"I love everything that comes with Bells, the history, the cliffs, the gathering of everyone down in the car park."
As predicted on these very pages two weeks ago, the three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning will take a break from managing his vast multi-million dollar property and business portfolios to compete at Bells Beach, the contest beginning April 10.
Fanning, who at forty is still a decade younger than current world number two Kelly Slater, says the Bells wildcard is the one he “really wanted. Obviously, I did Narrabeen last year but Bells is the one I was really aiming for. It’s a place that is really close to my heart, and if I was ever going to take a wildcard, it would be there, so I’m pretty fired up. Personally, I really like the wave at Bells. The speed of it, the wide open canvas, and the fact that it is a right hand point break. I love everything that comes with Bells, the history, the cliffs, the gathering of everyone down in the car park. It’s so awesome. It’s something that sits in my heart.”
Fanning retired four years ago to concentrate on family and money following seventeen years on the tour where he accumulated twenty-two wins, three world titles and a dreadful Great White encounter.
“To go and ring the Bell for the fifth time, no one has ever done it apart from Gail Couper,” Fanning, who has won the event four times, said. “During my career I got close, but right now I just want to focus on putting on a good performance. My preparation when I was on Tour was non-stop training but this time around I’ve just been focusing on my surfing and making sure it’s up to the level of the best in the world.”
Other four-time winners include Kelly Slater, Lisa Andersen, Stephanie Gilmore and Mark Richards.
Couper, a school teacher from nearby Lorne who didn’t start surfing until she was fifteen, won the event an astonishing ten times.
Fanning will appear in heat five against the world’s best surfer in waves two feet and under, Filipe Toledo, and Pipeline surprise Samuel Pupo.