Sally Fitzgibbons  

ASP World Junior Champion Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa, NSW, AUS) proclaimed her arrival as Australia’s next biggest talent, taking out the 6-Star ASP World Qualifying Series Roxy Surf Festival, at Phillip Island, on Australia Day.

The 17-year-old ‘super-grom’ (young surfer) has not put a foot wrong this year. Winning three out of four events in January alone, Fitzgibbons capped it off with a sensational victory over Bruna Schmitz (BRA), simultaneously shooting to No. 1 on the WQS ratings.

“It’s been a great start to 2008,” Fitzgibbons conceded. “I won the World Junior Championships (in Sydney) which was a dream come true and to win a 6-Star WQS really caps it off.”

A top scorer from start to finish, Fitzgibbons appeared to have met her match in fellow 17-year-old Schmitz. The two surfers exchanged near perfect 9-point rides in the excellent 1-5 meter waves, before Fitzgibbons unleashed a sensational 9.75 to sail home with the win.

“Bruna surfed extremely well and I guess when you’re surfing against someone like that, one high score is never going to be enough,” Fitzgibbons explained. “I put my head down because I knew I had to get another one, and I’m just stoked to come through with the win.”

The result marked a career best for both surfers - Fitzgibbons taking home US$ 4 500 for first place, while Schmitz earned US$ 2 300 and has moved into No. 2 on the WQS ratings.

“I am really, really happy to get this far,” Schmitz beamed. “Sally is a very good competitor; she’s really strong and always gets the good waves. I still scored a 9.00 in the Final so it was close.”

The girlfriend of ASP World No. 8 Jeremy Flores (FRA), Schmitz credited her man for her outstanding achievement today.

“He teaches me a lot about competition surfing and how to complete better manoeuvres,” Schmitz continued. “He has given me boards and has been a constant support for my professional career.”

World No. 8 Jessi Miley- Dyer (Bronte, NSW, AUS) and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton (Kauai, HAW) finished equal third. The two surfers conquered by both the ocean and their rivals, when they could not find a wave in the tricky low tide conditions.

Hamilton’s remarkable equal third place finish marks the best of not only her career, but also possibly that of a physically challenged athlete, and has kicked started her full time assault on the WQS in 2008.
 
“I just couldn’t find any waves out there but I’m still stoked to have made the Semi’s,” Hamilton said after she was defeated by Schmitz. “I’ve needed a good result to boost my confidence and it finally happened. Now I’m just going to keep doing my best in all the events and put my heart into it.”

Despite posting the highest individual wave score of her Semifinal match-up against Fitzgibbons, Miley- Dyer simply could not find a back- up ride and was disappointed to have to settle for second place.

“I had a pretty bad heat because I waited too long for a wave,” Miley –Dyer admitted. “I guess it’s a good warm up for the Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast (ASP Women’s World Tour event) but if anything, it’s a lesson learnt on what not to do in a heat.”

Former ASP World Champion Chelsea Hedges (Coolangatta, QLD, AUS) made a guest appearance at Woolamai Beach, and was amazed at the level of surfing seen in this year’s competition.

“It’s scary to think I’ll be coming up against these girls in the next few years,” Hedges, who has taken a break from elite competition due to her pregnancy, said. “The talent among the juniors is pretty unbelievable and for there to be two 17-year-olds in the Final of a 6-Star WQS, tells you that women’s surfing is about to take off.”

The 6-Star WQS Roxy Surf Festival is one of two 6-Star WQS events in Australia and one of six in the world. A 6-Star WQS is the highest rated event on the World Qualifying Series and holds the most amount of ratings points, which count towards a surfers overall standing at the end of the year.

The Roxy Surf Festival is held in association with the Victoria State Government “Play it Safe by the Water” and proudly supported by ASP Australasia, Surfing Victoria, Bass Coast Shire Council and Phillip Island Nature Park.

Roxy Surf Festival 6-Star WQS Final Result:

Heat 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 18.75 def Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 15.35

Source: ASP World Tour