Los Angeles - Australian star Mick Fanning, mourning the sudden death of his brother, was denied an emotional fourth world surfing crown as Adriano de Souza kept the title in Brazilian hands on Thursday.
Fanning, 34, who survived a shark attack on live TV in July, dropped to second in the standings after an emotional appearance at the season-ending Pipe Masters in Hawaii.
Fanning, who learned about his brother's death during the competition, lost in the semis to Brazil's Gabriel Medina, a result which handed the title to de Souza. De Souza, who beat Medina in the final, paid tribute to Fanning, calling him a "true champion" for his bravery in the face of adversity this year.
Fanning's brother Peter died in his sleep in Australia, according to reports. Another of Fanning's brothers, Sean, died in a car accident in 1998.
The latest tragedy capped a traumatic year for Fanning, who made headlines around the globe when he battled a shark on live TV competing in South Africa in mid-July.
"We are family, we are such a small community in surfing," de Souza said, according to The Australian newspaper.
"When the shark almost bit Mick, I’m so happy to see him alive and be with us. For one part of the year, he was the most deserved to win this title.
"To be with him in a world title race, it was a pleasure. He is a true champion. He is the most stronger man I have ever met. He has so much personal things going on.
"It was so big a learning curve to watch him. I thought, I definitely have a hard world title race against this guy."
Earlier, before de Souza sealed the title, Fanning described the emotional energy that accompanied him in Hawaii.
"The energy has been amazing, walking down almost in tears every time I'm coming down," Fanning told a TV interviewer.
"A friend told me once we can deal with anything. Stay true to yourself and things will happen."
Australian media also paid tribute to Fanning despite his loss, saying he "stands stall among World Surf League rivals" and calling him a "champion for the ages".
Fanning had beaten 11-time world champion Kelly Slater in the quarter-finals before he was eliminated by Medina.
De Souza finished atop the championship standings with 57 700 points, with Fanning second on 54 650 and Medina third on 51 600.