June 12, 2017

Sally Fitzgibbons

(info about Sally Fitzgibbons)

Enjoying the wave

Thomas Kieller

Photos 1 and 2 – Copyright Fitzgibbons International

Photo 3 – Copyright World Surf League (WSL)

Sally Fitzgibbons: Aussie girl.

Fluid and powerful on her board, Sally attacks the waves without holding back. Whether it’s in Rio, Taranaki or at Bells Beach, she leaps into the challenges by using wisely her good physical condition that she built through the years. Younger, she took part in numerous sporting activities such as cross country running. With her athletic background, she executes dynamic maneuvers. Also, the Australian woman demonstrates continually her strong understanding of the wave. She knows how to adapt quickly to the different situations that the ocean brings upon her during the high level competitions that she takes part. Besides, her record on the World Championship Tour is impressive with nearly ten victories to her credit. Moreover, she finished the season in second place of the world ranking three times. Without a doubt, she has always her aim at the highest step of the podium. The surfer from the small coastal town of Gerroa does not lack determination. Let’s remember her 2015 victory in Tavarua, Fiji where she perforated her eardrum… She managed to overcome this adversity by winning the event. The Aussie Girl does not stop only to surf. She involves herself also socially in her community concerning fitness and health issues. It remains that when you see Sally floating on the lip of a wave or surfing into a large tubular wave, it is possible to feel the sensation of freedom that defines so well that sport.

The written interview was done May 25, 2017.


Thomas Kieller: Women on the World Championship Tour of surfing are in great shape. Do you workout in a gymnasium and what kind of exercises do you do there?

Sally Fitzgibbons: Surfing is such a holistic sport. You need to train many attributes in order to be at the top level of our sport. The week has a lot of variety in it and it is determined by where the waves will be best up and down the coast. You then position all your land training around that. I do power and strength training in the gym, cardio sessions in and outdoors, whether it be running, biking, swimming, skipping, boxing or combination of all of them. I round out my training by introducing different things throughout the year including yoga, Pilates, breath training and meditation.

Besides, it's through my love of training and passion for all sports that I set about creating the All Australian Beach Body App so you can get a taste of how to "Train Like SallyThis link will open in a new window.".

Thomas: A surfer must be explosive when doing some maneuvers such as the snap, the roundhouse cutback and many other moves. Does physical training allows you to express yourself more freely on the waves?

Sally: Surfing was born from a free spirited origin of expression but since becoming a professional sport it is no different to any other ones in that strength and fitness help in all areas for you to be a better surfer. The female side of the sport is definitely going through this phase of development now.

Sally Fitzgibbons: Surfing in a tubular wave in Cape Fear near Sydney, Australia.

Thomas: Power is one thing, but you need agility and stability on your board. What kind of exercises do you do to improve your balance on the surfboard?

Sally: There are a great number of exercises that you can do to help in these areas. Incorporating parts of your workout on unstable surfaces like trampolines and fit balls can add the variety that you need. Skateboarding also helps when the waves are not readily available.

Thomas: Do you do exercises for your cardio-respiratory system? Is it an aspect that is quite necessary to develop for surfing?

Sally: For me this has been an important part of my development. I came into the surfing from a running background where I competed at a high level as a junior winning gold at the Youth Olympics in the 800 m and 1,500 m. So, I was used to putting in a lot of kilometers for cardio. I also played soccer, which added to this as well. I think it helps with the events where a lot of paddling is necessary and also when the surf is big and you are going to get held under the water for longer periods.

Thomas: You seem to like to incorporate new exercises and new activities in your workouts?

Sally: I am constantly thinking of ways to mix it up to keep my training fresh, which also helps keep me motivated to train. I think that is where the idea for "Train Like Sally" came from.

Thomas: With all the competitions and the traveling, which come along, is it easy to maintain your workout ethic? And does it push you to improvise quite a bit…

Sally: You definitely have to improvise when travelling as much as I do. I travel with some basic training equipment like bands, plates and my fit ball but the rest comes from looking at the environment I am in. If there are sand hills, steps and mountain trails, they are my first port of call. Then I will check out local gyms and pools and make up a training program around all the available elements.

Thomas: Right now, what would you like to improve concerning your physical condition or about the technical aspect of surfing?

Sally: I am super excited to continue to work on the technical aspects of my surfing including barrels and big waves but also aerials. Surfing is a work in progress for life, I think, and you can always find an area that you can push yourself out of your comfort zone to explore.

Active lifestyle

Thomas: We can see that being active is in your blood. However, we live in an era where a lot of people are quite passive concerning physical activities. Statistics show that 2 in 3 Australian adults are overweight or obese and 1 in 4 Aussie kids suffer from it. We can see similarities in North America and elsewhere in the world. What inspired you to do something about this? And what are the main goals of the Sally Fitzgibbons FoundationThis link will open in a new window.?

Sally: I was devastated to hear those statistics for the first time and it is a condition that is totally preventable. I have been so fortunate to live an active health lifestyle and my parents have always encouraged this from a very young age. It resonated with me when people kept saying that you are lucky to always wake up early and want to exercise but then I would explain that in the beginning I would set four alarms to make sure I got up and that it is hard work at times.

My DREAM is to have everyone DRop Everything And Move for at least 30 minutes a day, which is the mantra of the foundation. As part of my work with the organisation I have started my own active lifestyle event, The International Beach Festival in Sydney, Australia. It incorporates all the things I love about being active and being outdoors including surfing, running, ocean swims, learn to surf for kids and more. It’s a start and I look forward to working with like-minded people to help make a difference.

Thomas: So, when you were younger, you did a lot of sports and physical activities.

Sally: Yes for sure like running, soccer, touch football, basketball, surf lifesaving, field hockey and surfing. Every spare minute that I wasn’t at school or studying, I was playing sport of some description and I was having fun.

Good vibrations on the wave

Thomas: What are the thrills you get from surfing and also about competitive surfing?

Sally: As I mentioned surfing is a way of life that many people revolve their whole lives around from a very young age until into their 70’s and beyond. Surfing really connects you with your environment and you become very aware of the weather and what is going on around you, which I like. Even down to noticing dew on the ground in the summer means that the North Easterly winds are going to blow later in the day at home. I love that aspect.

Competition is a different view altogether. I really like the game of competing and it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It has been a fantastic job for the past ten years and has allowed me to travel the world, see some amazing places and meet some interesting people.

Thomas: Every spot of surfing has its own characteristics and charms. As a surfer, do you develop a relation with the wave and the location?

Sally: Every surf spot has different challenges and evokes different memories. It may have been because you performed well there, the surf conditions were memorable or you overcame something.

The most memorable moment and hardest situation I overcame would have been my victory at the Fiji Women’s Pro in 2015 after suffering a perforated eardrum in round 2. I taped up my head and ear and paddled back out to keep trying my best. Never give up hope and fight right to the end is the way I compete and on this occasion I went on to win the event. Ever since then I feel I can accomplish anything and I always have those memories when I return to Fiji.

Sally Fitzgibbons: After perforating her eardrum in the second round of the Fiji Pro in Tavarua, she comes back and faces another big wave.

Thomas: Finally, do you feel that surfing is a part of the Australian spirit with the ocean and the shinning sun?

Sally: The ocean and beautiful beaches surround Australia and I think the rest of the world must believe that everyone in Australia surfs. Surfing is definitely a big part of our culture with many sporting champions coming from the sport who serves as role models. I’d like to think it is a big part of our Aussie spirit.