkinson battled it out intensely for the ultimate surfing trophy, and their relationship was forced against the ropes.

"Eugene" didn't like the feeling, but he was ready to move on.

By 2013, Fanning was more relaxed and more experienced, competitively speaking, and the third world title arrived naturally, with the worst result being a ninth in Lower Trestles.

Two years later, the "White Lightning" was feeling good and surfing better than ever, and the event at Jeffreys Bay looked like the perfect ramp for another title run.

In the South African final, held on July 19, 2015, Fanning was in the water against his fellow countryman, Julian Wilson.

Suddenly, a surfer's worst nightmare becomes a reality - while waiting for a set of waves, Mick is attacked by a great white shark.

His first reaction was to punch the predator and get his surfboard between his body and the marine animal.

The shark bit off the surf leash, but the Australian was able to reach the response team and get out of the water quickly.

Wilson, who paddled towards Fanning to assist him, also reached the support boat safe and sound and was eventually brought to shore.

Mick Fanning: on July 19, 2015, the Australian surfer was attacked by a great white shark at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa | Photo: WSL

Back in the Water

A few days later, Mick returned to the surf again at Hastings Point, and on August 27 - just eight days after the great white incident - he was taking on the shark-infested surf spot of Shipstern Bluff.

Fanning went into the final event of the season at Pipeline, leading the world title race.

"On the day it was all set to go down, I was woken early by a knock on my door," recalls the three-time world champion.

"My mum was standing there, with tears in her eyes, and clearly hurting. I knew it was bad news. She told me my eldest brother Pete had passed away."

Mick had lost his second brother in seven years.

The Australian didn't have to paddle out at Pipe, but he did it because he knew what Pete would want him to do.

Fanning eventually lost the world title in Hawaii to Adriano de Souza, but he said, "It didn't hurt."

"At the end of the day, I only had Pete in my thoughts, and the perspective experienced from the shark incident was nothing compared to losing a brother on the eve of a world title showdown."

All his best friends from Australia had heard the news about Pete and flew over to support Mick. He got emotional as everyone else watching the showdown.

"I'd lost but realized that in life, I was winning," underlined the NSW surfer.

Mick Fanning: an all-around surfer in all types of conditions | Photo: Red Bull

A New Beginning

The year 2016 marked a new beginning for the "White Lightning."

Why? Because he knew he had to take a break and process what had happened and what he had gone through in the previous months.

Fanning knew he didn't want to compete forever but wasn't entirely sure he wanted to retire for good.

So, instead of making tough decisions, he competed in five events to keep a spot for 2017 and buy more time to consider his next move.

A few months before, he was already in relaxation mode.

For instance, while killing time in Fiji, he learned to kitesurf with the big wave kiteboarder and friend Ben Wilson.

At the 2016 J-Bay Open, Fanning was totally focused. After all, he had unfinished work and a traumatic experience to overcome.

In an extremely tight final, the Australian defeated an ever-dangerous John John Florence.

Also, in 2016, Fanning and Karissa Dalton announced they were putting an end to their eight-year marriage.

In the same year, he traveled to the Arctic Circle for a magical experience.

In Lofoten, Norway, the three-time world champion rode cold water waves underneath the stunningly dazzling green night skies provided by the Aurora Borealis.

The surfer signed up for 2017, but he quickly realized he just wanted to have fun one last time before hanging the leash.

And so, the blond power surfer got on a plane to Munich, Germany, to surf the famous Eisbach river wave.

Mick Fanning: surfing the Eisbach river wave in Munich, Germany | Photo: Red Bull

Controversies

In 2010, the world bodyboarding community was shocked and furious by a Snickers ad featuring Mick Fanning.

The marketing material displayed the Australian saying, "When I'm hungry, I boogie board," as an alternative version to the snack's motto, "You're not you when you're hungry."

Things got worse and escalated when a photo showing Joel Parkinson mocking the ad, Fanning, and bodyboarders went viral online.

The Australian bodyboarding organization immediately asked riders to boycott Snickers and forced the brand to pull the ad and issue a formal apology.

In that same year, Mick Fanning apologized to the Jewish community for calling a surf journalist a "f***ing Jew" after drinking too much at a private world title party.

The world champion called Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, to apologize for the inappropriate language.

Mick Fanning: he has ridden the shark-infested waters of Shipstern Bluff several times | Photo: Red Bull

Activism

Mick Fanning is as active out of the water as he is searching and chasing perfect waves around the world and always finds time to actively engage with the community.

The natural-footer supports several charities and non-governmental organizations, including the Starlight Foundation, Wild Ark, World Vision, and Make a Wish.

In 2014, the "White Lightning" joined Save Our Southern Beaches Alliance in a paddle-out protest against the construction of a two-billion-dollar ocean terminal and casino development at North Kirra/Bilinga, Gold Coast.

Fanning is actively involved in the fight against the installation of a deepwater oil field in the Great Australian Bight.

In 2015, the Australian surfer donated his appearance fee ($75,000) in Channel Nine's "60 Minutes" to Mathew Lee, a bodyboarder who had been injured in a shark attack off Lighthouse Beach, NSW, and underwent surgery on both legs.

In March 2020, "Eugene" got on a jet ski and offered help to the victims of the NSW North Coast floods.

Mick Fanning: always comfortable with his aerial game | Photo: Red Bull

Awards and Entrepreneurship

The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) named the Australian Waterman of the Year 2016.

In 2017, Mick Fanning was honored as Officer of the Order of Australia, one of the most prestigious distinctions awarded to national citizens.

The Order of Australia was established in 1975 by Elizabeth II, the Queen of Australia, to recognize Australian citizens who stand out for meritorious service or outstanding achievements.

In 2019, Fanning signed a 10-year sponsorship deal with the longtime sponsor, Rip Curl, and taught Formula 1 driver Pierre Gasly how to surf at Torquay Beach.

He supports Penrith Panthers, an NSW-based professional rugby league football club, and plays golf once in a while.

The surfer who loves to cook and is a fan of chocolate has tattoos featuring his family crest, the name of his late brother, Sean, and an eagle in honor of the Kirra Surfriders Club.

Mick Fanning is also an entrepreneur with an estimated net worth of $4-8 million.

He co-owned Balter Brewing Company with Bede Durbidge, Joel Parkinson, and Josh Kerr before selling it to Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in 2019.

In that same year, Fanning invested in Scratch, an Australian dog food company that produces 100 percent locally and sustainably sourced meat.

He lends his name to Mick Fanning Softboards, a range of premium soft-top boards for beginners, surf schools, and experienced riders who just want to have fun.

Mick Fanning: getting barreled in the Mentawais Islands | Photo: Red Bull

Personal Life

Mick Fanning is in a relationship with the American model Breeana Randall.

On August 10, 2020, at 2:14 p.m., the couple gave birth to their son, Xander Dean Fanning. On April 4, 2024, Lyla Skye Fanning was born.

Mick "Eugene" Fanning is on Facebook (@mickfanningsurfer), Twitter (@mick_fanning), and Instagram (@mfanno).

The Penrith-born is the star of several surf movies, including "Fanning the Fire" (2002), "Mick, Myself and Eugene" (200%), "Missing" (2013), "Reef: Just Passing Through" (2016), "Save This Shark" (2020).

The surfer and Tim Bake co-authored "Mick Fanning: Surf for Your Life" (2011), while Corey Wilson took the shots featured in the coffee table book "Mick: Fanning" (2018).

Mick Fanning is 5'10" (1.78 meters) and weighs around 165 pounds (75 kilograms). The free surfer lives on the Gold Coast with this family.

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