It’s Mick’s Fanning’s celebration night at the Turtle Bay Hilton. The free Mai Tais are flowing and a few hundred of Mick’s family, friends and minor acquaintances (ie me) are drinking and talking and enjoying the moment. After all, it had been a fairly nerve racking day of high drama, late, late wins and nervous waits.
I was having a chat to Mick, when on the big screen, there was a replay of Mick’s last wave in his quarterfinal against Yadin Nicol. It was a split screen type deal showing Yadin’s and Mick’s highest scoring waves. Yadin’s a 9.33 and Mick’s the 9.77 that clinched him the World Title, when he needed a 9.58.
“That’s easy the score, bigger, longer, better,” said one of Mick’s mates, both clearly drunk and incredibly biased. Mick looked at it and simple said, “Who cares? It’s done.”
Of course Mick has a point, but it seems there was plenty out there in the surfing world who really do care, and plenty who disagreed with Mick’s mate’s assessment. One such person was Kelly Slater.
“He needed a nine,” said Slater in the post final press conference. “I didn’t even think that last wave was a nine. And he got a 9.5, and we were all blown away… It’s different when you’re at the beach, though. We were watching online. To be fair, we were watching it on TV, and you don’t see the whole scope of how big the wave really is and what the sets look like and there is an emotional part that comes in as well – the excitement, the buildup of the thing coming – you see it coming on the outside, the guy gets it. There’s definitely something poetic about it for Mick.”
The head judge Richie Porta, clarified the call later, “For us, that bottom turn is probably that tiny bit of difference between the two rides. Yadin drops and runs and Mick has to bottom turn up and into it; both amazing rides.”
Over at the theinertia.com, Pablo Zanocci was on the other side. “Mick’s barrel was amazing and it was long, but it was small and he had to fight a lot to find it. That’s not real Pipe surfing, that’s trying hard to get a barrel in the shoulder, and it is definitely not a 9.7.”
To me this raking over the coals is slightly ludicrous. We are talking about two tenths of a decimal point, on a day when Mick Fanning rode a couple of ten foot Pipe bombs as well anyone ever could, both with less than two minutes to go. Surely that achievement should be the talking point, not armchair surfing judges and trolls having a crack.
In that it was similar to the controversy over Mick Fanning’s drop in on John John in round 5, with conspiracy theorists claiming it was a premeditated move to ensure he didn’t surf against him again in the quarters. Over at surfingmag.com, web editor Brendan Buckley said, “It was uncharacteristic for a man of such poise. Mick hasn’t been slapped with an interference all year — and he gets one on John John, at Pipe? Was it an act of desperation, hoping that John John was going right? Cute theory, but we think not.”
The theory has some validity, although the one person who can answer is Mick Fanning. Did anyone think to ask him? I was there when Joel Parkinson did just that after the heat and Mick’s answer was uneqiuvocal. “Nah, no way. I saw him look right and I needed a score, and then when I got the bottom, I saw him and I was like, ‘whoaah, oh no.’”
Now I understand Mick wouldn’t have any interest in telling anyone if it was a pre-meditated move, and he definitely would have been aware of the implications of coming second vs third. However when you stack his own denial with the fact that it’s simply not in his competitive DNA or personal make-up to both aim to lose or manipulate the draw, or even drop-in, I think we have to give Mick the benefit of the doubt. In fact his record, his personal integrity and his honesty demand that we do. To do the opposite is downright disrespectful. Now sure as an Australian and as a person who has seen Mick at close hand, maybe I am biased. However I’d like to think this world title win should be celebrated and applauded, not sniped at or denigrated. Lets take the positives from an incredible performance, and as for the negatives, As Mick says, “Who cares?”