Champion surfer Sally Fitzgibbons is one of Australia’s most respected sportspeople.
At just 26-years-old, the girl from Gerroa has locked away three Women’s World Tour Wins and was the 2011 World Tour runner-up.
Despite an impressive and ever-growing resume, Sally also has a deep passion for the natural beauty of the sport.
And perhaps no other sport in the world is as connected with the natural world as surfing. As such, the possibilities for photographers and videographers are endless and unique.
While other sports shy away from the elements, Sally and her peers embrace them. So we had a chat with her about her career, motivations and what she loves about her “job”.
Give us some insight into the sacrifices you’d had to make along the way to reach the pinnacle of world surfing?
“I’ve always had the perspective that nothing worth doing is ever easy. Since I was six-years-old, I wanted to either be an Olympic gold medallist or a world champion. So I quickly learned that I couldn’t achieve my goals without hard work and sacrifice.
“Getting up early, putting in the hard yards at training, constantly trying to improve my performance were all things I learned early in life.
“As I got older, I had so many commitments to so many different sports I definitely had to sacrifice having what many would call a ‘normal’ social life.
“When I couldn’t make a training session for one sport, I’d do extras at home, jogging around the reserve behind the house or setting up speed drills using cones.
“That’s the discipline that kind of feeds into what I do today and it didn’t matter to me because I was chasing my dreams – to be a champion. It never felt like I was sacrificing a thing.”
Who were the female surfers you admired when you were getting going?
“As a kid, Layne Beachley was my hero. She was incredible. To do what she’s done for the sport of women’s surfing, and in the business world, is a true inspiration.
“Learning more and more about the conditions Layne and her generation had to surf in while they were on tour, how hard they fought for an equal playing field, sponsors and prize money – we wouldn’t have the sport we have today without them.
“I still remember being a grommet, about 15, and out of all the up-and-coming girls, Layne gave me a wildcard into her event – The Beachley Classic.
“It was the richest women’s surfing contest in the history of the sport, and I still remember it so clearly. I actually beat Layne in our round 1 heat.
“She got me back in round 3, but it was an incredible experience and with her foundation, Aim for the Stars, I also received a scholarship to continue my dreams of chasing a world title.
“She’s certainly inspired me to take my own leap off the normal conveyor belt of pro surfing and into business life, while always trying to improve the sport.”
How has the surfing circuit changed for women surfers since you’ve been on the tour?
“The World Surf League has done an incredible job at elevating women’s surfing. There’s the prize money that’s gradually improved and the amazing content being created, even down to the little things like our lockers are just the same size as the guys.
“The sport is growing at a rapid rate, I’d say faster than the men’s. There’s a whole generation of us who want to keep pushing the performance level and the opportunities women’s surfing can provide for future generations.
“There’s still so much growth potential for the sport, especially leading into the 2020 Olympics. But it comes back to leaving women’s surfing just that little better than we found it.”
Tell us about your life off the tour? How easy is it to adjust back to ‘normality’ again, and what do you do to keep yourself busy and active?
“Life off tour is all about keeping my body in-tune, my training on-point and being involved with my business, Fitzgibbons International.
“With our health and fitness program, the All Australian Beach Body, there’s plenty to keep on top of with the team. Whether that’s building the next equipment-free FITZ programs, testing our in-gym workouts or planning our next AABB live shows, it’s a really exciting time and definitely keeps me busy when I’m not competing.
“I have also launched my own charity, the Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation. Its goal is to connect, inspire and energise the next generation of kids to lead active and healthy lifestyles. ”
Surfing lends itself to beautiful imagery: what’s the secret to capturing inspiring surf photos or videos?
“Fran Miller, who was one of the five incredible ladies in Canon’s Women In Surf project, says it beautifully: women’s surfing is all about capturing emotions and creating those reactions in people which make them feel something.
“Whether it’s a setting, a sunrise or sunset, duck-diving under the ocean, smiling in the line-up or capturing some great action moments, women’s surfing transcends mere surfing because it spurs emotions in people.
“That’s the key, and we have to thank the beautiful imagery and the talented photographer who document our sport, our culture.