Fitzgibbons looks to break through

Aussie is in tight race for WSL title heading into season finale at Honolua

Sally Fitzgibbons enters the Maui Women’s Pro leading the World Surf League women’s tour standings — she, Tyler Wright and Courtney Conlogue just need to win at Honolua Bay to clinch the WSL title. -- Nani Loa Photography / TOM COOPER photo

Sally Fitzgibbons is hoping her fifth time competing in the Maui Women’s Pro is the charm as she tries to claim her first World Surfing League world championship today at Honolua Bay.

The Maui Women’s Pro is the final contest of the 10-event WSL women’s tour. The 26-year-old Australian is leading the points standings over defending WSL and Maui Pro champion Tyler Wright, a fellow Aussie, and Courtney Conlogue of Newport Beach, Calif. Conlogue is last year’s WSL runner-up.

The race is so tight that if either Fitzgibbons, Wright or Conlogue wins at Honolua, they would claim the world title. Honolulu’s Carissa Moore, a three-time world champion, and Stephanie Gilmore, a six-time world champion from Australia, have an outside mathematical chance to add another WSL title.

Fitzgibbons said she is not feeling any extra pressure this week.

“Coming to this point of the year, I feel quite calm,” she said Friday. “The rewarding part for me is to elevate my surfing from the previous years.”

Sally Fitzgibbons, shown competing in the 2014 Maui Pro, will take on Silvana Lima and Brisa Hennessey when this year’s competition gets underway. The holding period at Honolua Bay starts today. -- Nani Loa Photography / TOM COOPER photo

She has been surfing at Honolua all week.

“I’m super excited,” Fitzgibbons said. “The bay has been really active so far, not a perfect direction. I’ve been taking off on some big walls. I enjoy the energy of the waves, the speed, power. It’s been brilliant.”

Fitzgibbons’ best finish in four contests at Honolua was runner-up to Moore in 2015. Last year was her worse finish, equal 13th, and also her worse on the WSL tour, placing eighth.

It caused her to reflect on her 2017 campaign. This year, she’s been the most consistent on tour, making at least the quarterfinals in every contest.

“I gave myself some space to ask myself what I love about surfing,” Fitzgibbons said. “I looked at the attributes that I’m missing, staying really honest with myself. When you see the Tyler Wrights go down, and you’re not in the mix, something really sparks the fire.”

While most of the top competitors have personal surf coaches, Fitzgibbons calls her dad, Martin, her coach.

“I kind of consult with different people. My dad is my right-hand man,” she said. “You seek out certain sources, get some knowledge and feedback, then kind of digest it myself. I definitely try to execute on my own accord.”

Fitzgibbons played multiple sports growing up, but surfing was easy for her.

“I lived less than 100 meters (from the ocean), I could be in the water in like two minutes,” she said. “Being an Aussie, that’s everyone’s sort of pastime that lives by the coast.”

She played soccer, basketball and touch football, but she excelled at track on a national level. She won the 800 and 1,500 meters at the Australia youth Olympics in 2007. After that she concentrated on surfing and qualified for the WSL tour in 2009.

“I’ve always been in love with other sports,” Fitzgibbons said. “But I had to narrow my focus.”

The holding period for the Maui Pro starts today and ends Dec. 6. Fitzgibbons will surf in the third heat of the first round against Silvana Lima of Brazil and wild card Brisa Hennessey of Kailua, Oahu.



Past Champions

2016–Tyler Wright, Australia

2015–Carissa Moore, Hawaii

2014–Carissa Moore, Hawaii

2009–Stephanie Gilmore, Australia

2008–Stephanie Gilmore, Australia

2007–Stephanie Gilmore, Australia

2006–Jessi Miley-Dyer, Australia

2005–Chelsea Georgeson, Australia

2004–Chelsea Georgeson, Australia

2003–Samantha Cornish, Australia

2002–Jacqueline Silva, Brazil

2001–Neridah Falconer, Australia

2000–Neridah Falconer, Australia

1999–Trudy Todd, Australia