FITZGIBBONS TAKES HOME WOMENS FIJI PRO 2014

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posted by James Willmott

Two of the biggest names in Women surfing and fellow Australians Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore have gone head to head in the Final of the Women’s Fiji Pro today, with Fitzgibbons proving too strong, allowing her to take home her second ASP event win for the 2014 season. The two battled for the lead in the Final heat of competition, exchanging first place almost as if hitting a tennis ball back and fourth in the 4-6 foot solid conditions.

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 Sally Fitzgibbons takes out the Women’s Fiji Pro 2014 – Photo by ASP

The Fijian island of Tavarua has played host to the top 17 women surfers over the past week, producing a mix of conditions for the Women to compete in. The final day of competition saw solid swell hit the famous reef of Cloudbreak, providing long, fast tubing, open faces for the competitors to show off their skills to the world.  The day started with the continuation of elimination Round 4, with Fitzgibbons first in the water against an in form and another fellow Aussie, Tyler Wright. Though it was Wright who dominated the heat for the majority, Fitzgibbons fought back with her cutback game, posting a 8.40 and taking the lead with only a few minutes to spare. This resulted in Wright being eliminated and Sally advancing through to the Quarterfinal’s. Heat 4 of Round 4 also saw Hawaiian ripper Malia Manuel overcome New Zealand’s Paige Hareb through smart selections of smaller, cleaner waves at the infamous reef break.

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 Fitzgibbons riding the wall to success during Round 4 – Photo by ASP

5 times World Champion Stephanie Gilmore met South African Bianca Buitendag in Quarterfinal 1. Buitendag opened the campaign first, being rewarded with a strong score of 8.17. A calm and collected Gilmore patiently sat in the line up, eventually being rewarded with a high score of 8.00 herself, through a series of powerful turns. With both now needing a backup second score, the battle was on and it was Gilmore to produce the goods. She earned her ticket through to the Semi Finals by gaining a 7.50 in the final two minutes, bettering that of the South Africans 5.33.

With the tide continuing to go lower and conditions becoming a little unpredictable, Quarterfinal 2 hit the water with top seeded rookie Dimity Stoyle up against current Women’s World Number 1, Hawaiian Carissa Moore. The heat began slowly, with both surfers scoring zero to nothing through the first fifteen minutes.  Eventually both surfers managed to post small scores, though in the dying final 5 minutes, Stoyle scraped into an outside left shoulder, finding her rhythm and eliminated the current World Champion from competition. Though a great moment for the young rookie, a huge upset to both Moore and her supporters.

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 Rookie Dimity Stoyle upstaged World Number 1 Carissa Moore in Quarterfinal 3 – photo by ASP

In the large conditions, Fitzgibbons would again hit the water, this time for Quarterfinal 3 against another fellow Aussie Laura Enever. With the elimination of World Number 1 Carissa Moore only minutes prior, Sally was hungry and eager to improve her position on the overall world rankings. Living up to her name, Fitzgibbons did not disappoint, posting a pair of 7 point rides on her first few waves. Enever unfortunately lost rhythm  after breaking a board going over the falls searching for a tube on a bigger set. Sally once again moved through competition, this time moving directly through to the Semi Finals. Quarterfinal 4 saw Hawaiian Malia Manuel take the win over Johanne Defay of France, posting collaboration scores of 9.50, to that of 8.93 in the solid conditions. The win was extra sweet for Manuel, suffering a serious injury to her wrist in Round 4, though it obviously did not distract her.

Dimity Stoyle met Stephanie Gilmore in Semi Final 1 at the grinding left hand reef break. Stephanie started out in true attacking form, gaining two inside rides and securing reasonable scores, leaving Stoyle sitting on a single low scoring wave. Stoyle’s situation did not exactly improve as Gilmore burst into another bomb, throwing a powerful vertical snap and leaving the Rookie in need of a 9.00 ride to take the win. All in all it was Gilmore who proved to good for the Sunshine Coast’s Dimity Stoyle, allowing the 5 Time World Champion to advance into the Final round of competition.

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 Stephanie Gilmore showing what makes a World Champ – Photo by ASP

Who would meet Gilmore in the final? Only the winner of Semi Final 2, both popular contenders. This heat saw both in form power surfers Sally Fitzgibbons and Malia Manuel come face to face, both eager to get a spot in the Final and perhaps the opportunity to take the whole event. Nerves or fatigue perhaps started to show, as both surfers struggled to find their feet and fell on critical wave sections. Fitzgibbons broke away first, scoring one of the best barrels of the event, gaining a score of 9.07 and starting her campaign off strong. Manuel caught the wave behind, though was unfortunate not to make the last section as she was pinched on the inside. After numerous broken boards, it was thanks to her opening tube ride that Fitzgibbons once again made an ASP Final, now meeting fellow Aussie and friend Stephanie Gilmore for a shot at the first Women’s Fiji title since 2006.

The Aussie super surfers made the most of the 30 minute Final, both starting off with small scores to begin their final Fijian crusade. Stephanie lead with these smaller scores, which only increased when at the fifteen minute mark she completed a series of powerful backhand manoeuvres. Fitzgibbons fought back only minutes, paddling into a set and showing a display of connected turns and hacks. Gilmore continued to hold the lead after Sally’s hard attempts, with only 2.73 separating the two as the clock continued to count down into the final minutes of Women’s competition. Though many thought Gilmore had the event wrapped up, mother nature had other intentions, providing Fitzgibbons an additional wave of which she scored a 3.00, enough to slip the title through Gilmore’s fingers and secure a back to back win in the 2014 ASP Womens WCT. Check out Fitzgibbons  awesome win and all the other highlights on the final day of the Women’s Fiji Pro below.

SurfStitch would love to congratulate Sally Fitzgibbons once again on the spectacular win at Stop Number 5 of the ASP World Championship Tour for 2014. Also, a big congratulations to all the other Women competitors who braved the razor sharp reefs on  Tavarua and put on great performances. The top 34 Male surfers are scheduled to open the Fiji Pro on the 1st of June, with many popular contenders in form and ready to take the title. Who will meet Sally Fitzgibbons on the victory stage? Only time will tell. Until then, keep up to date with all the latest from the ASP World Championship Tour here at the SurfStitch Blog!