At 24 years of age, Sally Fitzgibbons already has a list of world surfing championship titles to her name. One of the most recent was this year’s Fiji Pro, which Sally managed to take out with a painful perforated eardrum and a bandaged head — a testament to her resilience and drive.
The South Coast local has also featured in a biopic and released a book called Live Like Sally, filled with sporting career, health and fitness wisdom.
More recently, she’s been named the face of Solar D, a line of sunscreens that allows vitamin D production — which is handy, because despite her sun-soaked lifestyle Sally is vitamin D deficient. “With all that sun that I’m getting my skin hasn’t been absorbing it, so it’s a cool way to find a solution to that,” she says.
How on earth did you keep surfing after you ruptured your eardrum?
“I didn’t really realise the consequences or how powerful the wave was, and all I knew was that I busted my ear. I just remember the doctors taping up my head, and I had no idea what I looked liked and I couldn’t hear a thing. Before I knew it I had gone through all the way to the final. The feeling of winning, it was just — my whole body was in so much pain. Everything was just like a big heartbeat in my head, and the pain didn’t return until later that night after all the adrenalin. I started vomiting severely for about six hours because I was so exhausted. It was pretty full on.”
Mick Fanning's shark encounter was big surfing news this year. What's the scariest moment you've had?
"That whole scenario hit really close to home. I’ve only ever seen sharks in passing — touch wood, none have attacked me. I think perforating my eardrum was the worst because everything was quiet but I didn’t know what had happened. And breaking my wrist in Fiji — I was paddling up the coral reef, you can see all the cuts on my wrists, arms and legs. It makes a good story but at the time it was pretty scary."
You're up super early every morning - is that ever a struggle for you?
"It's the biggest misconception that it’s really 'easy' or you were 'born' to wake up early and exercise. It's all drawn from motivation to achieve something; the feeling you get when you miss a session, its terrible. That way, getting up and starting your day is easy. I set four alarms. Don’t be fooled — there are still alarms and I still have to kick myself up the butt and put my shoes on."
You're constantly travelling. How do you exercise on the fly?
"As soon as I hop off the plane, I go running. Instead of just doing a 20-minute loop, try doing point A to point B, sort of like sight-seeing. Look around where you are, there is usually a park or a beach or sand dunes, so just do your traditional body weight circuit — burpees, jump up on the benches, push-ups, crunches. Have a three pronged attack — maybe a hotel gym for one session, an adventure run, and then a park session."