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He easily claimed Rookie of the Year honors in his debut season and quickly challenged Kelly Slater for a world title in his second, the pair contesting an unprecedented three world tour finals in a row — a world title was seen as the natural progression, and it had been since he claimed his first ISA World Junior Championship in a canter at 16.
He memorably knocked out Kelly Slater as a 19-year-old wildcard in the 2009 Rip Curl Pro Portugal on his way to a contentious semi-final finish (he injured himself moments after posting a perfect 10 in his quarterfinal against Damian Hobgood only to be ruled out by doctors despite wanting to return to the water for his semi against fellow Rip Curl team rider and world-title hopeful Fanning).
His two perfect 20-out-of-20 heats in the event were a first for surfing (he also joins Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson as the only surfers to have scored more than one perfect heat) while the win marked the long-awaited return to form for the Australian following a career-threatening back injury in 2013.
The World Title race, meanwhile, remains largely unchanged with the Brazilian Storm having puffed out in the Pacific as predicted, though Fanning and Kelly Slater were unable to capitalize on early exits for Adriano De Souza, Felipe Toledo and the lackluster defending champ, Gabriel Medina.
Read more here: The Inertia