The 2017 WSL Championship Tour season officially just got interesting. A year ago we were looking at a Tour without Owen Wright, Bede Durbidge and Mick Fanning. Kelly Slater was going on two years without a ‘CT win. Objectively speaking, the ‘CT wasn’t full of the most intriguing storylines. But this go ’round already feels wildly different. Kelly’s last run at a 12th World Title, Bede and Owen are back, John John is top dog, and now, finally, officially, Mick Fanning is getting in the mix too. Fanning and the WSL announced Monday that the three-time champ will be on the 2017 Tour schedule full time.
“Even with the 2017 season looming, I wasn’t sure I was motivated enough to take part,” Fanning said. “However, like everyone else I’m getting super excited about this year’s line-up of surfers – it might be the best field from the top seed to number 34 we’ve ever had. I also think it’s the biggest group of legit title contenders we’ve ever seen on the tour ever and I want to be part of the race.”
The important distinction here is that while Mick did surf in five events in 2016, he’d made a conscious choice to remove himself from the World Title race, just doing enough to requalify for 2017. “2015 was a tough year,” he said. “A lot happened to me on camera and in my personal life. I just felt exhausted by the end of it. Fortunately, I was in a position to step away from the Tour and have some time to myself. I ended up doing a few events and qualifying which was great because I didn’t want to take the wildcard off of Bede (Durbidge) or Owen (Wright). I’m coming into 2017 seeded 18th which will be a change for me.”
So Mick’s 2016 consisted of a handful of events, returning to J-Bay and winning there, a lot of traveling, surfing the newest “best wave ever,” breaking the internet in the process, and at least once suggesting that competing wasn’t really his jam anymore. Rip Curl even made an entire series of short films and features around the idea that his year off was really about rediscovering himself, with the possibility that it might lead to hanging up the jersey; “Video trips, make beer, save the elephants,” as they wrote in January.
At the same time, Mick was expressing just as much. “I think the goalposts have changed,” he said. “Obviously, world titles are incredible to pursue – something you strive for as a little kid. People always ask me ‘Do you want to win more?’ and, to be totally honest, I couldn’t care.”
So it’s not like Mick’s return was an absolute certainty…until today. If you’re a fan of intriguing storylines, then this news is good news. Go Mick.