Peter Fanning is said to have died in his sleep a few hours ago. He was 43.
It has been a wild year for Mick to say the least. Today, so unfortunately, reports are filtering in that his older brother Peter has died. Surfer Magazine has reported that Peter Fanning passed away in his sleep hours before Mick paddled out for his first heat.
The report was picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald and other media though nothing is known at this time and the Fanning family is not releasing a statement other than to confirm, through Rip Curl, that it is indeed true.
Mick lost his other brother, Sean, close to a decade ago. He wrote about that incident in the book Surf for your Life:
After Sean died I didn’t want to go anywhere. I had a real fear that something else might happen while I was away. I was really enjoying travelling up to that stage, but suddenly I just wanted to stay home. I looked at life so differently.
I felt like I had to be responsible for the family, in a strange way, and be close to them all the time. I felt like I grew up 10 years in a few weeks.
Around the time of his death, Mum would get really worried about us, and she’d always say, “If you’re not coming home, ring me.” She never used to be like that before.
We’d all been at this party for the birthday of two friends. There was a band playing in a garage in an industrial area, so we could make as much noise as we liked and no one cared. It was a really fun party.
Sean and his friend Joel Green were being really funny. They’d found some electrical tape, started wrapping it around each other’s heads like footy players and tried to tackle each other. They were the kind of guys who made everyone laugh.
When it came time to leave, one of their girlfriends drove because they’d been drinking. They offered me a lift home, but I decided to walk, partly because I was staying at my mate Beau’s place.
A little while later I was walking with my mates when this car pulled up. I thought it was the cops, but we weren’t drinking or doing anything wrong, so I didn’t take much notice. Then two family friends got out of the car and said, “Mick, get in the car.”
I was thinking, “Has someone I know been busted for drugs or DUI or something stupid like that?”
I got in and there were two cops in the front seat. It was an unmarked police car, and they told me that Sean and Joel had just died in an accident. I totally freaked out. Their car had hit a gutter and ploughed into a tree just down the road from our house.
The two girls were fine, but the boys, lying down in the back of the station wagon, had both been thrown out of the car and killed.
It was unbelievable that I could have been talking to them just a few minutes before – and then all of a sudden they were gone.
The police took me home, and I had to tell everyone in my family. I ran in, woke Mum and told her. And then I rang Dad. Luckily my two brothers were there that night as well. My sister was in London at the time, and I had to ring and tell her, too. It was pretty wild, being 17 and having to break such news to the family.
Afterwards, I wasn’t allowed to go down to the crash site. I was trying to sneak out, because I wanted to go and see the tree they’d hit, but no one would let me until the car had been removed.
I didn’t surf either. I just sat in my room. I stayed there for four days.
Everyone knew I hadn’t been out of the house, and when I finally went surfing, all my mates appeared out of nowhere and paddled out with me. Every single one of my mates was there. D-bah wasn’t crowded until we paddled out, and then suddenly there were so many of us.
It was epic. Everyone was screaming and hooting. I was still so overwhelmed by the whole thing. I didn’t do a turn the whole surf. I just cruised straight along the wave, feeling the familiar comfort of the wind and sea spray in my face, and the pulse of the wave under my feet. It felt wild to surf again.
It’s just really made me appreciate life more. I had known people who died before that – and I was rattled by it – but when it hit so close to home it was so different.
I began thinking about what I wanted: I want to be a pro surfer, and that’s what I’m going to do.
Sean and I were going to do the pro tour together; that was our dream.
So when I did make the tour, it made it that much more special to win an event or do well somewhere.
A friend of ours, Peter Kirkhouse, a surf filmmaker from Victoria, said to me after Sean died, “Take on his energy and use it”.
I didn’t really think about it at the time, but, when I think back, it really has carried with me.
A lot of the time I feel like he’s with me when I travel and compete.
Sometimes, I’ll dream about him every night for a week and get super-psyched.
The dreams I have of him are so vivid and so real, it gets me stoked to see him again. Sometimes I feel like I’m with him. I just wake up happy that I’ve seen him again.
Peter was 43 years old and living on the Gold Coast. It is reported that he passed away in Mick’s home where he was staying after recent divorce. He had is survived by three children. More on the tragedy as it develops but it is impossible not to feel for Mick right now and a wonder that he could surf so exceptionally well.