Talent. Focus. Confidence. Maybe even a healthy dose of luck. Thousands of surfers over the years have had dreams of winning a world title. Yet, many had all of those factors and still didn’t make it. So what’s the spark? The secret sauce to consistently beating the very best heat after heat after heat?
We asked 3x World Champ Mick Fanning what he thought the difference was. He came back with two words: “Inner Desire.”
After a little bit of pressing, Mick expanded on why that factor is so important.
“If you don’t have that inner desire then you’re not going to want to do the hard stuff when it matters. How many talented people have you seen never make it ‘cause they didn’t care enough?”
It makes sense. You have to make sacrifices to be the best of the best. Early mornings. Surfing in terrible (or scary) waves. Time away from family. Saying no to fun nights out with friends, saving up for a bigger celebration. 2019 Men’s World Champ and Olympic Gold Medalist Italo Ferreira said a really similar thing.
"It takes a lot of training, dedication and focus to reach the final goal. Along the way, you have to give up many things to achieve a bigger dream."
Does anyone train harder than Italo? Looking at his Insta feed you could be forgiven for thinking he’s a madman MMA fighter with the amount of gym time he puts in. 7x World Champ Steph Gilmore continued that common theme, adding some extra elements too.
"You need a balance of dream, desire, ego, respect, spiritual connection and always being open to emotional adventure! " - Steph Gilmore
There it is again. Desire. Balancing ego with respect is a fine balance a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily think about too. It’s something not everyone can find in themselves, but you see in pretty much all true champions. 2005 World Women’s Champ Chelsea Georgeson-Hedges echoed these sentiments when we asked her what it took to be the best.
"You need pure love and enjoyment to surf and win! With that… determination, patience, focus and an ability to surf well in all conditions are important, along with being a good human." - Chelsea Hedges
So, in a group of people who have won 12 world titles between them, there are definitely some common takeaways - desire and determination foremost among them.
Finding great equipment has to be in there too - an element you can control and help you squeeze that 1% extra out of the world-title lemon. Everyone knows the great relationship Mick has had with his shaper Darren Handley over the years. Steph has her ‘Cash Cow’ surfboard that has won her more events than anything else. All of the crew above also won their titles while riding Creatures’ Square Loc Traction pattern. It may have won more titles than any other grip. You may have even noticed Gabriel Medina stealthily using those same tail pads in recent years too.
That’s just one small part of the puzzle though. It all starts from the foundation of inner-desire, a dream to do something big and the determination to get there.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going for surfing titles, or working toward something else, if you can find that spark for what your passion is, the results pay dividends. You have to want it.
So, do you...?
John Malloy is one guy who had dedication and desire in abundance.
You might never have even heard of John, because he wasn’t about winning titles. His dream was to make the best surf gear possible, helping us enjoy our time in the water more.
To learn more about that different journey - including some personal insight about John from some of the world-title holders above - check out the short film A Creature of Leisure below.