Mick Fanning confirms 2017 return
THREE-time World Surf League (WSL) champion Mick Fanning has announced his return to full-time competition in 2017.
The Tweed surfer, who sat out most of the 2016 WSL tour, will resume at next week's Quiksilver Pro.
"It was nice to have 2016 off somewhat and decompress, but I'm excited to put the singlet on again,” Fanning said.
The iconic Australian stepped back from full-time competition last year following a 2015 season that witnessed his world-famous shark attack at the J-Bay Open, the loss of his older brother Peter, and an emotional runner-up in the title race to Brazilian Adriano De Souza.
"2015 was a tough year. A lot happened to me on camera and in my personal life,” Fanning said.
"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.”
The decision to return to the tour in 2017 wasn't one Fanning took lightly, but the calibre of surfers lining up on the Championship Tour helped Fanning to rediscover his motivation in committing to the tour full-time.
"I'm getting super excited about this year's line-up of surfers - it might be the best field from the top seed to number 34 we've ever had,” Fanning said.
"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.”
With 22 elite CT wins to go with his three world titles, Fanning has built a career which places him among the greatest to ever compete, but the natural-footer believes he still has more to accomplish.
"The most important thing to me is to me is making sure my surfing keeps evolving and the tour, now more than ever, is the best place to do that.” Fanning said.
"In recent years I managed to find good balance between competitive focus and having fun.”
"Getting switched on for events this year will be the key for me. It's not in my nature to be half-hearted so now that I'm committed, I'll be doing everything I can to get a win.”
11x WSL Champion Kelly Slater has already confirmed his own commitment to chasing a 12th Title in 2017 and considers Fanning a major threat.
Slater and Fanning will collide at Snapper Rocks from Tuesday, in what is shaping as one of the most memorable Quiksilver Pro's ever.
"If Mick is in 100% I'd put him right at the top of the heap. You'd be silly to not think Mick is top three in the world right now,” Slater said.
"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.”
Fanning rejoins the Championship Tour for a season with an unprecedented number of men's and women's WSL Champions competing.
Slater, Fanning, Joel Parkinson (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and John John Florence (HAW) are all previous world champions on the men's side, while Tweed surfer Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) joins Carissa Moore (HAW) and 2016 world champion Tyler Wright (AUS) in the women's draw.
The Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast kick the 2017 WSL season off next Tuesday, March 14.
Running through to March 25, the event will be broadcast live via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Fox Sports.