Sally Fitzgibbons is a three-time ASP world title runner-up and oh-no-narrowly missed out on her maiden world surfing crown in Hawaii last December. But as professional surfing ushers in a new era under the all-new World Surf League (WSL) banner, the tour veteran at just 24 years of age welcomes the new season with glee.
The summer break offered a time for reflection but little rest, with Sally as determined as ever to scale the highest peak in women’s surfing and putting in the hard yards over the holidays to do so.
Because if we learned anything last year it’s that the talent in the women’s surfing pool is stronger than ever and getting stronger every day. And Sally’s taken note.
As you’ll find out below, Sally’s more confidant than ever in the future of women’s surfing as she changes up her game for 2015 in an effort to finally grasp that coveted silverware.
RB: Sal! So our sources suggest you didn’t spend much time relaxing during the off-season?
SF: I always have a pretty fun-filled off-season. I love doing a huge variety of things and one of my favourite parts was doing the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. It was an absolutely incredible experience and so unique to able to join a professional team as a rookie and learn from the best.
RB: Suffice to say you’ve been staying fit – if not a little seasick?
SF: Training for me never stops. I am always training for one thing or another - whether it's an extreme adventure in the off-season or getting stronger for some component in my surfing. I love finding new ways to keeping my body tuned up. But I always carry the blue print of what is working for me the previous year because it's never about ditching an entire season of work and trying something new. It's just continually adding and trading out small parts and finding those extra one-percenters to take you to the next level.
RB: What have you taken away from last season and the nail-biting finish in Hawaii?
SF: I've had a number of oh-so-narrow finishes now and they are definitely heart breakers. It tests all my strength to pick myself back up and want to go after the dream again. I think a positive that comes from the loss is to replay and go over and over things in your head and be brutally honest on what you could do better. What were the causes of the defeat? And know how you can fix it so that I don't have to put myself through this heartache again. It is a tough sport with so many uncontrollable aspects but I am so passionate about it that I won't stop until I reach my goals.
RB: The women really stepped it up late last year to make it arguably the most competitive season in surfing history. How do you get the edge?
SF: I will be working hard to bring more progressive manoeuvres into my heat surfing for the 2015 season. I feel it will be really important to be on the right equipment for each stop on tour. I will be working really close with my shapers at Firewire to tweak some things to suit each wave. It is so competitive between all the women vying for the title that you have to get all the pieces of your puzzle and performance spot-on to get the edge. I will be changing my approach in certain areas that will hopefully give me a fresh look and feel for my seventh season on the world tour.
RB: What's one thing you want to improve on this year?
SF: I want to continually improve on waves of consequence this year. It was a great addition to the tour last year, welcoming back events like the Fiji Women's Pro and Target Maui Pro. I feel there is always room for improvement in tricky line-ups like these. So I will be working on my equipment and approach for waves like this.
RB: It's a new season, a new name for the series and nine events for the second straight year. What do you hope 2015 will achieve for women's surfing?
SF: I believe our sport is blossoming right now. It has great momentum with premium events on tour and an exciting hotly contested world title race. I wish for our sport to continue to grow this year under the WSL banner, get more and more people tuning in to support their favourite surfers and possibly see the tour at 10 events for the women in 2016.
RB: How far has women's surfing come from a commercial/respect perspective the past few years and what are your hopes for its future?
SF: Women's surfing is a great package to sell and in the right hands and marketed correctly who knows what heights it could reach. I'm super excited to have the sport gain so much momentum while I'm in the midst of my career. I hope to enjoy watching and feeling it grow as I move through my career.
RB: Who do you think are the surfers to watch this year - outside the top-five - and why?
SF: We will be welcoming back a couple of big names for the 2015 season in Silvana Lima and Sage Erickson. They will be super hungry after having a short hiatus off tour, so they will be ones to watch. And our new rookies. It’s always tricky learning the way they compete and how to surf them when you're up against them in a heat.
RB: Lastly, how are you approaching the Australian Open this week?
SF: The Hurley Australian Open will be a great hit-out to warm up for the upcoming WSL season. With a lot of top seeds in the event it will be the perfect test to see where the level is at and how everyone is travelling. I don't focus as much on the result for this first event but more so how my equipment and body are feeling and implementing some of those new strategies I've been working on in the off season. I can't wait to get underway at Manly.
The Australian Open of Surfing junior events begin on February 7 with the men’s event starting Monday the 9th and the women’s on Tuesday the 10th.
Head to www.australianopenofsurfing.com for all the news and to stream live.
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