It's on. With a simple hashtag, Australia's most loved surfer Mick Fanning announced he would embark on a quest for a fourth World Surf League crown.
#itson this year I have decided to return to surf the full year on the @wsl with the class of 2017 looking so amazing would have been a hard one to sit out on! Let the show begin going to be an incredible year! I personally want to thank the @WSL for allowing me to take some time away and my sponsors for supporting me all the way. 🙏🏼 @ripcurl_aus @redbullau @reef @dragonalliance @dhdsurf @skullcandy @creaturesofleisure @vertra @fcs_surf @grapes @balterbrewers 📷 @corey_wilson #7
Fanning, now 35, last won the title in 2013. Should he win his year, he would not be the oldest ever winner; that honour goes to Kelly Slater, who won the last of his 11 titles aged 39 in 2011. But it's a safe bet Fanning would be the most popular.
"I'm getting super excited about this year's lineup of surfers. It might be the best field from the top seed to number 34 we've ever had," Fanning said on the weekend.
"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."
The Gold Coaster, who was born in the outer Sydney suburb of Penrith, has not competed full-time since the infamous shark attack at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, in July 2015. That same year, he split from his wife and his brother died.
"2015 was a tough year. A lot happened to me on camera and in my personal life. 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," he said.
If 2015 was Fanning's annus horribilis, 2016 was his annus beautifulus. Fanning took time out from surfing and life in general to pursue a number of projects -- some surfing related, others not -- in remote wilderness locations.
"I've ticked a lot of boxes on the bucket list this year. I'm just sitting at home now, relaxed and smiling, and coming up with new ideas. I'll probably pull out the atlas in the new year and throw some darts," he told The Huffington Post Australia when we chatted last year after his trip to Norway to surf under the northern lights.
And wouldn't you know it, those darts just happen to have landed on the 11 locations of the World Surf League tour.
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