Everyone yearns for the freedom only the wild can provide, even those who’ve spent most of their lives immersed in it. Mick Fanning - seemingly the epitome of a care-free Aussie adventurer - is only now feeling that freedom. All it took was the biggest decision of his life.
The three-time World Champion surfer is probably the last person you’d expect to fess up to feeling trapped. After all, he spent 20 years traveling competition to competition - from Bells Beach to Tahiti to the south of France. But real freedom always seemed just out of reach.
“When you’re on tour you go to the same places all the time,” Mick recalls. “I’ve seen so many pictures of all these amazing places, but because I was so busy and stuck to a schedule, you never really get a chance to go and do all that.”
”I haven't really explored a lot of Australia,” he continues. “And that's something that's been eating me up.”
In 2017, Mick was in a beachside carpark waiting for his heat in the Margaret River Pro. Four hours slipped by as he daydreamed about being anywhere else but there. He realised he was after something different, and the thought terrified him.
What he needed was to take back control. And that came in the form of the biggest call he’s ever made - retirement. Now, every road is open to him. He chooses where to go.
“I’m excited to explore Australia. From beautiful beaches and deserts to rainforests and everything in between. I’ve got the time to do it,” he says.
“I don't have a schedule. If I feel like turning left, I can go left. If I feel like going right, I go right. There's so much more out there.”
Ready for the wild.
Mick’s setting out on his next adventure with the X-Class, a vehicle that - like him - can tame nature’s toughest challenges.
“It's tough. It's powerful. It's versatile,” Mick notes. “And that's what I really want on this trip. To be able to manoeuvre through the country with little or no impact.”
“Being able to have the camper on top and just being able to just go whenever I feel like is something that really excites me.”
The X-Class affords him unparalleled freedom. When the urge to go bush strikes, it’s ready to go. “At the moment I've got five surfboards in there. I've got air skis. I've got clothes, camera bags. And still plenty of space. And then I've got my double bed on top. I'm golden,” he says.
That double bed has brought a new level of comfort to Mick’s getaways, “within two minutes you can pop up, and you've got a double bed, a little house.”
“I can pull up on the side of a cliff or in the middle of the bush and set up camp. Especially if there's an incredible surf break. That's something that really excites me - waking up to some of the best views on earth.”
This new adventure is a far cry from hotels, injuries, spectator stands and TV crews. It’s a chance to think, to discover something more, and to reconnect with the awe of nature that got him in the water as a kid - “just being myself a little bit.”
Going head-to-head with the sublime “keeps you young,” Mick reflects. “It keeps you excited about life. I feel like some people just get a little bit stagnant every now and then, thinking that they can't go and do stuff. It's just about taking the plunge and actually doing it.”
For someone whose career has been built on taming the wild, does this new, boundless world make for a scary prospect?
“It is scary. But, hey, if you live in your comfort zone, you're not going to learn much. That's why I'm excited to just get right out,” he affirms. “If I see a road I think is worth taking, I can do it.”