"I think the ocean humbles you each and every day," Fanning told CNN Sport's
Don Riddell in a rare interview, as the surfer reflected on his career following his recent retirement announcement.
"Some days you think you're all over it and you get smacked down so quickly. I think dealing with mother nature day in and day out is something truly incredible and it's definitely something that keeps you very humble."
"You get really centered within yourself (when surfing) and it doesn't matter what type of mood you are when you paddle out, when you come in you're always happy."
'I still love surfing'
The 36-year-old surfer from Australia's east coast announced his retirement last month on Instagram
saying he had lost the "motivation and dedication to compete."
Fanning's has been a remarkable career. He's surfed some of the best breaks in the world -- from Tahiti to Fiji, South Africa and Australia -- but he's also punched a shark, overcome personal tragedy and career-threatening injuries.
"I just lost the drive, I lost the determination," the Australian says of his decision to retire.
"I still love surfing, still love everything that goes with it but for me personally I just can't do a full year anymore. I feel like there's more out there in different parts for me so I'm going to go chase those dreams instead."
Despite having dozens of surfing event victories to his name -- 22 in fact -- Fanning, while a famous name in Australia and the surfing community, skyrocketed to global stardom in 2015 after he fought off a shark at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa.
Minutes into the final, the surfer could be seen furiously paddling away from a circling shark.
Those watching live were forced to watch -- and wait -- in fear after a wave obscured what happened next. Miraculously he was unharmed but the shark did bite through his leg rope and caused some damage to his surfboard.
It's something Fanning says he gets reminded of very day. "Watch out for sharks," people jest.
While retirement means Fanning's competitive days will be over after the Rip Curl Pro in Bells Beach
later this month, it won't be the last time this Aussie surfer catches waves -- but it may be the final time he enjoys empty surf.
"Being able to paddle out when there's only one other guy out in amazing waves is incredible," he says. "But hopefully I can find some with less people around during the free surfs."
Like the surf, Fanning has experienced many choppy moments during his career -- he's lost two brothers and also split with his wife. Without the support from his family and friends, he wouldn't have been able to compete he says.
"People might just see me paddling out but I paddle out with all of them right behind me which is really special. Without them I wouldn't have made it out."
As his final competition approaches, Fanning says he wants to walk away with his head held high.
"I'd hate it if I had a (bad) day, but so be it if it happens. I'm excited, I'm getting ready as if I would any other event.
"I just know that I've only got four weeks left, which is pretty awesome."