When we spoke to Sally Fitzgibbons over Zoom in December last year this is what life looked like: she was on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, recuperating from the first contest of the revived WSL Championship Tour (it was postponed for most of 2020 thanks to the pandemic).
After a local shark attack, the final rounds changed location at the last minute, so suddenly Sally and her peers found themselves making history. For the first time, a women’s tour event was held at Pipeline on O’ahu’s famous North Shore – one of the most dangerous surf breaks on earth. Not to mention a spot Sally had never surfed.
“[Surfing Pipeline on O’ahu’s North Shore] was such an awesome opportunity. It was quite hectic, like cram study, but it forced us to learn really quickly. Literally I went from thinking, ‘Where do I paddle out, I’ve never seen this before’ to – by the end of the week – feeling comfortable to be out there. It’s not like any other wave I’ve surfed in an event, so I’m hoping we get to go back there and keep learning. It was just a thrill to surf there,” she explained to Women’s Health.
These curveballs and challenges seem oddly fitting for such an uncertain time. The usually-tightly-scheduled international tour has to be more flexible than ever because of things like travel restrictions and quarantine.
“[Over the past year] I was at home on the South Coast in NSW. It has these wide-open spaces and waves you can surf, and long stretches of beaches and all these different reefs and rock breaks. I was pretty much reliving my grom days! I thought, ‘I’ve got a bit of time, there are these manoeuvres I’ve wanted to try; now’s my time to fall off and faceplant and just try’. There’s still so much to learn on my surfboard. I got to spend an extended amount of time with my mum and dad at home, too, which was really cool, because normally we’re away for 10 months of the year. We’ve travelled non-stop for 15 years probably and I think my body just needed time to sleep and wake up in the same spot and eat the same food. Having my mum’s cooking was just brilliant! I actually think that [time] will prolong my career in a sense. It was like a halfway mark for me.” she added.
Like so many of us, Sally and the surf community are just having to, well, go with the flow.
In fact, it’s her mindset shift that hints she’ll be conquering waves and capable of great things for a long time to come.
“I feel like people are wired to be really ‘up and go, go, go’ and ‘I’ve gotta do more, more, more’, all the time, and that momentum is quite addictive. But if you can also hit cruise mode and, say, read a book or just lay out under some trees, take some deep breaths and have a little nap… those kinds of things really do give back to you 10-fold; [helping] you to feel stable and have a really even keel.”
To read Sally Fitzgibbon’s full Women’s Health cover story make sure to pick up our March 2021 issue, on sale Thursday February 11.
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