"I have done laps of the world forever. But here I was really travelling, in places people didn't know me, where they didn't want anything from me, where there was no schedule or timeline, only life." Says Mick Fanning, star of Taylor Steele's latest brainchild Missing."I felt like I was in the real world for the very first time and it made me so happy to see the world that clearly."
Missing sees Fanning deposited far of his comfort zone, outside of the reassuring, yet monotonous, routine of boat trips and 'CT surfing. "I wanted to work with Taylor and was trying to come up with a concept, but it all got too hard, I didn't need another thing to concentrate on as my life can be so regimented at times that I just said to him, you know what? You surprise me. I'll give you 21 days in July between events and whatever you want to do, I'm up for it."
From there the concept went undercover as Steele, Rip Curl and Garage Entertainment assembled the cast, the crew and the locations - all without MF knowing a thing. Basically, he would turn up on day one, be given a boarding pass and told to get on a plane. From there it was keep moving, keep being blown away, day-after-day layered with surprise.
"I was going on a trip to I don't know where, kind of like being kidnapped," said Fanning, summing up the experience.
In Africa for stop one, instead of hitting the surf fresh off the plane like he usually would, he found himself trekking through jungles alongside armed guides. "I thought, what's going on here? We're not going surfing. Right off the bat I ended up on top of mountain hanging with Gorillas. Face to face with these primates, in their world, not mine, and a long way from home."
"I was going on a trip to I don't know where, kind of like being kidnapped," Mick Fanning
But the surfing would come too, in waves rarely seen, and the style of it relaxed and open and free, away from mounting pressure of the 2013 world title hunt. In the wilds of Africa Steele linked him with local, Jordy Smith, and his long time Rip Curl team-mate Matt Wilkinson. In Ireland, he walked into a pub where his best mate Taylor Knox and wife Karissa were waiting with a pint of Guinness.
At one undisclosed location, a chopper arrived and flew him and John John Florence to a secluded right hand reef for the day. In another jungle, waiting under a palm tree, off a big right peak, was the enigmatic Tom Curren. As a result the surfing is special and some of the best you'll see on screen this year.
"They did a good job on me, said Mick, kept me guessing, kept me searching. Taylor and our small crew of photographers were awesome. There's nothing we did not do for each other to make the project work. At one stage Taylor was in hospital and so sick, that we had to sneak in and steal him to get to the next location. But he did it, he was there driving it all along the next day." The experience, literally, changed Fanning's life.
Some of the hottest stars in world surfing will appear alongside Mick, including Hawaiian John John Florence, South African Jordy Smith, Californian Taylor Knox, Australian Matt Wilkinson and the legendary American Tom Curren all disappear with MF on the search for something different.
Steele says Mick Fanning was one of the best subjects he's ever worked with: "Knowing Mick, there's a lot of layers to him that are not usually portrayed in the media and this is a great opportunity to show people what a great guy he is and what a great traveller he is too. I'm proud of the piece."