BARRA DA TIJUCA , Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Friday, May 11, 2012) – For many touring professional surfers, a contest lay day presents the welcome opportunity to do some sightseeing or discover a new wave down the coast, but for two-time ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), 30, it’s the ideal opportunity to hang out with the local community and give back to the sport that has given him so much.
On the second, consecutive lay day for the men at the Billabong Pro Rio, Fanning took time out from his busy training schedule to spend the morning with a group of special needs children from the Escola De Surf (surf school) run by Jeronimo Telles, at Recreio dos Bandeirantes in Barra, Rio.
A morning spent with this unique group of visually-impaired and physically-disabled children turned into hours of contagious laughter and fun, one that neither Fanning nor his young fans will ever forget.
“Everywhere we go, we’re just focused on the contest and I guess you can go to a store and sign posters or you can take kids surfing and I would rather take kids surfing,” Fanning said. “It was so inspiring for me to be out there with those guys and makes me happier than just going surfing myself.”
Despite the language barrier, Fanning and his new friends hit the water hooting and hollering as they shared the same language that is the stoke of riding waves, emerging with smiles a mile wide.
“I didn’t know how they would go, but they did awesome!” Fanning said. “I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I know they were being cheeky. It was funny.”
Renowned as one of the most focused and competitive athletes on tour, Fanning brought endless enthusiasm to the water today, reveling in the simple act of pushing the kids into waves and applauding fervently as each child got to his or her feet.
“Teaching someone to surf is one of the greatest things ever,” Fanning said. “The joy you get out of it is incredible and with these kids, it was even more inspiring. Sometimes you sit there and think that life can suck but you just go out and go surfing and it makes life so much better.”
Clinching his inaugural ASP World Title in Brazil (2007), Fanning has an affinity for the wave-rich and culturally-diverse South American country and while this year marks only his second ever trip to Rio, he admitted that he felt the city had welcomed him with open arms.
“I love coming to Brasil, the people are so cool and they have so much energy,” Fanning said. “I guess when you go around and meet different people outside the contest, you really get a feel for the place and make lifelong friends along the way.”
Riding a wave of confidence after his victory at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the current ASP World No. 3 will be looking to capitalize on the absence of 11X ASP World Champion and current ASP ratings leader Kelly Slater (USA) at the Billabong Rio Pro and hopes to leave the city in pole position.
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