Australian surfing great Mick Fanning to retire


Sydney (AFP)

Australia's three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning, who famously fought off a shark attack while competing in South Africa, has announced his retirement from the sport.

The 36-year-old said the Pro Bells Beach event in the Australian state of Victoria later this month would be his last.

"I've decided the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach will be my last event as a full-time competitor on the World Surf League Championship Tour," he said on Instagram late Wednesday.

"The tour has given me so much but I need a fresh challenge. I still love the game but can't find the motivation and dedication required to compete for world titles anymore.

"I'm just not enjoying it as much as I was in the past. I still love surfing, and I'm still super excited by it, but I feel that there's other paths for me to take at this stage in my life."

Fanning was world champion in 2007, 2009 and 2013. But it was his encounter with a great white shark during the J-Bay Open in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, in 2015 that made global headlines.

He survived the terrifying ordeal, captured on live TV, unscathed, but it rattled him.

Fanning overcame his fears and got back in the water to stay in the title race, pushing it to the season-ending Pipe Masters in Hawaii where he learnt that his brother Peter had died suddenly.

Fanning, who also separated from his wife that year, narrowly missed out on a fourth world title to Brazilian Adriano de Souza and decided to take a sabbatical before returning to the tour.

American 11-time world champion Kelly Slater paid tribute to his great rival.

"Mick's a great champion and an even better person," Slater told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Thursday.

"It's been an honour to compete alongside him and to become good friends with him. He's always been a straight shooter and taught me a lot about myself."