Sally Fitzgibbons is a surfing icon. She’s been on Tour for 12 years and has no intention of slowing down. We caught up wth the 32-year-old who hails from Gerroa on the NSW South Coast prior to her Bells campaign. Sitting in 11th place on the World Ranking, she’s just outside the mid-year cutoff and is also fighting to keep her Paris 2024 Olympic dream alive.
We’re nearing the Tour’s halfway point and dreaded mid-year cut.. How are you feeling?
“I think it’s exactly as it’s intended and talked about and written about. It’s there to create pressure and you’ve got to step up and take some risks and elevate your performances. So far this year, leading into this event at Bells, through the Hawaii leg I definitely had a couple of close calls in terms of like some real strategic heats and some moments where taking I guess a risk or certain wave didn’t pay off, those small things is what accumulates to you being in a position and looking towards this cut. So it’s yes, its filled with tension and pressure and all that stuff and drama that makes a good sports story. And to me, it’s really about embracing it for sure. And it’s not the first time I’ve run through these emotions and I feel a little bit better at it than last year and I really want to put my best foot forward here at Bells. It’s a wave I really know and trust myself and my surfing and really feel like my surfing fits this wave. It was you know, the location where I had my very first win on tour and I can still remember that very vividly and channelling that energy and not really towards I guess, the pressure and what the cut can create in closing down your surfing and surfing safe is not what I’m about at this point of my career. I’m about putting the pedal to the metal and I want to elevate not only my performance here but just my surfing in general. So, I do believe I’ve got what it takes not just make the cut but to be competitive for these wins and to be on tour. I feel like it’s where I’ve progressed my surfing too and myself as an athlete and it’s time to definitely prove that so it’s D-day and I’m ready to rock and roll.”
There’s also Olympic qualification on the line.. how significant is a result at Bells for you? And how do you manage that extra pressure?
“Of course that makes it super relaxing (laughs). Anyone that’s on tour, everything they desire is on the line and that’s why I watch sport. I love these ones where you just say oh, my gosh they’ve got it all on their plate. And yeah, it is a sport where at times in sport in general it is up to the athlete and in their control, but we relinquish that control in terms of being surfers because we can’t control the ocean. We don’t know what scenario we’re about to face, but I just have to believe that I’ve got what it takes and any sort of version or opportunity that arises in terms of heat and match play that I’ve got to takes to make really sound sort of disciplined decisions around that and give myself the best shot on the best waves in any given moment. If that means all goes to plan and we can win these next two events, and for sure, then you look ahead to the Olympics. And if not, you’re just doing everything you can to support your nation and represent well whether it’s at the Olympics or the world tour or any opportunity you get so I’m nowhere near done so it’s something that I’ll just keep progressing towards opportunities like that. So, as I’ve said, relax into it. It’s a huge pressure cooker and I’m ready for it.”
And you’ve said you want to keep competing into your 40s.. We’ve seen Kelly Slater do it, what does the next decade look like for you?
“I don’t know. No one knows on this tour, you don’t know where the drop off point is. I’m still very much engaged in it. I just gauge my response and level of interest in what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve created my own sense of you know a series or a Netflix series they follow the story and it’s one of your favourite shows to check out every single day so I get to show up for an episode and put in everything I can to put me in a position to vie for these events for titles and all of the above. I think it’s an amazing place to channel emotions like this. The sport for me is a great vehicle to build my character not only as an athlete, but for life. So, while I’m still so engaged like this, and ready for it and get up every morning and love going to work, yeah I don’t know where, how far it will take me but I’m reading to go along for the ride.”