“I’ve been keeping this party a secret for two days,” screamed Parko to a thousand-or-so of Mick Fanning’s closest friends. “Do you know how hard that’s been?” Joel had ridden Mick’s world title wave from the start. It was fitting that he and Mick were in the water together in Brazil, preparing for their semi-final, when it became official that Mick was the 2007 world champ. The party in Brazil started soon after, but the immediate celebrations would be a fart in a thunderstorm compared to the shindig that was awaiting Mick Fanning half a world away back in Coolangatta. A text message I received on Thursday said it all; “Prepare for Armageddon.”
Keeping Mick’s surprise party a surprise proved tough. Mick’s Saturday morning flight from Sydney was delayed, and he ended changing flights at the last minute… onto the flight with a dozen of his pro tour mates who were secretly flying to Coolangatta to surprise him. “It was hilarious,” said Rip Curl Pit Boss, Matt Griggs. “We’re hiding behind newspapers every time he walked past. He posed for one photo with his trophy and he was a foot away from Tommy Whitaker. He walked past us all like five times without even noticing.”
The game was up when he arrived at Coolangatta airport. The place was swarming. Mick’s fiancee, Karissa, and Mum, Liz hadn’t gone to Brazil, and were the first to greet him as he walked through arrivals, clutching the silverware (which was actually the 2002 trophy). The Ice Man melted. Mick’s face, so steely all year, contorted with emotion to the point where he was largely unrecognisable. After an hour of greeting a small army of friends and family, he was finally whisked away in a limo. Gold Coast surfer Paul Fisher, who’d earlier threatened to rollerblade nude through the airport to celebrate the champ’s return, was waiting out on the road as Mick’s limo went past, hitchhiking nude with a sign that said “Pick us up, champ”. Mick would later acknowledge Fish’s effort during his speeches; “Fish, fuck it must have been cold, mate! Little pinner!”
Organised by Karissa and Mick’s best mate, Beau Campi, the party that afternoon was a very Coolangatta kind of affair – lashings of free piss, sausage sandwiches, and paint-strippingly loud music – all in the car park of the Kirra pub. Over the hill, Duranbah was the best it had been for months, but the lineup was almost deserted. Keeping a world title party exclusive is pretty tough when you’ve got a bloke as popular around these parts as Mick. A cavalcade of world champions, surf stars, industry figures, locals, friends and family all gathered under dark clouds for the mother of all world title parties.
The gravity of what he’d just achieved hit Mick when he was joined on stage, in order, by Michael Peterson, Occy, Mark Richards and Rabbit Bartholomew. It was like some kind of surreal dream for Mick as Australian surfing’s most legendary figures took the stage one after another, singing his praises. “In the 1970s, Coolangatta had a golden era,” said Rabbit, “guys were bringing world championships back and this town was on fire. But it’s been a long time between drinks. It’s just so awesome. Mick, you’ve enriched the lives of so many people, and we’re in the midst of another golden era.”