Aussie duo take titles at Surfest
CAPTION: 2016 Taggart Women's Pro Champion Sally Fitzgibbons : WSL/Sproule
It was an all-Aussie affair when the 2016 Surfest champions were crowned today, with Matt Wilkinson and Sally Fitzgibbons riding the wave of success at Merewether Beach.
In clean four to six foot waves, No.1 seed Fitzgibbons took on six-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore in the final of the Taggart Women’s Pro, posting a few early mid-range scores to amass a total of 14.73 on the back of a measured display of smooth and powerful rail surfing.
Gilmore was still in the race right up to the final siren chasing a single wave score of 8.56 to take the title.
But she was unable to repeat her stunning semi-final form, which had seen her cruise her way into the top two with a near perfect 19.5, leaving Fitzgibbons to secure her second Surfest crown.
The South Coast surfer was understandably thrilled with the result.
“This is so good - such a great start the year,” Fitzgibbons said.
“Having a win early in the year is awesome for confidence and momentum going into the CT season.
The best thing has been competing at this event. Competing in these regional areas is so great with all the support and energy shown from the local community there’s just nothing better.
“I’ve been coming to Newcastle for years now and it really does feel like a home away from home I’ve had a blast all week as well as preparing for Snapper.”
After the event Gilmore admitted she had peaked too early, but was still happy with her return to the surf following her injuries last year.
“It’s been a really good week,” she said.
“I feel like we had some really fun waves this event. I definitely peaked in my semi then couldn’t really buy a wave in the final, but I’m really happy with this result, it’s a great start to the year.”
CAPTION: 2016 Maitland and Port Stephens Pro Champion Matt Wilkinson: WSL/Sproule
Meanwhile in the men’s event, Wilkinson used the momentum from his own near perfect semi-final victory (19.44) to take out the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro and claim the Mark Richards trophy ahead of Italian sensation Leonardo Fioravanti.
Wilkinson demolished the right-hand walls presented in the final with massive vertical backhand re-entries to post two excellent range scores, an 8.83 and a 9.00, and end his long-lasting victory drought.
“I’m so stoked, I didn’t really realise how long it had been since I had won something,” Wilkinson said.
“I’ve had a few seconds and thirds but it definitely feels good to be on top.
“Newcastle is so great I’ve been coming up here for years and have a good group of friends here so I always feel comfortable here.
“We had such good waves today it was awesome. I was getting some good rights so I feel like it’s pretty good preparation for Snapper.”
For more results from across Surfest 2016 visit www.surfest.com.au