The desire to succeed in business is drip-fed into Modern Australia’s bloodstream. In the era of the entrepreneur, there’s a nationalistic responsibility to scramble whatever cash is lying around and back that idea or that concept and ride the ever-ascending escalator of success. Some find it too late. Others are blinded by implausible ideas or emotional concepts. Few can convert their desire into business success.
But for Sally Fitzgibbons, it wasn’t simply a need to thrive in business for as long as she can remember. Rather, the infectiously positive pro surfer set her sights on the titles she’d envisage as an 8-year-old, unwaveringly determined to one day live the success of the idols she’d mimic in the oceans and ovals around her home in Gerroa, NSW. Now 25 years old, she’s realised her dream on the World Surf League. But the sports fanatic is also converting a newfound passion for business building - 30 metres out, from the sideline, perfectly over the black dot.
“I still get so much reward from chasing down a world title and improving as an athlete,” says Sally. “But the business side of things, and creating a holistic vision, has offered me the new challenge I’ve needed. Just like I did earlier in my surfing career, I get to learn from those more experienced than me all over again.”
In 12 years of being a professional surfer Sally’s built a formidably competitive career with nine world tour wins and three runner-up finishes to the world title (’10, ’11, ’12). Sally won the World Junior Championship in 2007 and again in 2008 after wrapping up the series in just five events. The qualification on the elite tour made her the youngest surfer in history to do so. Since finishing fifth in her first year on tour, she’s been a title contender every year and is known as the most consistent surfer in competition.
2011 was a special year for Sally. She won her first ASP world tour event at the 50th Anniversary Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach. A week later she went back-to-back in New Zealand at the Subaru Pro. Then in August she won the Nike US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach, California. With more victories in Australia, Brazil, France and Fiji Sally’s been a figurehead in the evolution of women’s surfing, in an era that’s bridged the gap in performance and recognition with the men.
Sally is not the stereotypical, kicking-back surfer. There is nothing blasé about the way she surfs, even less about the way she lives. There came a time when Sally was younger where a decision had to be made between the ocean and the track. That’s right, Sally could’ve been an Olympian. In 2007 she was staring down a path set before her by the great Cathy Freeman as an Australian athletic runner having won the 800m and 1500m at the Australian Youth Olympics in Czech Republic. Add National level achievements in soccer and touch football and Sally’s infatuation with sport and living an active lifestyle were clear. But it was the ocean that could provide her with the competitive environment she loved, but also the space to remain mindful and in touch with the natural world.
It’s why Sally’s renowned as being the most committed to her training on the world tour, and in Australian womens sport. Nothing better highlights her determination and courage than her 2015 Fiji Pro victory (her second in as many years at the famed Cloudbreak Reef), beating the entire field despite suffering a painful and balance-impairing perforated eardrum. The story of her Aussie grit went global, but for those close to her it wasn’t surprising. Everything Sally does has purpose, and every decision and effort is to make a step towards the goals she set out for herself. Determination and breathing go hand-in-hand for Sally.
And now, the well-being enthusiast is spreading her determination into her own channels with the launch of Fitzgibbons International, and the Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation. “When I see the look on kids’ faces who I’ve met, and I can see them make that adjustment towards living a healthy lifestyle and being active, that’s what makes it so special! The foundation is about sharing that moment with as many Aussie kids and families as I can.”
Great new partnerships with Piping Hot, Samsung, CoCo Joy, Technogym, Land Rover, and X Dubai will spearhead a productive 12-month campaign in 2016. You can expect her business, Fitzgibbons International, will be just as progressive as her athletic prowess. “As an athlete you have to show determination and diligence, no one else is going to get you up at 4:30am to train by yourself,” she says. “I have that work ethic engrained in me and I think it’s put me in a great position to launch a business career.”
She put pen to paper with her first book Live Like Sally in 2015. The book shared the knowledge and lessons Sally’s learned in areas like fitness, nutrition, body image, victory, defeat and adventure. Understandably, fans wanted to know more about Sally the person, not just the surfer.
Fitzgibbons International will launch Train like Sally next year. Sally’s digested her own varied fitness program into a tailorable iOS and Android app. “Train like Sally is my initial download of the fitness knowledge I’ve learned over years of being an athlete,” she says. “I’ve learned so much about building a holistically strong body with a huge variety of fitness forms; whether it’s boxing, HIIT, swimming, gym sessions or body weight exercises. Training should be fun, it shouldn’t be a chore, and the secret to sticking to your programs is variety. TLS can be for an exercise first-timer, all the way through to those wanting to push the limits and be their very best athlete.”
2015 was a milestone year for Sally, not just as a businesswoman and athlete but also in her personal life. Now fiancé, Trent Merrin - an National Rugby League star and also dedicated athlete - and Sally were engaged in November during a romantic Vanuatu getaway. Still living on the South Coast of NSW, in a newly renovated Gerroa dream home, Sally’s focused on growing her empire with its simple, yet infectious vision: “I want to help people realise, ‘You know what, I can do anything I put my mind to.’ There’s nothing ever wrong or embarrassing about trying your very best.”