Last year, Sally Fitzgibbons came so close to a ASP World Title, losing it to Carissa Moore at the sixth event of the season. This year, the 21-year-old Aussie with the toothy smile tells us that she's ready to graduate from the runner-up position. With the first five rounds of the Roxy Pro Gold Coast completed, Sally gives us the run-down on what's happened, what's on the agenda, and how her dream for the ASP Women's Tour involves hot male escorts.
Congrats on making it to the Semis. Can you just quickly walk us through the first few days of the event?
There's so much support for me at this event, it's been crazy. Roxy made all these "Go Sally" signs and put them everywhere, and people have beach balls and T-shirts with my name on it. I looked in from the water and it's written up on the side of the hotel. It's crazy. We ran the first four days of the waiting period, which was cool because we could kind of gained some momentum. There were some pretty good match-ups as well. We had a bit of an upset with Tyler [Wright] taking out Carissa [in the Quarters], but the event has had some good match-ups and it's cool to see some of the rookies in there. This event is always a good benchmark, and everyone's looking pretty fiery and ready to go for the season.
I know you've been training and really focusing during the six-month off-season. What have you done differently this year to prepare?
This year we obviously had a long break, so I was definitely training really hard, but unfortunately I busted my wrist in Fiji in December so I had a month out of the water over Christmas and January. I used that time to analyze my surfing and tried to change a few things with my style, just from watching all the footage. It was pretty special to be able to jump back in the water a week before the Australian Open—even though the surf was small—so I could get back in the mindset of competition. I was pretty stressed the week before because I hadn't been in the water, but I relaxed and came up with a win. I was pumped with that.
So it's an all-Aussie Semis at this event, do you think that was due to the conditions or just luck?
I don't know, it was a really strong showing for the Aussies in this event overall. It reminds me of the Junior days with all of us growing up. We've all surfed Snapper since we were 10 years old, and we've surfed it onshore, offshore, all the different conditions. It's been tricky there the last few days, pretty bumpy, and if you don't pick the right spot you can get really lost on the wave. All the Aussie girls seemed to interpret it right, and chose the right waves as well. Hopefully this will be a good year for the Aussies. This is a good sign—hopefully we'll be able to bring that ASP World Title back to Australian shores this year.
This year, more than ever, it seems like it might be a real battle between a handful of girls for the title—rather than just two or three as it's been in the past. Do you see it that way?
For sure. I think there's going to be a big battle this year, not just between two of us—last year it was myself and Carissa that broke away—but I'm predicting there are four or five girls this year with a good chance. With the rookies, there is obviously a lot of talent there, and I think it's going to come down to who finds their feet the quickest, but I'm sure at least one of them will be right there in the race.
Looking toward the rest of the season, do you think that the waves that you girls have on Tour benefit any particular surfers? I mean, besides Bells it’s basically a bunch of beachbreaks.
We've got two pointbreaks to start the year, and then for the rest of the events it's really unknown—we don't know what the banks at these beachbreaks will be doing, if it will be lefts or rights. We won't know what we’re going to get until we show up. But in a way that opens up the field more, because someone could spot a little right peak they want to surf, and someone else can go surf another one. I think there is definitely plenty of room for upsets with the schedule like it is.
Do you think we would see different results and different world champs if the ASP Women's World Tour included heavy waves like Teahupoo or Cloudbreak?
I think so. I feel like a lot of us don't have too much practice at those spots because the time we compete on Tour is when those spots are on. And there might be trips after the season is over, but usually we only get one or two chances to do that throughout the year. I think if they added events at more challenging spots to our Tour it would definitely change it up. It would give us a chance to practice in surf like that and I think we would learn along the way.
If you were in charge of the Women's World Tour, what would you want to change?
If I was in charge, and had an endless supply of money? [Laughs.] I would take the Tour to all my favorite waves around the world—Fiji, Mexico, P-Pass. I would hire a crowd, because all the really good waves are in remote spots and people wouldn't really get to watch. So people would get to vote on who gets to come—it would be a portable crowd. That way you'd get the atmosphere. And we'd get driven out to our heats in golf buggies, and you know how boxers always have these really hot girls that walk them out to a fight? Well, we would have really hot guys drive us out to the spot. And we would have our own private warm-up sessions, so everyone would have to clear the lineup and three or four girls would get to surf by themselves for a while before the event.
That sounds amazing. So do you think that's ever going to happen?
I don't have a money tree, but I think anything's possible. Hopefully someone sees this and has the same eye for the future as I do [laughs]. But in all seriousness, it just takes one or a couple of really strong sponsors to come in and events will just start popping up at better locations, and we'll have that mix-up where it's not only beachbreaks or grand-stand events, but a variety of waves more similar to what the men have on Tour.
Do you think it's going to take an out-of-industry brand to do that?
At this stage, looking at it, it looks like it would take an out-of-industry sponsor. There are obviously companies [in the surf industry] that are still struggling. I mean, with the Men's Tour, J-Bay dropped back and Fiji looks like it will fall out. Everyone seems like they're hurting still a little bit, but hopefully things turn around. With the female side, it seems like there are so many brands that would be a great fit for our sport and the lifestyle we live.
Tell me how bad you want to win a world title this year.
Hmm…on a scale of one to 10, I would say about a 10 and a half. It's always the goal when you start the year, but it always seems so far away. But I'm definitely ready and strong, confident and comfortable where I am at the moment, so we'll see how it unfolds.