Mick Fanning And The Day After

Mick Fanning

Mick Fanning didn’t sleep much last night. And that shouldn’t surprise you. Not after what happened yesterday.

Jimmy Wilson and I ran into him while he was checking in for his flight to Johannesburg in the Port Elizabeth airport along with Kai Otton, Jarrad Howse and Ronnie Blakey. Mick was smiling and in good spirits. He gave us a high-five and hug, then asked if we’d go ahead through security and order him a Bloody Mary. Of course. The guy certainly deserved one.

Mick boarded the plane and sat by himself in the back. Jimmy sat next to Ronnie Blakey, Mick’s longtime friend and the guy who so gracefully handled the live, emotional post-heat interviews moments after embracing Mick in the back room with Kieren Perrow, Ace, Kai, Parko and longtime tour manager Renato Hickel, not a dry eye among them. I sat next to Jarrad Howse, Mick’s friend and coach at J-Bay. The four of us discussed the attack for the umpteenth time. As hard as we tried to steer our conversation elsewhere it kept circling back. It’s probably why Mick chose a seat with strangers. “Sleeping” on it only made it more real. And really, how wild is it that ours is the only sport in the world where a wild beast could maul a top athlete? How wild is it that it nearly happened?

Unlike what happened yesterday, Mick can see a blitz coming — he’ll be bombarded with mainstream media the second he gets off the plane in Sydney. He wants to handle it all in one fell swoop and then move on. A day removed, it’s still as scary as ever.

That plane ride has been the only time Mick’s had to himself since the attack and, according to Jarrad, he has infinite texts and calls to sort through. Everything has been nonstop. It wasn’t until this morning that he even had a chance to contact some of his closest friends. So while it was tempting to ask Mick for a few words, it wasn’t the right time. The others can prod and poke. We’re just happy he’s alive.

We headed our separate ways in Johannesburg. I wished him safe travels and told him it was good to see him. It was much more than just a formality. Even if I hardly know Mick, I’ve never meant that more. —Zander Morton