Sydney: Three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning announced Tuesday he will return to the world tour full-time this year for the first time since being attacked by a shark.
The Australian only competed sporadically in 2016 after a tumultuous previous year in which he survived an infamous shark attack in South Africa, and dealt with his brother’s death and a marriage breakup.
“It was nice to have 2016 off somewhat and decompress but I’m excited to put the singlet on again,” Fanning, 35, said in a statement.
“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.”
Fanning made global headlines when he fought off a great white shark on live television during the J-Bay Open in South Africa. He survived the terrifying ordeal unscathed but it rattled him.
He 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 as he prepared to surf for a fourth world crown.
Fanning, who also separated from his wife that year, narrowly missed out to Brazilian Adriano de Souza and decided to take a sabbatical.
But he said he was ready to again test himself against the world’s best.
“Let the show begin. It’s going to be an incredible year,” he said.
The 11-stop World Surf League championship gets underway later this month at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast in Australia. It also takes in events in Brazil, Fiji, South Africa, Tahiti, California, France, Portugal and Hawaii.