You couldn’t help but share in Sally Fitzgibbons’ excitement as she was chaired up the beach for the first World Tour event win of her career. The perpetual runner-up, Sally has spent the last two years on Tour smiling broadly as she collects second-place trophies. But today, the sentimental favorite of the week—and arguably the most deserving champion—raked in the highest scores on the women’s side of the event and took home her first career victory.
In the first semifinal, World No. 1 Carissa Moore defeated 2009 Bells winner Silvana Lima with her smooth, powerful surfing, securing her fifth consecutive ASP World Tour event final. Coming off a win at Snapper, Carissa was at the top of her game. “I saw Carissa do a few turns this year that I’ve never seen women do before,” said Kelly on the beach after her heat.
Then, in the second semifinal, four-time World Champ and three-time event winner Steph Gilmore faced off against an on-fire Sally Fitzgibbons. They began the heat dead even, trading off 5s and 6s. It looked as if Steph was back on the right path after her mediocre result at Snapper. But with 10 minutes to go, Sally came from behind with a 9.1 then backed that up with a 9.27, putting the nail in Steph’s coffin. Sally made her victory lap as the buzzer sounded, high-fiving Steph on the way to the final.
A perfect finals matchup, Sally and Carissa—the two young, intensely competitive, Red Bull-trained, smile-plastered surfers—took to the water. While Carissa characteristically destroyed the waves that came to her, Sally’s rampage was unstoppable. With less than a minute remaining, Sally had raked in an 8.60 and 8.17. Carissa needed an 8.7, but unfortunately for her, it was a situation she was unable to recover from.
In the end, awashed in “super stoked” smiles and compliments, two of the happiest girls on Tour were given their Bells. “This is just incredible. I can’t feel my legs and my arms. Hopefully I don’t cry,” Sally said on stage, as she broke down in tears. She finally went home one victory richer. And her father one mustache poorer, having promised his daughter he’d shave his ‘stache when this day finally happens.
1. Sally Fitzgibbons
2. Carissa Moore
3. Steph Gilmore, Silvana Lima