Mick Fanning on surfing Red Bull Cape Fear at Shipstern Bluff

© Adam Gibson
Written by Mimi LaMontagne
The Australian three-time world champion talks us through his preparation as he gets ready to surf Shipstern Bluff in the 2019 edition of Red Bull Cape Fear.
Just a few days ago Red Bull Cape Fear was given the GREEN LIGHT for 2019. Within hours of getting the go-ahead athletes from around the world were packing their bags, readying their boards and checking swell charts to see what they’re in for. One of those surfers was three-time World Champion and icon of the sport, Mick Fanning.
We gave Mick a call amid the chaos to find out how he’s feeling as he readies himself for his first-ever big wave event.
Mick, how are you?
All good, keeping the heart rate low!
Yes! We’re ON. Can you tell us how you felt after you heard the news?
It’s one of those ones where half of you is psyched and half of you is petrified because you just don’t know how big it’s going to be. I think you kind of just have to wash through the scariness.
I am super psyched to be in it though. It’s a big test for me on a personal level, and then just to be there with the best guys in the world is going to be incredible.
Is there anything you’re hoping to learn from the big wave brigade?
I want to see how they prepare, and also the way they ride their waves. I hope I’m not first heat and first go out in the water! It’s more about watching how they go through their processes of psyching up to go surf these waves, and then initially how they do it.
What’s your process from now until the event? How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically over the next few days?
It’s just going through checklists really, the same as when I used to compete. Making sure my equipment is there, making sure my boards are ready to go, and then it’s about watching footage and getting familiar with that spot again. The final things will be just before I’m ready to go, making sure that everything is on right and I’m fit and healthy – so no beers this weekend!
Mick Fanning flying at Shipstern Bluff
Mick Fanning flying at Shipstern Bluff
You’ve been to Shipstern Bluff once before. Can you tell us about your experience there?
Yeah I’ve only been there once, after a late call-up from Mark Mathews. I’d just gotten home from Tahiti and he said, “Let’s go to Shippies!” and I said okay. I was lucky – I got to go down with three of the best guys in the world, Mark, Ryan Hipwood and Laurie Towner.
Those guys were giving me pointers along the way, showing me their ways, and then one of the local lads (and fellow competitor) Zeb Critchlow helped me a lot. I was paddling out and having a hard time paddling, it was just a bit weird, and he was like, "jump on the end of the rope if you want to go catch a few." And I did, and it was a ball after that. It was pretty cool. There were other guys out there like Danny Griffiths and Tyler Hollmer-Cross and seeing how relaxed they were was incredible.
It was pretty sick. Right as I was going for my first wave Mark and Laurie came out the back – I think they knew that I was shitting myself – and they told me that when I see a certain formation in the wave to drop down, go over the step, then pull up, and even though it was so nerve-wracking it was also really calming having those guys there. I was pretty stoked I got to surf it for my first time with those guys.
Even though it’s a competition, do you think that camaraderie will exist at Red Bull Cape Fear on the athlete boat?
Look, the guys who are actually in it, their mindset is just to make a statement. To show the world how crazy they are. For me, I’m just hoping to survive.
How do the nerves, for you, differ between preparing for Red Bull Cape Fear versus a CT?
I feel like it’s going to be like when you’re getting ready to go surf big Teahupo’o or big Pipeline. At first you’re super nervous, you’re doubting everything, and then you go through your processes to get ready and you build your own confidence up. That’s how it will be for me. The actual event side of it? I’m sure that as I watch all of the boys and get fired up, I’ll want to do something, but at this stage, a few days out, I’m just being cautious.
Surfer Mick Fanning rides the tube at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania.
Mick Fanning stands tall at Shipstern Bluff
Is there anyone you’re most excited to watch?*
I think the main one would be Mark Mathews. Coming back from his injury, it’s going to be incredible. Then guys like Laurie Towner, Nate Florence, Billy Kemper – those guys are proper nutcases. And then you’ve got this list of unknown local Tassie guys, and Justen 'Jughead' Allport, who was probably the most psychopathic performer the last time they ran Red Bull Cape Fear. Between Jughead and the local Tassie guys, I think they are the guys who are going to send it the most.
*We also asked Mark Mathews this question, and he said he was most excited to watch what Mick does out at Shipstern, as he saw what Mick was capable of out there on his first try.
Do you know what you’re going to be riding out there?
Yeah, at this stage I have my tow board, which is actually down at Shippies from the last time I surfed it. Hopefully it still works! Then for paddle I’ve got a really thick 6ft 6in and a really thick 6ft 0in.
Have you looked at the forecast?
No. But I got a message off Mark Mathews that says he thinks it’s going to be firing, so, I trust him.