Mick Fanning will make his return to professional surfing at Bells Beach next month, four years after he retired from the sport.
The three-time world champion hung up his surfboard in 2018 but came out of retirement briefly to compete at last year’s Narrabeen Classic, and will once again return to the waves at the iconic Victorian event.
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Fanning has been awarded a wildcard to Bells Beach, which runs from April 10-20, and is excited to see what he can do at the tournament.
“Bells is the wildcard I really wanted,” he said.
“Obviously, I did Narrabeen last year but Bells is the one I was really aiming for. It’s a place that is really close to my heart, and if I was ever going to take a wildcard, it would be there, so I’m pretty fired up.
“Personally, I really like the wave at Bells. The speed of it, the wide open canvas, and the fact that it is a right hand point break.
“I love everything that comes with Bells, the history, the cliffs, the gathering of everyone down in the car park.
“It’s so awesome. It’s something that sits in my heart.”
Fanning has won four times at Bells Beach — in 2001, 2012, 2014 and 2015 — an equal record among modern-day surfers alongside Kelly Slater, Mark Richards Stephanie Gilmore and Lisa Andersen.
The 40-year-old is seeking to take out a record-breaking fifth title at his pet event, but will have to contend with a whole new generation of surfers.
“During my career I got close (to winning a fifth time at Bells), but right now I just want to focus on putting on a good performance,” Fanning said.
“My preparation when I was on tour was non-stop training but this time around I’ve just been focusing on my surfing and making sure it’s up to the level of the best in the world.”
In his first foray out of retirement, Fanning made the round of 32 but was knocked out by Brazilian Italo Ferreira.
Earlier this month, he surprised residents on the NSW North Coast with a selfless act amid the ongoing flood disaster.
Fanning and fellow surfing world champion Joel Parkinson ferried stranded residents on jetskis so they could access essential medication.
And after Fanning put the call out to tech guru Elon Musk, some of the worst-hit areas of the NSW Northern Rivers received more than 10 Starlink Rapid Deployment Kits to help with emergency communications.
Fanning lives on the Gold Coast and since retiring from professional surfing, has become actively involved in the community and local culinary scene.