Australian surfer Sally Fitzgibbons has taken out the Margaret River Pro by beating defending world champion Tyler Wright in Saturday’s final.
A three-time world runner-up, Fitzgibbons out-pointed Wright 14.90 to 12.53 to claim her maiden victory at Margaret River after eight years on the world tour.
The 26-year-old joined six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore in top spot in the 2017 World Surf League rankings heading into this month’s event at Victoria’s Bells Beach.
“I feel on top of the world,” Fitzgibbons said.
“I really have that confidence in myself at the moment. Everything I’ve been working on this year has put me in such a good mindset.
“I just feel a sense of belonging. My body and my mind are where I want them to be and I have the desire to take my surfing to the next level.”
Wright was the popular tip after dominant performances leading up to the final, including a comfortable victory over American Sage Erickson in the semi-final.
But Fitzgibbons grabbed the initiative early in the decider and Wright couldn’t produce a winning ride.
Wright and Fitzgibbons both grew up on the NSW South Coast and are longtime friends.
“I was stoked for Sal to come away with the win,” Wright said.
“I’ve known Sal since I was nine years old and I was stoked both of us were in the final.”
Fitzgibbons qualified for the final with a narrow win over six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
An uncharacteristically subdued Gilmore watched and waited for almost 30 minutes of the semi-final before catching her first wave.
The 29-year-old scored a 7.0 on her final ride but her combined tally of 10.93 fell short of Fitzgibbons’ 11.43.
“I was in a weird mood and I couldn’t snap out of it,” Gilmore told Fox Sports.
“I was waiting for something that wasn’t really going to come. I knew Sally wasn’t getting great scores, but it just felt weird out there.”
Organisers called a lay-day in the men’s competition and expect more favourable conditions on Sunday.
World No.1 Owen Wright meets fellow Australian Jack Freestone in the first quarter-final and Hawaii’s defending world champion John John Florence takes on Tahiti’s Michel Bourez.
Brazilians Adriano de Souza and Felipe Toledo square off in the third quarter-final, while experienced South African Jordy Smith has drawn American Kolohe Andino.