Australian surfer Sally Fitzgibbons has moved to equal first on the World Surf League rankings after a win over fellow New South Wales south coaster, Tyler Wright, at the Margaret River Pro.
Competition had been on hold for much of the week as organisers held out for ideal conditions and Fitzgibbons got her campaign off to a good start with a win over three-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore in their semi-final match-up.
Earlier, Wright eliminated California’s Sage Erikson to ensure an all Australian final between the two surfers from Gerroa on the New South Wales south coast.
Fitzgibbons said her dedication to winning at the challenging break paid off and she found it fitting it was a final against a surfer she has known since her early years in the water.
“Winning out here at Margaret River solidifies all the hard work I’ve put in over here for all the years I’ve been coming and it’s great I got to share the final with Tyler,” Fitzgibbons said.
“I’ve come close to winning here a couple of times and you learn each time so that hurt you feel when you do lose and fall short accumulates into an opportunity to learn and it all paid off today.”
Wright was in rare form throughout the competition, posting some of the highest scores of all competitors and said she was happy despite the second placing.
“I was actually pretty happy with the way I ran the heat,” Wright said.
“The waves were a little bit trickier towards the end there and I just didn’t get a clean line, but I am stoked for Sally to come away with the win.
“I’ve known Sally since I was nine years old, we live in the same town now and we are both from the South Coast. I am stoked that both of us were in the final.”
Fitzgibbons now shares the lead on the women’s ratings with Gilmore.
Gilmore fell agonisingly short of beating Fitzgibbons in their semi-final clash, but said finishing third put her in good stead as the tour moves to Bells Beach, an event Gilmore has won three times.
“That really didn’t go to plan,” Gilmore said.
“Before the heat, my plan was to stay really active and then once I was out there, it didn’t really work out that way. I couldn’t really find a decent wave that would offer an excellent score.
“In conditions like this, you can’t expect to find those waves that easily, so you need to keep busy and I didn’t do that. Third is definitely a keeper. It would be nice to win them all as that’s what we are here for, but third is definitely nice.”
The men’s final will be completed on Sunday ahead of the next event at Bells Beach, Victoria.