Sally sets off to take on world's best

Gerroa surfer Sally Fitzgibbons wants to emulate Stephanie Gilmore's feat of winning the ASP Women's World Tour in her rookie year. Fitzgibbons, 18, on the Gold Coast to prepare for the circuit opener next week, proclaimed she would like to reach the peak of women's surfing in her debut season - just as two-time champion Gilmore did in 2007.Gilmore successfully defended her crown in 2008 but Fitzgibbons, who last year won the World Qualifying Series (WQS) faster than anyone in history, said she wouldn't take a back seat to her compatriot. While stopping short of guaranteeing a world title, Fitzgibbons said winning her sport's highest honour at her first attempt was her "top priority". "At the end there is going to be a world champion and everyone on tour wants to be it," Fitzgibbons said, "It's my goal and I'll try as hard as I can - it might not happen, but that's always the top priority and something I'll work towards. "It's been one of my goals since I was little."Fitzgibbons would have to upstage the likes of Gilmore, Brazilian Silvana Lima, and Peruvian Sofia Mulanovich over eight events - starting with the $90,000 Roxy Pro at Snapper Rocks - to make her dream come true. After conquering all before her on the WQS, Fitzgibbons said making the step up to the top tour was "a natural progression"."The unwritten rule was you had to turn 18 to join the world tour, so it was good timing," she said. "I'm ready to start a new journey."Fitzgibbons is relishing the chance to compete with the world's best on equal terms after last season entering world tour events via qualifying. "For some people they get on a roll and are lucky enough to get to choose what they do," she said. "Some are on the WQS for 10 years and never make it onto the world tour."I won't have to qualify for events any more, it gives me an extra level of confidence."Although Fitzgibbons' career prize money of $57,800 is dwarfed by the earnings of Gilmore and the other top-seeds, the former Illawarra Academy of Sport scholarship holder isn't intimidated by the task ahead."Coming up against the likes of Steph (Gilmore) and Sofia (Mulanovich) is going to be tough - there's going to be a lot of ups and downs," she said. "The other girls aren't going to give up anything easily, there's no easy events, no easy heats."Fitzgibbons said she has already surfed against "90 per cent" of this year's world tour entrants. The former NSW representative in five sports believes the WQS has given her the grounding for a tilt at her sport's top prize. "WQS has prepared me for the tour - there's lot of travel and the surfing is a lot more aggressive and there's a lot more hassling in the heats," she said.Fitzgibbons, who attended Kiama High, plans to surf in the higher-rated WQS events this year in case things go pear-shaped on the world tour. She can draw confidence that her first two world tour events will be at familiar breaks - the looming Roxy Pro is at Snapper Rocks and round two's Rip Curl Pro will be held at Victorian surfing mecca, Bells Beach. However, Fitzgibbons is a tour rookie and she has never surfed at some of the stops, including Barra da Tijuca in Brazil (round three) and Peru's Punta Rocas. Organisers have also thrown in an event, the Rip Curl Search, which will be held at a mystery venue.

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide