Mick Fanning won a surfing heat after learning his brother had died

Australian surfer Mick Fanning speaks during a press conference in Sydney following a shark attack in South Africa. Photo: Getty Images

Mick Fanning’s tough year took a tragic turn overnight.

Competing for a fourth world surfing title at the Pipe Masters in Hawaii today, Fanning woke to the news that his eldest brother, Peter, had died in his sleep.

Hours later, Fanning went out delivered gutsy wins the next two heats in his march towards a fourth world championship.

Peter is the second brother Fanning has lost, after another brother, Sean, died in a car accident in 1998.

Fanning’s bereavement follows a devastatingly close call with a shark at Jefferys Bay in South Africa in July.

His fourth round “”superheat” win this morning against 11-times world champion Kelly Slater and 2010 Pipe Masters winner Jeremy Flores was a remarkable achievement with the 9.3 ride

After getting out of the water, Fanning was understated in talking about his loss.

“I’ve just got personal stuff going on at home… it’s sort of heavy to talk about right now,” he said.

To take out the world championship Fanning needs to finish near the top the Billabong Pipe Masters, the last tournament of the World Surfing League series for 2015.

Fanning currently tops the leader board on 49,900 points ahead of Brazilians Filipe Toledo on 49,700 and Adriano de Souza on 49,450.

Ranked 12th on the WSL, de Souza has won his fourth round match against Australians Josh Kerr and Adam Melling, remaining in contention for the world championship.

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