At 8:30am on a cold Victorian morning, 37, 000 people gathered cliffside at Bells beach (last week) to watch Mick’s round-one heat. Since then the crowd has grown—and whispers of a cinderella story have got ever-louder—as Mick progressed through to the quarters, semis and then—this morning—the final, where he went down to Brazilian, Italo Ferreira.
Mick went mainstream in 2015 when he was attacked by a shark during a contest in J-Bay, South Africa; but to surfers he’s been an icon for the last two decades. Mick having announced his retirement last month, this contest was something of a swan-song. But competition from younger competitors has increased over the past few years, and this year the judging system has been tweaked to favour a more progressive, risk-intensive style of surfing.
For this reason, as well as Mick’s widespread popularity, people were so excited when it seemed he was going to go all the way in his last ever contest as a CT surfer—proving that fast, powerful surfing never goes out of style—at the same location he won his first ever CT contest. However; it was not to be. Mick began the heat coming off second best in a two wave exchange (Mick got 3.33 vs Ferreira’s 4.67).
The next proper wave he caught though, an 8.10 earned with his trademark carves on the outside section, and a closeout hack at the end, got the crowd hooting and cheering from the beach, breathless with nerves—and heightened expectations. At this point Mick took the lead, Ferreira also catching a wave—a 6.33, which brought their totals to 11 (Ferreira) and 11.43 (Mick) respectively.
Unfortunately for Mick (and his devoted fans), Ferreira followed up with a cracking 8.33, putting himself back in the lead, linking a series of searing turns and finishing on his feet, something he had failed to do in previous rides. After this, in the final moments of the heat, the ocean didn’t provide Mick with the chance to respond on a set-wave. Realising that nothing was coming, with ten seconds to go, he hugged and congratulated Ferreira, bringing the final to an emotional close.