Devastated Mick Fanning battles tragedy in world surfing showdown

Emotional Fanning battles tragedy in world surfing showdown

Sydney (AFP) - Australian star surfer Mick Fanning said he was dealing with the "devastating" sudden death of his brother while challenging for a fourth world title, capping a traumatic year in which he survived a shark attack.

The 34-year-old is competing at the title-deciding Pipe Masters in Hawaii, the climax of a gruelling global season with Fanning in contention to be crowned world champion alongside Brazilians Adriano de Souza and Gabriel Medina.

He progressed to the fourth round on Wednesday, soon after being told of his older brother Peter's death, reportedly in his sleep in Australia.

In an emotional television interview after emerging from the waves, Fanning broke down as spoke about dealing with some "personal" issues, and later posted a moving tribute to his brother on Instagram, calling the loss "devastating".

"Peter will always be a hero to me. I have so many great memories of the good times we have all spent together and they will be with me forever," he said, adding that the pair had only recently caught up.

"Today was one of the most challenging days of my life but I knew I could find the strength to take part in the final event of the season because that's what Pete would want.

"I would ask for some privacy on this matter while we come to terms with this devastating loss."

Another of Fanning's brothers, Sean, died in a car accident in 1998.

In his 2009 book "Surf For Your Life", Fanning said he was so affected by that death that he did not leave his room for four days.

The latest tragedy capped a traumatic year for the surfer, who made headlines around the globe when he battled a shark on live television while competing at a world tour event at Jeffreys Bay off South Africa's Eastern Cape province in mid-July.

He survived unscathed and in the moments after the terrifying ordeal indicated he might not compete again. But Fanning soon overcame his fears and returned to the ocean a week later.