Mick Fanning denied fairytale farewell at Bells Beach
Mick Fanning is happy with how his epic professional surfing story ended, despite narrowly missing out on a fairytale finish.
The Australian surfing great lost to Brazilian Italo Ferreira in a pulsating final at Bells Beach. It was a landmark day for Australian surfing, with compatriot Stephanie Gilmore claiming the women's No.1 ranking after beating Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb.
Had Fanning won the Rip Curl Pro, the 36-year-old would have bowed out of pro surfing as the event's first five-time champion and the world No.1 ranking.
But if Fanning felt any disappointment, he hid it well.
"When I got teary on stage, it was just the family," he said.
"You try and bring words to thank them, from what we've been through ... good, bad, funny. "There are no words to describe that, so maybe a tear's just enough."
For all the highs in an outstanding career, Fanning has also mourned the loss of two brothers. His mum Liz also watched her TV in horror three years ago as Fanning fought off a shark during live coverage of the Jeffreys Bay event in South Africa.
"Whatever makes him happy, I can cope with anything," she said after Thursday's final. "I'm glad for him, it's the right time for him."
While there were tears, Fanning otherwise cracked jokes and paid rich tribute to Ferreira, who claimed his first title on the world tour.
Fanning had been the centre of attention at Bells Beach and, most of all, he wanted to put on a show in his retirement event.
On that count, he delivered in spades.
Fanning was asked if it mattered that he did not win.
"Not at all; to see the emotion that Italo had in the final, that was incredible," he said. "It's one of those things, I was just stoked to be there, just to see that passion.
"To share that moment with him was something that I will cherish for a long time."
Ferreira, 23, wrapped Fanning in a bear hug out on the water at the end of their final. He fully appreciated the magnitude of beating Fanning at Bells Beach for his maiden tour success.
Ferreira is also only the second Brazilian to win the Rip Curl Pro and it comes a year after he had to sit out the event because of injury.
"It was crazy. This guy (Mick Fanning) was like a hero for me," he said.
"It's my first win, so I'm so happy. I've been working hard in the last few years."
In a nail-biting finish in the women's decider, Gilmore thought she might have blown it when she let Weston-Webb have the last wave with less than a minute left.
Weston-Webb needed a 6.80 wave score and the Hawaiian clapped in anticipation as she returned to the shore.
But the judges awarded her a 6.57, giving Gilmore her fourth title at Bells Beach.