Mick Fanning got his world title defence back on track on Wednesday by joining some of surfing’s other legendary figures as a three-time winner of the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.
Fanning arrived at the iconic Victorian venue a lowly 11th place on the overall standings after sub-standard performances at Snapper Rocks and Margaret River.
But after regrouping at home on the Gold Coast, the three-time world champ was able to turn it around, capping a victorious campaign with a 16.83 points to 13.46 victory in the all-Australian final over Taj Burrow.
“Maybe I wasn’t focusing right, maybe I wasn’t putting enough effort into preparing,” said Fanning.
“I don’t know what was the key ingredient but I just wanted to change it up a bit.
“It felt like I did that and I’m just happy that it all paid off.”
The semi-finals and final on Wednesday were held at nearby Winkipop, with Fanning saying that allowed him to channel the spirit of Hawaiian Sunny Garcia’s 1995 Bells win.
Fanning’s great mate Joel Parkinson, the late Michael Peterson and Garcia have all rung the famous bell three times, with Kelly Slater and Mark Richards the only four-time men’s winners.
“I’m really honoured to be on that list,” said the 32-year-old Fanning, who won his first tour title as a wildcard at Bells way back in 2001 and also saluted at the famous break in 2012.
“The three wins are always different.
“It’s like children.
“I don’t have any, but you don’t have a favourite do you?”
Making the 2014 triumph extra special for Fanning was having his father on hand to watch him compete at a world tour event for the first time.
Fanning advanced to the final on Wednesday by recording the highest two-wave score of the competition (18.20) in his semi-final triumph over countryman Julian Wilson.
Burrow downed Hawaiian excitement machine John John Florence 14.43 to 13.43 in the semis.
Fanning’s win saw him vault eight places to third in the world title race behind Brazilian Gabriel Medina and Parkinson after three of 11 events.
He won a key paddle battle late in the final and then endured a nerve-wracking last nine minutes knowing a seven-point ride from 2007 Bells winner Burrow would put his opponent in the box seat.
It never happened.
“I went for waves thinking they were going to be good and they weren’t,” said Fanning.
“Then I turned around and saw Taj on one and thought ‘oh no, what’s he going to do?’ And then it didn’t work out for him.
“I’m just so happy.”