A photo posted by Mick Fanning (@mfanno) on

On Monday night -- the eve of the penultimate day of competition at this year's Pipeline Masters, the world title hanging in the balance -- Mick Fanning's eldest brother, Peter, passed away in his sleep, aged 43.

Mick learnt of the news prior to his Round 3 heat with Jamie O'Brien yesterday morning, which -- remarkably -- he surfed regardless, and indeed won comfortably, recording an 8.47 in the opening minutes on his first wave. He remains in contention for the world title, which will be decided at Pipeline tomorrow.

Peter, who is thought to have been staying in Mick's Gold Coast home at the time of his death, is the second brother Fanning has lost in tragic circumstances. In 1998, when Mick was just 17, his brother Sean (also pictured above, also a promising young surfer) passed away in a car crash. In a season that had already seen more than its fair share of extraneous drama for Mick, his resolve in the face of this latest needlessly cruel blow is admirable.

After competition was put on hold for the day, Mick posted the following message on Instagram to accompany the photo above:

"I am so grateful for the incredible love and well wishes that have come my way since learning of my eldest brother's passing this morning. Like all my big brothers, Peter will always be a hero to me. I have so many great memories of the good times we have all spent together and they will be with me forever. We recently caught up and he told me how proud he was of me and how much he loves watching me compete. Today was one of the most challenging days of my life but I knew I could find the strength to take part in the final event of the season because that’s what Pete would want. I also want to give special thanks to my other brothers – my friends on tour – for their support, I couldn’t have got through today without them. I would ask for some privacy on this matter while we come to terms with this devastating loss. Big thanks from our entire family. Tell the special people in your life you love them and give them a hug."

Having beaten Kelly Slater and John John Florence in the "no-losers" Round 4 -- in what's been widely hailed as the best heat of the year -- Mick will again surf against Slater in the quarter-finals when competition resumes.

A champ, regardless of what the rankings say come the end of the day.