Sally Fitzgibbons needed to beat the reigning world champ Tyler Wright in challenging, windy conditions at Main Break to take her first event since the Fiji Pro in 2015, but the eight-year 'CT veteran overcame both to win the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro on Saturday in Western Australia, with a 14.90 score advantage to Wright's 12.53. A mid-day board switch to a model with straighter rocker paid off in the temperamental Main Break sections, as Fitzgibbons put her big, forehand gouges on display throughout the heat. The equipment change, along with a disciplined surf schedule during the contest's lay days, now has her in a tie with Steph Gilmore going into Bells Beach, an event in which she's traditionally delivered high results. The WSL commenting team caught up with Sally after the final to talk about her first career win in Western Australia.
On paddling out in the early mornings on lay days and putting in the time to train:
It feels so good. It's been a journey to get back to the final, and to win it, I just had confidence in myself at every moment. Everything I've been working on leading into this year has put me in such a good mindset. It was a fantastic week, I had so much fun. Getting up in the dark, trying to bring out my best surfing. I feel like I've got a lot more to give. But to get this win, I feel on top of the world.
On how the board switch worked in her favor:
It was a tricky line-up today. Tyler was also surfing really well. [I focused on] just setting that rail. There were so many bobs, it was a bit of a wild wild west out there today. Just to get into my groove on [those turns] felt nice.
On her powerful individual maneuvers in the final:
It feels fantastic. All those early mornings paid off. I just love our sport and am passionate about playing the game. These battles for me are really exciting, to come up against the top seeds like Steph and Tyler. I just wanted to raise my level and show some of the things I know I've got in me. It does feel good to unleash some of those moments in the final, and that's what it takes to be standing with this trophy.
On landing in the race for the world title:
I just feel a sense of belonging right now. My body and my mind know that's where I want to be. I just constantly have the desire to take my surfing to the next level and bring out my best performance. I love bringing out the jersey and moments like this. I think of everyone back home: my fiancé, my family, my mom, my brothers, my dad on the beach, all surrounding me with that love, and then letting me come out and do my thing. That's when I feel the most free [Looks at camera] Hi, guys, we did it! Yeww!