Sally started surfing around six years old, but surfing wasn’t the only sport she was enthusiastic about. She represented her State and Australia on 14 occasions in a number of different sports, including athletics – winning gold at the (2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival) 800m and 1500m – touch football, soccer, surfing and cross-country running.
As a surfer, Sally had her first significant results at the age of 14, becoming the youngest surfer to win an ASP Pro Junior (Under 21’s) event, also finishing second at the World Qualifying Series (WQS) Billabong Easter Festival on the same day. She continued to set records throughout her junior years, winning the Australasian Pro Junior Series in 2007 and again in 2008. When she was 16, she traveled to Portugal for the ISA U18 World Titles to win her first World Title and backed it up the following year winning both the Billabong ASP U21 World Title and the ISA World Games Open Title.
In her first attempt to reach the Women’s elite World Surfing Tour, Sally set a record by wrapping up the 2008 World Qualifying Series (WQS) in the first five events, becoming the youngest World Surfing Tour qualifier in ASP history. To date Sally has maintained a top 5 finish every year since being on tour and has finished runner-up for the World Championship 3 times (2010-2012), she has 8 World Tour Titles including the Hurley US Open of Surfing, Ripcurl Pro Bells Beach, Fiji Pro, Billabong Rio Pro and Roxy Pro France.
Behind The Smile, Sally’s Red Bull documentary, was released at the start of 2014, covering Sal’s life on tour as she chased her dream of becoming World Champion. Behind The Smile received rave reviews and was in high rotation on television in Australia and can now be seen internationally on RedBull.tv channel.
Sally also recently released her first book Live Like Sally, co-written with Lucas Townsend. A behind the scenes look at what the life of one of Australia’s most popular athletes is really like, expect Live Like Sally to be under the trees and in the hands of sports fans around the world this Christmas. (Available online at sallyfitzgibbons.com)
Hi Sally, tell us about you?
I’m 24 years old and I live in a small town about 2 hours south of Sydney. I have been on the World Surfing Tour since I was 17. I have been Runner-Up to the World Title 3 times and in the top 5 in the world since I joined the tour. I have won world tour events at the US Open of Surfing, Ripcurl Pro Bell Beach, Fiji Pro, Rio Pro and Roxy Pro France to name a few. I want to promote a healthy active lifestyle to people who want to follow my journey to becoming World Champion.
How long have you been surfing?
I have been in the water since I was a baby but somewhere around 4 years of age Dad started taking me out on a body board and pushing me onto waves. I was probably 8 before I started riding Dad’s long board on my own.
Who was the biggest influence on your life?
My parents and three older brothers are the biggest influence on my life. They have always supported me in chasing after my dream and I wouldn’t be anywhere near it with out their belief, encouragement and love every step of the way.
What did your parents say when you first took up surfing?
They knew surfing would naturally be intertwined in my life once my three older brothers were hooked on it. Living right on the beach, the ocean was our playground growing up and my parents were so pleased to see how much happiness and fulfillment the ocean and surfing gave us.
Do you have siblings that surf?
I have 3 older brothers who all surf and I guess to some extent they motivated me to start. Dad use to push me on waves when I was very young as he did for the boys. My brothers and I still surf together when we can and we also try and do a trip together somewhere each year.
Tell us about the experience to be sponsored by global brands like Red Bull, Samsung, Firewire Surfboards, X-Dubai, Land Rover?
To do what I do and travel the world the competing like have done the past 8 years would not be possible without the support of amazing partners such as these. I was very young when I started so to have the support both financially and logistically from these international companies has been invaluable. Red Bull believed in me and helped push my performance with dedicated training trips that covered mental, physical and technical techniques. They released a documentary that was released last year called “Sally: Behind The Smile” (free to watch on Redbull.tv) showing my journey. I am very proud of the film and can’t thank them enough. Samsung is the first global partner for the WSL surfing tour, Firewire and FCS supply my equipment, X-Dubai is a new partner promoting extreme sport in Dubai and Land Rover get me where I want to go. I’m excited to announce that I am going to collaborate with a new company for the next 2 years to bring out a Sally Fitzgibbons clothing range initially for Australia but eventually for the US market also.
At what point did you know surfing was going to be more than just a hobby for you?
When I was about 8 years old I knew I wanted to become an Olympic Gold medalist or a World Champion. With Professional Athlete stuck in my head I set out trying any and all sports I could get my hands on including soccer, touch football, surf lifesaving, surfing, hockey, basketball, track and cross country running and swimming, to name a few. I loved them all but representative duties started to clash around the age of 15 and I had to ping pong my way across the country. So it was when I was sixteen I needed to commit to one sport and It came down to running track (800m & 1500m) where I won 2 gold medals at the Youth Olympics and Surfing where I was already achieving great results as a Pro Junior and on a professional contract. It was surfing in the end that I felt picked me and I set out on my path to become World Champion as a surfer.
What do you think you would want to be if you weren’t a surfer?
If being a surfer wasn’t an option I’d would take up one of the other sports I worked hard at and loved through my teens before focusing solely on surfing. If athlete was off the table all together I would love to be a sports scientist or physiotherapist for a major team.
Where has been your favorite place to surf?
One of my favourite places to surf would be Fiji. It has such challenging waves that are super powerful. It really gets the adrenaline pumping and your mind hungry and inspired to improve in waves of consequence.
What’s your daily fitness routine like?
Training for me never stops. I am always training for one thing or another whether it’s an extreme adventure in the off season or getting stronger for some component in my surfing. I love finding new ways to keeping my body tuned up. I always carry the blue print of what is working for me the previous year, it’s never about ditching an entire season of work and trying something new. It’s just continually adding and trading out small parts and finding those extra one percenters to take you to the next level. To keep yourself fresh you need a variety of training routines when you are on the road so much. Surfing is always the top priority and there will be at least 2 sessions a day as well as light runs, weights, swimming, stretching and yoga.
Do you have any diet?
Yes and no. My diet is constantly changing due to all the travel to different countries and commitments I have in a day. I’m ruled out of a bunch of indulgent foods being lactose intolerant. I guess variety is a huge part of keeping your food exciting and fun, mix it up and surprise your body, I love those special occasion fruits, the ones that are bit expensive at times or hard to track down here in Australia like; Figs, Blueberries, Raspberries, mangoes and guava. My plate usually consists of loads of raw veggies and fruit, as they are easy to pack in your bag and eat on the run. Plenty of hits of protein through the day, including chilli eggs and avocado for breakfast and chicken, fish, turkey or red meat throughout the rest of the day. I love a good home made chicken soup with lots of veggies also which I am happy to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an in between snack.
What advice do you have for young surfers?
Always keep your enthusiasm and hunger to want to improve and push your own limits. Get out and surf in as many different conditions you possibly can as you need to be able surf in bad as well as good conditions. You will keep accumulating that ocean knowledge which is one of the keys to success in surfing.
What music we can find in your Samsung Galaxy S5?
I have wide variety of music on my S5. Mostly pop music. A few of my favorites at the moment are Taylor Swift, Florence + The Machine and Galantis song U&I : )
What’s your routine before a competition?
Before competition I reduce my weight training and increase my surf hours. Look at the forecast to see what boards I am likely to be riding and work on them and then I stick to a general routine as you never really know what day you are surfing so I prep myself each day as though I am in the first heat. Media requests also increase the closer you get to each event so I ask my management team to monitor them so they don’t interfere with my preparation.
Who are your favorite surfers?
John John Florence & Kelly Slater
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
The legendary Martina Navratilova once told me that Champions adapt. They find a way to over come all adversity. I think that is a key to success. Find a way to always give a perfect effort.
What charity do you support?
I have supported a few charities since I have started my professional career. They vary from people suffering personal tragedy to major causes like breast cancer. I am passionate about running and start every day with a run before I start training or surfing. I am currently the ambassador for ‘Run Australia’ which aims to mobilise our nation with a series of fun runs and get people active while raising money for children’s hospitals around Australia.
What is on your bucket list?
Fly in a private plane to some amazing uncrowded waves around the world. Go to a super bowl one day and run the New York Marathon.
3 things you can’t leave home without?
My Firewire Surfboards, ASICS Runners and my Fitball for stretching.
Who are your heroes?
My family first and foremost. They have always been there every step of the way and believe in my dream. After my family I look to stars in any sport who bring exceptional performances over time like Roger Federer, Kelly Slater…
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic, Determined and Happy
In 5 years you will be…?
I have just begun on my journey to build my own brand based on my book ‘Live Like Sally’. It feels amazing to be exploring my passions and inspirations in depth and start bringing my vision to life. My brand Sally Fitzgibbons is still taking shape but I am working with amazing people and I hope it can continue long after I stop competing.
What do you think of Social Media?
It has changed the way people socialise and connect. From an athlete point of view I really enjoy being able to share what I do with my fans and for the friends/people you follow it allows you to stay in touch even though you are super busy. I would say there are more pluses than minuses.
Where we can follow you?
Favorite food: Grapes
Travel destination: The Maldives
Celebrity Crush: Rodger Federer
Actor/Actress: Our Aussies Chris Hemsworth and Margot Robbie
Quote: Live Your Passion
Book: The Perfect Mile (The story of breaking the 4 minute mile)
Movie: Forrest Gump
Hobby: Sports Fanatic. Watch and follow all sports.
Drink: Fresh Watermelon Juice