Mick and the future unknown. Image by Corey Wilson from SW 396

Barton Lynch Shares His Thoughts On Mick Fanning ‘The Competitor’

The pursuit of perfection explained in the new issue of SW!

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In the late 90s Dooma (Damien Hardman) and I took a trip to the Mango Pro Junior in Byron Bay. We’d started a management company and we were scouting talent we thought we could help out. Mick Fanning was in that contest, and the moment we saw him surf we both had no doubt in either of our minds that he had the potential to be a World Champion. He was better than the rest of the field, clearly. So we took him on and managed him for a couple of years until Dooma decided to retire, and at that point I was struggling a bit and I suggested to Liz that she go and get a good manager, someone who could do the job properly. I recognised Mick’s potential as a surfer was far greater than our potential as managers. With the benefit of retrospect that may have been a mistake, haha!

There’s a lot of narrative attached to one little area when it comes to surfers on the CT and there really is room to illuminate further on these athletes beyond what we already know. The thing I find fascinating is that all these surfers, what they’re about is trying to perfect their craft. It doesn’t matter what the rules are at that point in time, it’s about adapting to that framework and the pursuit of perfection from your own performance. That is what Mick does better than anyone.

I saw an amazing photograph of Mick the other day preparing for a heat at Snapper. He’s sitting on the sand and people are all gathered around him taking photos and filming and it is unbelievable. That moment of peace and that focussing of the mind and collecting of your energy so that your razor sharp for the job at hand… that’s what I respect. That’s what I love. I don’t see too many other people who can, in the midst of all that mayhem, show that composure and value what it brings to their game. That is an advanced human, someone who’s risen above whatever is around them to create that calm and collected self. When a person has that ability, it doesn’t matter what goes on around them, because they have themselves in the midst of it. That’s what Mick’s career has been really. The world throwing stuff at him and he’s had himself through all of it. That’s the mark of an advanced human.

A couple of years ago Mick and I were chatting in the car park at Winki and said, “Hey BL, did you ever get to the point where you just didn’t care whether you won or lost?” And I was like “Aaaaah… YEP!” I remembered that feeling very well because it’s actually a process. There are periods where you go from pro surfing and results meaning absolutely everything, to slowly diluting those emotions until you don’t really care whether you win or lose. In the initial stages of that transition, in that evolution of self, you do some of the very best surfing of your life because you’re free of your own expectation and judgment. It’s much easier to be present and much easier to deliver, but you’re not attached to it… it’s not life or death. And that can last for a while, but then after that there’s another period where it doesn’t matter at all. You become sloppy. You don’t prepare like you used to, you don’t train like you used to. The ends start to fray a little and you make mistakes that you wouldn’t ordinarily make when you were focussed. It happens to everyone. We’ve seen Kelly have that period, we’ve seen Joel have that period. And it hurts you because you’re not being you. You’re like, “Fuck, who is this person that doesn’t care?!” That’s the sign to either find another gear or walk away. So that was a couple of years ago that that transition began, and it’s obviously led him to this point now where he’s decided to retire from full time competition.

I’m expecting Mick’s surfing could very well go to a place we’ve never seen before, maybe best ever. Once you get out of the confines of the system and living to that system, your surfing can do amazing things. It can take on more personality because you’re doing it when you want and not because you have to. We’ll see amazing stuff from him. Getting off the tour is a really good thing. When you’re on it, it is everything, but in retrospect it simply becomes a chapter. I retired from the Championship Tour 20 years ago. The end of my career was 20 years ago. And now that time in my life was just a chapter, and all the other chapters have been just as good if not better.

From a personal point of view, Mick’s one of those humans I have the utmost respect for.  Not only the competitor, not only the surfer, but, most importantly, the person. When you consider all of those things combined, you can’t help but marvel at the way he’s managed his career and his life. He’s the kind of man you walk away from holding your head high. Life’s good, mate. Give him the keys to the city. – Barton Lynch, 1988 Men’s World Champion


 SW 396: The Mick Fanning Special Edition available online and in stores now!

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