Plenty of soul searching lies ahead for an “empty” Mick Fanning after announcing he will take time off from competition following a tumultuous 2015.
But the three-time world surfing champion is adamant he won’t be contemplating retirement.
The 34-year-old plans to exorcise his 2015 demons this year, confirming he will return to compete at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa where he survived a shark attack last July.
However, Fanning said he would do most of his healing out of the water.
Fanning will contest the first two events in Australia – at Snapper Rocks in Queensland and Bells Beach in Victoria – before taking a break in order to make 2016 a “personal year”.
Besides the now infamous shark attack, Fanning also had to cope with learning of his older brother Peter’s death while vying for the world title at the season-ending event in Hawaii, which he narrowly lost.
And earlier this month Fanning announced he had split with his wife of eight years Karissa.
“This year, I’m going to take some time off … just to regroup and re-stoke the fire,” Fanning said.
“Last year was definitely intense … I got to a point at the end of the year where I felt empty.
“I didn’t feel like I had much to give back.”
But Fanning was quick to quash retirement speculation.
“It’s definitely not a retirement,” he said.
“I have been on tour for 14 years now and I have been doing the same thing.
“I just want to search some different options and see if they take my fancy or maybe I’ll just miss everyone on tour and come back and just keep surfing for another 15 years or something.”
Fanning is clearly intent on facing his fears, saying he will return to the scene of the shark attack that made international news.
“I feel like there’s something there that I want to go and face,” he said of competing again at J-Bay.
“I want to make sure that I scratch that off the list.
“A lot of people will be seeing what reaction I’ll have.
“I think it’s more about jumping in and surfing once or twice and then I’ll be fine.”
Fanning said he had been touched by the overwhelming support of family, friends and fans after his tough year.
“People have reached out and made sure I am doing okay,” he said.
“It can be hard times but when you have so much support it makes that transition so much easier.”
WSL CEO Paul Speaker had no problem with Fanning contesting “selected events” this year.
“His class and character, even in the face of multiple scenarios that would undo most people, are tremendous,” he said.
“He is a truly special person and we’re here to support him in whatever way we can.”