Sally Fitzgibbons knows there's a long way to go before the World Title race is over. Although she's the current Jeep Leader, she's acting like she's the one giving chase, and that's because she is...in a twisted way.
At the end of the year each surfer's lowest two results are dropped -- only their best 8 count towards the World Title. Now, if you're like Sally, and always looking for more fire, the best way to do that is drop everyone's two lowest scores heading into the Roxy Pro. If she did that, counting only the top 6 results, Tyler would actually be holding a slim 200 point advantage. Fortunately for Sally, that's not how it works. She's enjoying 5,150 point lead 8 events in...but then again, that number is misleading.
After this event in France, which is event No. 9, we can safely drop each competitor's lowest score. In that scenario, Sally's dropping a 5th place result worth 5,200 points, and Tyler's dropping a 13th, worth 1,750. So no matter how you slice it, this race is tighter than it looks. Thus, Sunday's scrappy behavior in Hossegor.
In one of the most hard-fought, intense battles of the Roxy Pro France so far, Sally Fitzgibbons overcame Silvana Lima and Keely Andrew to take the heat win in Round Three and jump straight to the Quarters. For Fitzgibbons, the win was an important step in her quest to win her first-ever World Title.
The heat also pitted three strange bedfellows who have rarely, if ever, battled each other in a three-woman heat. But they do have some history in pairs. In this event, Lima won Round One over Fitzgibbons, sending her to the ever-stress-inducing Round Two. Lima, a relative underdog on the elite Championship Tour, has also upset Fitzgibbons in previous encounters, including Round Four at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast in 2015.
Lima and Andrew, meanwhile, have a more recent and upbeat history. The two women battled each other in what was a first CT Final for each of them at the Swatch Pro at Trestles last month. While Lima was the eventual winner, their results lifted not only their rankings, but also their respective confidence.
Sally followed up her Round Three win with another hard-fought victory over wildcard Bianca Buitendag in the Quarterfinals. Buitendag gave her a run, too, earning the highest score of the heat -- an 8.67. But Sally's fire pulled her through to a narrow victory.
When competition resumes Sally will be up against a suddenly in-form Carissa Moore in Semifinal No. 1. The World Title ramifications in that matchup are huge, and Sally knows it. Carissa World No. 3 Tyler Wright will be right behind her in Semifinal No. 2 looking to capitalize if she falters. The stakes couldn't be higher for both surfers.