Australian surfing legend Mick Fanning will make his return to top-flight competitive surfing in Sydney on Friday determined not to embarrass himself against the world’s best.

The 39-year-old made the surprising announcement that he would be coming out of retirement to line-up in the World Surf League Narrabeen Classic, which will see 50 of the world’s best surfers gather on Sydney’s northern beaches.

Australian surfing legend Mick Fanning shocked the world last week when he announced he would be coming out of retirement.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Having undergone surgery for an ACL injury in recent years, Fanning said the aim of competing is to prove he can still surf at a level he is happy with.

“I have been floating along for the last few years,” he said. “I’ve been doing rehab, but never felt like I got back to 100 per cent.

“The pressure is just on me to perform, the last thing I want to do is go out there and embarrass myself.”

For many competitors events in Australia are helping preparations for the Tokyo Olympics starting in July.

Hawaiian four-time world champion Carissa Moore said the Narrabeen contest has come at a perfect time with the Olympics now feeling more set in stone. The Tokyo Games will feature surfing for the first time.

“I haven’t let myself think about it so much because it has been so uncertain [due to COVID-19] but we are now getting emails about how things are going to run,” she said.

For Australian rookie Isabella Nichols, who produced the biggest upset of the Newcastle Cup by knocking out seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore, said she still feels like “the underdog”. “I like surprising people,” she said.

The World Surf League Championship Tour will continue in May with events in Western Australia at Margaret River and Rottnest Island.

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