Australian surfing legend Mick Fanning has made a stunning return to the sport with a huge result at the iconic Bells Beach.
Australian surfing legend Mick Fanning has come out of retirement to eliminate world No. 1 Kanoa Igarashi at Bells Beach on Thursday.
The three-time world champion was rusty earlier in the week but proved he’s still got it with a superb performance in his round of 32 clash with the Japanese star, who won Olympic silver last year.
The battle between the pair went down to the wire but Fanning prevailed — the combined score for his two best waves was 15.77 to Igarashi’s 14.83.
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The 40-year-old came out of retirement briefly to compete at last year’s Narrabeen Classic and last month he announced he had been awarded a wildcard for Bells Beach.
Fanning has won four times at Bells Beach — in 2001, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Fanning was ecstatic with the result but admitted he was exhausted after the heat.
“I’m gassed. This old boy ain’t fit,” he said.
“As a wildcard you want to come on and put on a performance.”
“Going up against the world No. 1. I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m just coming here to have fun. I was just stoked we got some waves.
“I had it so many times throughout my career where a wildcard would come through and just take you out and it ruined your day.
“But everyone else in the field wants you to go out and play that spoiler. For me, I’m just having fun and to get to surf pumping Bells with only one person out, that’s the gift.”
Fanning will be joined in the round of 16 by several Australians, including Olympic bronze medallist Owen Wright, Jackson Baker, Ethan Ewing, Connor O’Leary and Morgan Cibilic.
American John John Florence also progressed to the next round, but 11-time world champion Kelly Slater was knocked out.
Earlier this week, the recently-retired Ash Barty was spotted hanging out with Fanning and seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore at the iconic Victorian break.
Catch every wave and moment of the Bells Beach Classic on Kayo.