When Mick Fanning retired, everyone threw parties for him. They mourned the loss of one of the world’s best surfers like he was never going to surf again. People held up cardboard signs that said #ThanksMick, although the hashtag did nothing on a cardboard sign. They wore shirts with his name on it and painted white lightnings on their face like a paler version of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.* It felt as though we’d never see him surf again, despite the fact that he was, indeed going to surf again. He watched his own funeral, content in the knowledge that he would soon be resurrected. Because he wasn’t retiring from surfing—he was simply retiring from competing.
And now look. Mick Fanning is not flailing around in the putrid diaper water and shitty waves that are currently gracing the Rio event. Mick Fanning is picking and choosing the waves he wants to surf. He wanted to surf for his country at Kelly’s pool, so he did. He wanted to get insanely tubed on perfect waves in places he loves. He’s doing that, and we get to watch him do it. We get to live vicariously through him, content in the knowledge that we’ll never surf those perfect waves like he does, but inspired by the fact that he shrugged off the trappings of competitive surfing for the trappings of a life filled with—for lack of a better phrase—The Search.
*They didn’t, but they totally should have.