Ten-year-old Nate Johnson just wanted an autograph of his idol, Mick Fanning, at the World Surf League (WSL) event at Snapper Rocks in Gold Coast on Wednesday.
What he received instead was an unforgettable memento.
Johnson recalled that he saw the 36-year-old exiting the surf and so he approached the surfing legend for an autograph.
“I was up to about shin-deep water and I asked for his signature and he said ‘I think I’ve got something better’ and he gave me his board,” Johnson said. “I was like ‘really, can I have it’? And he was like ‘sure it’s all yours’.”
“I’m pretty stoked,” he said. “I was speechless after that.”
Fanning, however, bowed out of the fourth round of the competition, which wasn’t want he wanted in his penultimate event. The local legend already announced that the Bell’s Beach contest in Victoria this month would be his last contest before retiring from the game.
While he won the prestigious Association of Surfing Professionals world title in 2007, 2009 and 2013, he’s more recognized all over the world for surviving a shark attack during a competition in J-Bay Open World Surf League event in South Africa.
“I literally just jumped away and it just kept coming at my board and I was kicking and swimming,” he said of his experience, adding that he waited that teeth would catch up to him when he was swimming. Fortunately, that didn’t come.
In an Instagram post last month, Fanning said that Rip Pro Curl Bells Beach was where his career really started and that’s where he wanted it to end. “The tour has given me so much but I need a fresh challenge,” he wrote. “I still love the game but can’t find the motivation and dedication required to compete for World Titles anymore.”
“I’m also looking forward to evolving my own surfing in new ways, visiting unfamiliar places and taking on different experiences,” Fanning added.