An epic Finals day at the Fiji Women’s Pro, Stop No. 5 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT), saw Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) reign supreme and claim victory after a day of pumping surf at Cloudbreak. She went head-to-head with five-time ASP Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) in their first match-up of the 2014 WCT season.
Fitzgibbons claimed her second WCT victory of the year after winning the Fiji Women’s Pro today. She will retain her ASP World No. 2 position after taking the win over Gilmore. The pair wasted little time in getting to their feet in the Final, catching small scores to kick off the heat. With less than 15 minutes on the clock, Gilmore found a crucial wave for a narrow lead over Fitzgibbons. The World No. 2 fought back in need of only a 2.73, and found a wave, overtaking the lead with a 3.00. Her modest scores proved enough for the victory, marking back-to-back wins on the 2014 ASP Women’s WCT. She previously faced Tyler Wright (AUS), Laura Enever (AUS) and Malia Manuel (HAW) on route to the Final.
“I guess wins come in waves for me! To win in beachbreaks in Rio last week and then in reefbreaks in Fiji this week is a huge boost to my confidence,” said Sally Fitzgibbons. “I knew that I’ve been surfing well this year and I just needed things to fall my way before the wins started coming. Carissa (Moore) had a huge start to this season, but the year’s a long way from being finished. I’m looking forward to the US Open.”
Gilmore was in excellent form through the duration of the competition, topping Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) and Dimity Stoyle (AUS) on her way to the Final, but failed to find the score needed to surpass Fitzgibbons for the win. The second place finish sees her move up in the rankings to current ASP World No. 3.
“The surf certainly got tricky there at the end of the day,” said Stephanie Gilmore. “There had been good waves coming in all day, but it’s a challenging lineup and easy to find yourself out of place. It was a pretty slow Final and I fell on a couple that I could have capitalized on. All in all though, it’s been a great day, the girls all charged and it’s been a great return to Fiji for the ASP Top 17. Onto the next one.”
Malia Manuel (HAW) secured an equal 3rd place finish, her best result since 2012, after facing the event winner Fitzgibbons in the Semifinals. The heat had numerous broken boards and heavy wipeouts with both athletes putting it all on the line, but it was Fitzgibbons’ heaving tube ride that got the better of the Hawaiian. Manuel goes home as one of the Fiji Women’s Pro top performers despite sustaining an injury in Round 4.
“It’s been an emotional day,” said Malia Manuel. “The waves have been pumping and the girls have been going so hard. I got hurt pretty early on in my Round 4 heat, but I was able to pull it off. The doctors went from thinking my hand was broken to thinking that it was a concussion. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline, but once they wrapped it, I felt like I could manage. I definitely felt it when I was grabbing rail on a few and maybe if I wasn’t hurt, I could have pushed through. Congrats to Sally (Fitzgibbons) though. She had an amazing barrel and has been surfing well all week. Thanks to the Fijians for hosting us in the beautiful islands this week too.”
Dimity Stoyle (AUS), the highest-ranked rookie on Tour, caused the upset of the event after taking down the World No. 1 and reigning ASP Women’s World Champion in the Quarterfinals. She went on to face event runner up Gilmore in the Semifinals but failed to find the excellent score need to best the five-time Champion.
“This has been the best event of my life,” said Dimity Stoyle. “The waves have pumped at Cloudbreak and then Restaurants and then back at Cloudbreak today and the girls have taken it head on. I would have liked to have put up some bigger scores today, but to take down Carissa (Moore) and come up against my hero Steph (Gilmore) in the Semifinals in pumping Cloudbreak is like a dream. Really stoked to be here.”