Ozzie surfing sensation Sally Fitzgibbons has decided not to head to Australia to defend her U/18’s Quiksilver Australian Junior Title, in favour of having a shot at beating Stephanie Gilmore in the Roxy Pro.
Ironically, it was Fitzgibbons' success last year at the Australian Junior Titles that ultimately secured her spot in the trials for the Hawaiian Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach. Since she secured her spot, she's been keen to stake her claim for the Roxy Pro, which may begin as early as tomorrow (Friday 23rd November) and has a waiting period that runs through until December 6th.
The Quiksilver Australian Junior Titles will take place at Victor Harbor, South Australia from December 1-8th. “It was a real hard decision whether to go for another Aussie title or give the Roxy Pro a go," said Fitzgibbons. “Having been in the Aussie titles for the past few years I went with Hawaii. Hopefully the decision pays off and it’s all good in the end."
“With just a couple of days to go and a big swell coming, the tension has started to build here. It’s going to be amazing," added Fitzgibbons. By winning last year's Australian Title, Fitzgibbons went on to win the U/18 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Championships in Portugal and along with world acclaim, earned her shot in this week's Hawaiian trials.
Should Fitzgibbons advance ahead of a field of eight, she will immediately face ASP Women’s World Title hopeful Gilmore, along with Claire Bevilacqua in the Roxy Pro's tough opening round.
Nineteen year-old Gilmore is in the prime seat to create history; a top result at Sunset Beach will see her become the first female surfer to win the ASP world title in her rookie year, but she knows the greatest threat can be a trialist like Fitzgibbons who has absolutely nothing to lose.
“I was surprised when I saw myself as the number-one seed and straight away the term 'trialist' popped into my head," said Gilmore. “But if I am the number one seed and have to draw a wildcard at any event this year, then I would choose Sunset. It really is the most challenging wave we will surf all year and overall I’m feeling good right now... really good," she added.
Fitzgibbons is the lone Australian trialist in the field consisting mainly of Hawaiian surfers. Fifteen year-old Hawaiian Carrissa Moore, who finished runner-up to Chelsea Hodges at the season-opening Roxy Pro at the Gold Coast, is regarded as another major contender.
As the world title race unfolds in Hawaii, over in Oz close to 200 of the nation's next wave of surfing stars will be contesting the 44th annual Quiksilver Australian Junior Titles presented by Samsung and hoping to emulate the success of previous champions like Fitzgibbons.
Victorious surfers in the U/18 boys, U/18 girls and U/16 boys are granted automatic inclusion into the 2008 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Championships in Capbreton, France next May. U/16’s Australian champion Laura Enver will step up a division into the U/18 girls but is disappointed that Fitzgibbons won’t be included amongst her many challengers.
“I heard Sally has been surfing great out at Sunset. So if she can put it all together in the trials, which I know she can, I think she will BLOW UP out there," said Enever “Sally is an awesome surfer and the defending U/18 champion...It isn’t really going to feel the same without her in SA, but I wish her all the best in Hawaii," she added.
Australian titles will be decided in the U/18 boys, U/18 girls, U/16 boys and U/16 girls along with six national school titles from a qualifying field representing all states of Australia.
The impressive list of past Australian Junior champions reads like the whose who of surfing and includes: Joel Parkinson (Coolangatta, QLD), Taj Burrow (Yallingup, WA), Phillip MacDonald (Tomakin,NSW), Tom Whitaker (Bronte), Dean Morrison (Gold Coast), Ben Dunn (Old Bar, NSW), Chelsea Georgeson (Avalon, NSW), Jessi Miley-Dyer (Bronte) and Stephanie Gilmore (Kingscliff, NSW).