Triple world champion Mick Fanning came so close to a fairytale finish, but ran out of waves at Bells Beach on Thursday morning.
Fanning, in his last professional event, was beaten in the final minutes of the Rip Curl Pro final by Brazilian Italo Ferreira who managed a best 8.33 wave that beat Fanning’s 8.10.
With the clock ticking down the Australian needed a 7.59 wave to win, but with 90 seconds remaining he let the last ridable wave go, bringing down the curtain on a storied career that included world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2013 and four Bells Beach victories.
“It’s very special,” Fanning, 36, said on WSL streaming of making the final. “As I said I always wanted to finish here at Bells.
It was a very special moment with the crowd and all my best friends are here. And just to be out there with Italo and see how much it meant to him that made me feel better.
“I just have learned so much and I walk away with so many great memories,” he said.
“I guess [I will miss] just sitting there and just the friendships, but I guess that’s the thing I can just alway show up and annoy people … I tell you what I won’t miss is 6.30am starts.”
Earlier in the day, Fanning beat compatriot Owen Wright in their quarter-final and American Pat Gudauskas at in the semi-final at the Rip Curl Pro on Thursday.
It set up Fanning’s seventh final at Bells Beach.
Earlier, Fanning topped his good friend Wright 13.77 to 9.33 to book a place in the semi-final.
“Yeah, it’s unfortunate that we matched up in the quarter-finals,” Wright said. “Mick has been such a good friend to me for so long.
“We’ve ridden on the Rip Curl team together for the majority of our careers, and he’s been there for me through a lot, especially in the last few years.”
Fanning continued his stellar run with 8.5 and 8.0 rides to claim the win over Gudauskas and earn a spot in the decider.
Stephanie Gilmore wins fourth Bells
Australian great Stephanie Gilmore won her fourth Bells Beach title after a nail-biting end to the final.
Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb thought she had snatched the win with the last ride of the final, but the six-time world champion held on take it out 14.17 to 13.94.
The victory gives Gilmore the world No.1 ranking after two events.