Surfers are known for getting along with one another a whole lot better than the athletes in those “major” sports. For the women surfers it’s like a sorority, and for the fellows it’s like a fraternity. So, it’s only fitting that professional surfers gather once to a year to commune and honor the best among themselves.
This year’s 16th annual Surfing Life Peer Polls Awards were celebrated in Australia, near the renowned Bells Beach, and the surfers may have been showing some sentiment in picking a pair of Aussies. Still, Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning are both world champions who are as deserving as anyone, although Gilmore’s world crown came during 2007, while Fanning’s was this year.
Gilmore, in fact, made her Surfing Life Peer Polls Award a back-to-back shindig. Fanning, meanwhile, is the first Aussie to claim the Surfing Life top award since Luke Egan in 2000.
“I am so stoked,” proclaimed Mick Fanning in classic Down Under jargon.
Stephanie Gilmore, 20, started surfing a decade ago. She wasn’t even old enough to legally sip a brew of Foster’s — a top surfing sponsor Down Under — when she captured the Roxy Pro Gold Coast title as a 17-year-old. Seems inevitable, but yes, her nickname is “Happy.” She indeed flashes a megawatt smile, and her exciting lifestyle includes skydiving, along with playing guitar. (Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton are among her faves.)
Mick Fanning, 27, was only 5 years old when he tried his first wave, but he did not get really serious until he was 12. His family moved to Tweed Heads, site of some of Australia’s most dynamite surfing, and he became buddies with Joel Parkinson, another future surfing pro. He was a mere 16 when he finished among the top three at the Australian National Titles, and his big breakthrough came at age 19 when he won the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.
With the nickname of “White Lightning,” Fanning overcame a complete hamstring tear in 2004 to recover his crowd-pleasing style. He is married to Karissa Dalton, a model.