Australian surfer Mick Fanning has won the J Bay Open over Hawaiian John John Florence in clean conditions in South Africa.
It was a remarkable win for Fanning in his fourth straight final at J Bay. He overcame a high ankle sprain sustained before the event and the memory of last year’s infamous shark incident to take the win.
“I’m just stoked that I actually got to come back and right the wrong,” Fanning said in a post-heat interview. “That was my whole plan, to right the wrong from last year and we did that now so we can move on. I’m stoked to be back and I’ll always come back.”
Fanning saved his best for the final, scoring the highest wave score of the event in a 9.93 on the way to victory. Riding some alternative equipment in a 5’9″ channel-bottomed swallow-tail board, Fanning was electric, using his powerful forehand carves to notch multiple excellent scoring rides on finals day for a fairytale win.
The 35-year-old didn’t have it easy, passing Brazilian flyer Filipe Toledo in the quarters, before winning a semi-final rematch of last year’s final with fellow Australian Julian Wilson.
“Having a semi with Julian that was really special,” Fanning said. “He’s a great guy, he’s one of those guys who always has your back. It was special to have a surf with him out here and both come in safe.”
Fanning has limited the number of events he enters this year but has moved up to number five on the world rankings.
“For me, this year just feels a lot lighter. … World titles aren’t the biggest thing for me anymore, it’s more about enjoying my surfing, enjoying my time and seeing the world and how much beauty it has,” he said.
Florence looked sharp, using his aerial approach to defeat Josh Kerr in the semi-finals. His second placing moves him to second on the world rankings behind Australian Matt Wilkinson. “It feels super good to make the final, obviously I would love to win it but surfing against someone like Mick, I’ve learned so much from him,” Florence said.
The WSL tour now moves to Tahiti for the Billabong Pro at Teahupoo in August. – Jackson Barron
Photo of Fanning in action at J Bay from Surfer’s Facebook page.