“I’m getting super excited about this year’s lineup of surfers — it might be the best field from the top seed to number 34 we’ve ever had,” Fanning said during a weekend interview. “I also think it’s the biggest group of legit Title contenders we’ve ever seen on the Tour ever and I want to be part of the race.”
The iconic Australian stepped back from full-time competition last year following a 2015 season that witnessed the world-famous shark attack at the J-Bay Open, the loss of his older brother Peter, and an emotional runner-up finish to the Title race. Up until this announcement it was unclear whether or not Fanning would be returning full time.
“It was nice to have 2016 off somewhat and decompress, but I’m excited to put the singlet on again,” Fanning said.
Even Fanning’s Tour rivals are excited about of his return. “If Mick is in 100 percent I’d put him right at the top of the heap,” said Kelly Slater, an 11x WSL World Champion. Slater has already confirmed his commitment to chasing a Title in 2017. “You’d be silly to not think Mick is Top 3 in the world right now. All things considered. Having won at so many different breaks and being so dominant at places like Bells and Jeffreys Bay, there’s no way he’s not a contender.”
“2015 was a tough year,” Fanning said. “A lot happened to me on camera and in my personal life. I just felt exhausted by the end of it. Fortunately, I was in a position to step away from the Tour and have some time to myself. I ended up doing a few events and qualifying which was great because I didn’t want to take the wildcard off of Bede [Durbidge] or Owen [Wright]. I’m coming into 2017 seeded 18th which will be a change for me.”
Fanning rejoins the Championship Tour during a historic season that sees an unprecedented number of men’s and women’s WSL Champions in the competitive field: Kelly Slater (USA), Mick Fanning (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and John John Florence (HAW) on the men’s side and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW) and Tyler Wright (AUS) on the women’s.
The world’s best surfers will kick off the 2017 WSL Championship Tour season in Fanning’s backyard on the Gold Coast of Australia, home of the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast contests, which run from March 14 – 25.