design forum

What He Rode: Mick Fanning

Darren Handley breaks down Mick's winning board from the Quik Pro France

| posted on October 10, 2013
Mick Fanning and his trusty DHD—the product of a 20-year collaboration with Australian shaper Darren Handley. Photo: Miller

Mick Fanning and his trusty DHD—the product of a 20-year collaboration with Australian shaper Darren Handley. Photo: Miller

HEIGHT: 5’10” (177 cm)
WEIGHT: 161 lbs (73 kgs)

SHAPER: Darren Handley (DHD)
LENGTH: 5’11”
WIDTH: 18 3/4″
NOSE WIDTH: 11 5/8″
TAIL WIDTH: 14 5/8″
TAIL: Squash
BOTTOM CONTOUR: Single-to-double concave
VOLUME: 26.38L
GLASSING: Single layer on top and bottom with carbon reinforcement in the tail

FINS: Thruster—FCS II with MF2 template
BASE: 4.35″ / 110mm
DEPTH: 4.50″/ 114mm
AREA: 14.62″² / 9434mm²
SWEEP: 35.9°
FOIL: Flat

What was the model that Mick rode during the final in France?

Mick has three signature models, and this one is called the Ducks Nuts, which is basically his standard board for good waves. You can nearly say it’s exactly the same board that he rode at Bells when he won two years ago, with some tiny refinements in the concave, fin measurements, and rail design. He rides single-to-double concave whenever the waves have some push, and then just straight single when the waves are a little weaker.

Was he riding that board for the majority of the event?

He went back and forth on two different boards in this event depending on the conditions. They were almost exactly the same, except one was a little bit wider in the tail for the smaller days. All the boards that we make, when he’s ridden them and tested them, he puts them in different lots based on what waves and events he thinks they’ll be good for. When he goes on Tour, he’ll take those boards that he’s tested as well as some fresh ones.

What are some of the design elements to consider when making a board for France?

You’ve got to control the power that France gives you, so the extra tail lift and the double concave helps you release some of that power. If you were to ride a really flat board out there, you’d be going really fast but wouldn’t be able to control your turns. Concave, tail rocker, and fin measurements are the factors that we play around with to make boards right for France.

I know that Mick has ridden quads at Teahupoo before with great success. Does he ever ride quads anywhere else?

Mick and Joel pretty much only use the quad setups for barrels. They haven’t really found a quad that can not only make a line through barrels but also come out and link proper turns the way that they can on three fins. They both also enjoy riding fishy shapes with wider tails as quads, but they just ride those for fun. They don’t ride boards like that in competition.

How many boards do you typically make for Mick through the course of a World Tour season?

A shitload [laughs]. We’re up to 92 so far, and then we’ve got Hawaii to think about. If the title comes down to Hawaii, then he’s gonna want a lot of boards. He actually needs less and less boards every year because over time we’re getting a higher success rate as far as making him boards that go well. Also, I think that boards don’t seem to break like they used to 5 years ago, which I think is because blanks and materials have gotten better.

How long have you been shaping boards for Mick and what is that relationship like? Is he pretty hands on with the designs?

I started shaping boards for him when he was 12, and he’s 32 now, so it’s been 20 years. He’s really hands on. Mick is in the shaping bay once a week and in the factory three times a week when he’s home. He shapes some stuff himself every now and then, but he doesn’t finish them, it’s more just to show me an idea he’s got for a board he’d like to try. I’ve been educating him over the last 20 years on how boards work, and now he’s educating me on how to make them even better for his turns and specific things he wants to do. It’s a really good working relationship.

Does he have some skills in the shaping bay? Do you think he could shape a decent board if he wanted to?

Hmmm, well…no…[laughs]. He and Parko have shaped boards for each other for fun, and also to see who could make the best or worst board. Mick actually really understands the concepts and what will make a board work, but as far as the fine art of finishing a board, making them look and feel right, and getting out all the bumps, that takes a few years to figure out. But yeah, if he retired from pro surfing and you gave him about a year to work on it, I’d say he could make some good boards, for sure.

Obviously Mick’s frontside carve is one of the most iconic turns in surfing today. Is there anything about these designs that really cater to that kind of on-rail surfing?

I think a lot of it has to do with the tail lift. The tail lift is 2 1/2″, which is a lot. Most boards, especially in California, are about 2″, maybe up to 2 1/4″. So Mick’s boards have a fair amount more than that, which helps him really lean on that tail and get that board to wrap around. He knows that’s his money turn, and that’s why all of his boards have developed with that turn in mind. He understands the judging and what they’re after, and powerful surfing with big arcing turns is being rewarded more than flying down the line and doing an air reverse. He knows that the judges don’t throw big scores at that like they used to.

Is there anything else specifically about Mick’s surfing that you take into account when making boards for him?

I know Mick’s boards so well that I could shape them blindfolded. Its just the little tiny things that we focus on and play around with now, like fins and concave. And we’re talking in millimeters here. After working on and refining these designs for 20 years, that’s the scale we’re working on now. I make Mick’s boards for other surfers, and they all love them, but I’d do a few small changes for everyone else.

With lots of tail lift and a single-to-double concave, Mick was able to maintain control in the powerful French walls. Photo: Miller

With lots of tail lift and a single-to-double concave, Mick was able to maintain control in the powerful French walls. Photo: Miller

Mick Fanning is one of many World Tour surfers to adopt the new FCS II system. Photo: Miller

Mick Fanning is one of many World Tour surfers to adopt the new FCS II system. Photo: Miller

  • gannysesh

    Surfboards are cool.

    It’s amazing how many teensy details there are. From four feet away, many people could mistake Fanning’s boards for Joel’s boards. You have to get really close to see the differences, and you have to surf a crapload to know/feel the differences.

  • Half Turn Air

    Cool… we’ve been seeing Mick’s quiver for about 15 years.

    I think the real article is how in the hell did Mick win that France Final?
    Our sport will not progress when it’s the same safety turns and same winners every contest.
    Medina was linking his turns and doing full rotation airs, while Mick did 3 turns that any decent surfer could of pulled off.
    What Gabby did in the Final, Mick hasn’t been able to do his entire life, but he still ended up victorious.

    Judges are making this sport Vanilla.
    That’s the real story.

    • Slow Down Buddy

      I think you need to take it easy on your claim of Mick’s turns in France being something that “any decent surfer could of pulled off.” That’s just not true. Mick’s power wraps win him WT heats for a reason, they are vicious, fast and huge. You can’t do that turn. I can’t do that turn. Medina can’t do that turn. Mick knows this, hence his strategy. Sure, we can all do a power wrap, but it’s not comparable to one from Mick. I think the webcast dilutes the true power, size and spray of that turn. I do agree that Medina surfed more reckless and radical and possibly even won that heat but I think it’s close for sure. The judges reward Mick, Joel, and Kelly for their power surfing because they are the elite of the elite at that type of surfing. Kolohe, Felipe, Medina can all launch but they can’t whip turns like those guys. Once they can do both, like, say, Dane can or even JJF, they will start winning those heats, but not yet.

      • Manbearpig

        when you watch fanning do one of his signature turns in person thats when you really learn how bad your own really sucks as well as many other pros

    • Rob

      Gabby let mick by himself for the entire second half of the heat, and guess what, Mick got the score he needed, obviously… Medina has to work his mind out to become a champ, but it´s all good, the time will come, he is a kid still

    • .,

      Medina cant do Micks wraps hahaha. No one can. Mick can air reverse although he isnt consistent. Medina didnt get the score because he raced sections to punt one air, which he had repeated heaps and didnt show the variety that warranted a high score. This is competition surfing, not free surfing, racing sections gets penalized and rightly so

    • shaun

      Doing 3 half assed set up turns and looking down the line for an air will get you a decent score, doing 3 committed turns one after another, no pumping, no setting up gets you a massive score. If any surfer could do those turns then any surfer would be world champ. The highest score of that heat was well deserved. The last turn he did on that close-out section was amazing. There’s a reason that Jadson Andre fell off tour.

      • Bruno

        Sure… then Adriano de Souza does just that and everyone will say his style sucks, and he shouldn’t have gotten a score. Everyone’s opinion is biased.

    • Seabass120

      Take Medina’s average wave and this is what comes to mind: Big turns, airs, etc. and he should get a high 8….but, but, but then comes the penalty phase – the hopping, the stinkbug, and awful style and that’s why it gets knocked down. Medina has the airs down, now he needs to work on style, flow and power. Until then, he shouldn’t even be allowed to chase a world title. Frankly, Felipe is already a more complete surfer.

  • SharkBoy

    that was cool, love reading stuff like this

  • blair974

    I’ll have the same please on 6’4 !!!

  • Da Hills 808

    With all the airs being done on tour nowadays it seems that airs have become what they really are……tricks!!!! and they get old real fast especially when they are doing one on every wave. The truth is most guys who do airs all day everyday have a hard time putting on rail, but when a guy pushes the limits on using their rail and throws up a air, THEN THAT IS WHERE AIRS ARE APPRECIATED, not when they are doing them 100 times an event. With Taylor Knox retiring from the tour their is nobody on tour that can lay it out like it is supposed to be…….Simon Anderson, Gary Elkerton, Tom Carroll, Dane Kealoha, Sunny Garcia, Chuy Reyna!!!!!! HOW you like them apples!!!

    • Adam Ferrari

      what about Jordy? He has more power than all of them put together!

  • Tyler Dirden


  • jono

    There are about three people in the world that can turn like MIck. Joel is one. Look at the section they turn on. An average surfer can’t even do a weak half turn on some of those sections. Kooks can’t see good surfing because they don’t understand it.

  • Dan

    Great article. Regardless of who shoulda won what when and who’s turn/air was better, we all like to know who’s riding what in detail…..wasn’t that the point of this article? Discussions of how the tour/judging is going down the pan could be addressed in other articles.

    Thanks Surfer, keep What he rode coming.