SALLY Fitzgibbons knows the questions are coming. They’re inevitable after yet another heartbreaking near miss – that elusive world surfing crown still dangling just out of reach.
It never seemed closer than November this year when she went into the season-ending Maui Pro as WSL series leader. The result was a shock second-round loss to wildcard Brisa Hennessy.
Footage of the final moments of that heat told the entire story. Fitzgibbons, not a wave in sight, looking to the grey skies over Honolua Bay as the rain started to fall.
She is, of course, no stranger to that kind of disappointment having three times finished runner up on the world tour.
Perhaps that’s why she so easily takes the questions in her stride, but the Gerroa product admits this loss stung that little bit more.
“It kind of lives with you,” Fitzgibbons told Game On.
“We’ve come into preseason again and there’s times you have flashbacks of what happened through the season and those moments.
“I was feeling in that zone, I was prepared, I was calm, I had a lot of clarity and I had that feeling that the planets would align. It just showed me again that you never know what’s going to happen in surfing. I think that’s the adrenalin rush for all of us.
“I think if I can take ownership of it and try and be a product of those experiences you come out in a more positive mind frame as opposed to carrying it around like a bit of scar tissue.
“I’ve just got process it and move forward. There’s so many things in my surfing I want to get to this year and and that excites me.”
In sport there is always talk of windows – premiership windows, title windows, championship windows – and surfing is certainly not immune to such chatter.
There were plenty who thought Fitzgibbons’ window had shut when she slipped to a career-low eighth place finish on the 2016 tour.
If 2017 proved anything, it’s that talk of the 27-year-old’s demise as a world title force were greatly exaggerated, leaving her confident that she can breakthrough this year.
“I think it was my most successful season yet in so many aspects and that gives me a lot of confidence in terms of what I can build this year,” she said.
“It was amazing in terms of being [back] in title contention and being in the mix of that top three bubble again and I want to stay there. It’s not a finish line, it doesn’t mean I’ll be there again this year if I don’t push hard and bring something new.
“There’s going to be so many changes in the next two years, there’s new events, the season’s going to change and then we have an Olympic year.
“That’s all still within my grasp so I’m just going to keep pushing on in this journey and enjoy getting a taste of all those things.”