Mick Fanning Through the Lens of Jon Frank

Mick Fanning’s fave photog takes us on a memory-laden tour of the champ’s early missions to Tahiti.
By Chris Binns

Mick Fanning needs no introduction but his accomplice in this gallery, Jon Frank, might not be so familiar to you. Jon is more than just a lensman; although one of the best in the game with both still and moving images he is an artisan more than a button pusher. Not just a picture taker he is a poet too. A storyteller for these modern times, if you will.

A favorite of Fanning’s, Frank has joined Mick on many a mission around the map, and with the world going crazy for Teahupo’o Jon brings us this throwback collection of the three-time champ’s early and successful R & D missions to the end of the road. “Mick and I went for a week before the contest so that MF could practice at Teahupoo,” says Frank. “We did this for two years and it really helped Mick's confidence in heavy left handers. Now he is one of the best out there. I remember Kelly Slater in Hawaii in the early days staying for weeks after the circus left just to practice surfing at Pipe. I guess history has proven that was a good call too.”

Pro tip: use your keyboard to jump between photos
Early morning musings
Mick Fanning Tahitian morning
Early morning musings “Mick and I were alone but for our hosts and friends George and Marika. We were in two simple huts on the lagoon where you can step from the deck into the water. When the swell is up the water slaps the rocks loudly and you feel as if you are sleeping on a raft.” © Jon Frank
It begins
Mick Fanning Tahitian takeoff
It begins “Out at Teahupo’o Mick’s backhand tube riding was reaching new levels. He was now surfing deep from the takeoff and pumping from up high on the wall, racing and driving through sections.” © Jon Frank
Trains, planes, automobiles
Mick Fanning Tahitian flying boat
Trains, planes, automobiles “Mick had secured the use of his mate Alain’s brand new 4-stroke ski. On our second day he accidentally drove it straight onto a shallow section of reef, leaving us dry-docked. Fortunately the damage was superficial.” Alain’s dad, George, has an even better set-up for getting around. © Jon Frank
It ain't all tall lefts
Mick Fanning Tahiti slaying Small Pass
It ain't all tall lefts “Tahiti is a maze of shallow coral tables and narrow deep-water channels. The water which washes into the lagoon over the reefs must exit through irregular passes, causing areas where the waters merge, forming currents, whirlpools and eddies.” The occasional rippable right hander too, it would seem. © Jon Frank
Pancho Sullivan, Taylor Knox, MF: mates
Mick Fanning Taylor Knox Pancho Sullivan
Pancho Sullivan, Taylor Knox, MF: mates “We stayed a week or two in Teahupo’o, enjoying the island way of life, eating lunches of raw fish marinated in coconut milk or medium-rare steak frites. We’d drink a couple of cool Hinano beers when the sky turned down for the afternoon and story time was always a treat.” © Jon Frank
Standing next to a mountain
Mick Fanning Tahiti Small Pass jam
Standing next to a mountain The Tahitians know their reef passes intimately and give them wildly creative names like “Big Pass”, “Small Pass”, and “No Pass”. While they offer navigable deep water, surfers prefer their shallow coral flanks, and photographers are more than happy with the array of stunning backdrops they present. © Jon Frank
Underwater blues
Mick Fanning Tahiti duckdive
Underwater blues “Mick would ride dozens of barrels most days. With a minimal crowd the vibe in the water was mellow. Mick’s West Australian mate Kerby Brown and charger Anthony Walsh joined us most days and caught some beautiful waves. Consistent swells just sweetened the deal.” © Jon Frank
Timeless Teahupo'o
Mick Fanning Tahiti Teahupo'o bottom turn
Timeless Teahupo'o “Mick always had the skill but now he had the confidence and experience to capitalise in hollow left-handers.” © Jon Frank
Through the looking glass
Mick Fanning Tahiti Teahupo'o window
Through the looking glass “With determination and patience Mick taught himself to surf out at Teahupo’o, realising its importance, perhaps foreseeing the inevitability it would play in his destiny.” © Jon Frank
On to the next stop...
Mick Fanning Tahiti solitude
On to the next stop... “There was a time I would watch him maturing from a higher perch,” says Frank, “but no more. I found myself gazing upwards, mumbling little white promises to myself of yoga and organics or the power of ones word. There are a few lessons to take away from the choices this once larrikin kid has made.” © Jon Frank
Same same, but different
Mick Fanning Fiji takeoff
Same same, but different Mick has taken what he learned at Teahupo’o and applied it to that other great South Pacific left, Cloudbreak in Fiji. A three-hour flight from Coolangatta Fanning needs only a moment’s notice to head to Namotu and apply his now supremely sharpened skills of grabbing rail and dragging his butt. © Jon Frank
Poles apart
Mick Fanning blitzing Bells
Poles apart Torquay could not be any further from Tahiti if it tried. Rights versus lefts, wetsuits versus sunburn, Southern Pacific versus Southern Ocean. Mick loves ’em both, and shines at Bells Beach every Easter. His read on the waves at Bells is unmatched, and his win-loss ratio is second to none. © Jon Frank
Off to the races
Mick Fanning flying at Winkipop
Off to the races Torquay could not be any further from Tahiti if it tried. Rights versus lefts, wetsuits versus sunburn, Southern Pacific versus Southern Ocean. Mick loves ’em both, and shines at Bells Beach every Easter. His read on the waves at Bells is unmatched, and his win-loss ratio is second to none. © Jon Frank
Once, twice, three times a champion
Mick Fanning Hawaii portrait
Once, twice, three times a champion Even sitting on an unmade Hawaiian bed between hula girl lamps and while being watched over by the cheesiest of tropical airport artworks Mick Fanning gives off an aura of invincibility. An aura that comes from three world titles, and every chance of more to come. © Jon Frank