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."
Need some guidance? Watch Bachelor Sam Wood demonstrate an easy bodyweight circuit. (Post continues after video.)
What drew you to the Solar D range?
"Being in the sun so much, you’re just looking for that next product that will just give you longevity. I think there hasn’t been any groundbreaking new thing to happen in the sunscreen business since they came up with water resistance in the '90s!"
Aside from sunscreen, how do you protect your skin and hair from the elements?
"Just putting that moisture through your hair and on your face. All of your pores get so clogged up, so it’s like a cycle of 'protect, protect protect' and then 'cleanse, cleanse, cleanse', and then moisturise again. As soon as I jump out of the water I use a leave-in conditioner or coconut oil."
What are your go-to beauty products?
"My beauty regime is very on the go. I use a BB cream, I like Fluid Splash from ModelCo. I use a nice water-proof mascara, also ModelCo's one, and a gloss for my lips — but one with an SPF 50, because your pawpaw ointments are great utility products but they burn in the sun. There's one by Ella-Bache that’s not too bad. Then I get a tint that I use for lips and cheek." (Post continues after gallery.)
What does your daily fitness routine look like?
"Before the sun is up I do a five kilometre run, just running and intervals and mixing that up. I’ll surf on day break, and I’ll have a gym session in the morning and surf in the afternoon. I always do a bit of a wind-down session like yoga. There's not really an 'off season' for me, because we go from the end of January to December. It's pretty constant so you want to be feeling great and in shape all the time."
In your book, you mention running is your meditation. Why is that?
"If you can get your body to the stage where it is accustomed to running and moving freely, it's like a meditative state because you just have time to think. I never run with music — it's just something I enjoy, the stimulation from the environment. It just clears your whole head, and at the end of the run you can’t quite remember what you were thinking about, but you’ve solved all the problems. You’ve run through it. That’s what I love."
How do you manage all your commitments?
"You just do. You get it done. Also, I make sure that I’m not the smartest person in the room, so I can learn off the people around me. If there are very successful people in your environment and everyone is motivated and enthusiastic, that’s how you're going to approach it, and if you're at a road block there are people there helping you find and create a solution."
Who were the women you drew inspiration from as an up-and-comer?
"Layne Beachley was definitely a dominant figure, she was winning all the [surfing] titles and she's a very successful businesswoman, but I was also looking at the Dawn Frasers and the Cathy Freemans. All the successful women before us taught us how to conduct ourselves on the world stage, how to represent our country and how to perform as an athlete with heart and passion."
You can find the Solar D range in Target, Woolworths, IGA, and a number of pharmacies around Australia. Read more about it here.