Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa NSW, AUS) 20, today won the Asp 6-Star Swatch Girls Pro France in an enthralling final over Sage Erickson (CA, USA) 20, in solid 4ft peaks at Les Bourdaines in front of hundreds of spectators lining the shoreline. The Swatch Girls Pro Junior France also commenced today running through to decide the final in 16 athletes in the race for this year’s Swatch Girls Pro Junior France title.
Fitzgibbons, after surviving a thrilling semi-final dual with Courtney Conlogue (Santa Ana CA, USA) 18, continued with a dominating display of critical, committed backhand surfing in the 35-minute final to take an early lead which she controlled through to the siren.
“I am really excited to get the win here with everyone surfing so well. It was super challenging with the conditions so to come out on top I am really happy. It is a great confidence boost and I came here for a little holiday but to get the win was a bonus for sure.”
Fitzgibbons, who continues in the race for this year’s Asp Women’s World title sitting currently in second position, showed extraordinary wave selection skills choosing the larger peeling lefts to build on her scores to end with a combined two-wave heat total of 16.00 out of 20, the highest of the event. A total which reflected her attacking surfing in the tough conditions and the heavy Les Bourdaines shorebreak.
“The waves were great and we held off until this afternoon with the high tide so it was a good way to finish off. The last section is so challenging so I made sure to go harder on the first couple of sections. I am stoked with the scores and to make it through to the podium.”
With her runner-up finish Sage Erickson solidified her position on the Women’s Star Tour rankings and has taken a giant step to securing a spot on the elite 2012 Asp Women’s World Tour. The ever smiling natural-footer worked through the final building on her total and looking for a way of putting the pressure back onto her opponent.
“In each contest I am striving to get on the Women’s World Tour and I think it is a dream like every other surfer has to get on that tour. I have definitely been trying a lot harder to improve my surfing and it seems to be falling into place. I am really excited and I am taking it contest by contest and heat by heat.”
Erickson has taken the Swatch Girls Pro France as a stepping stone towards her ultimate goal and the chance to come up against the best female surfers in the world has shown the young Californian what is needed to make it amongst the world’s best.
“Surfing against Sally I am taking it as an experience and a learning experience but of course I would have liked to win. Taking in what I did right and what went wrong so hopefully I can come back next year and continue.”
Sarah Baum (Durban, ZAF) 17, finished equal third to claim her best Star event result of the season with some outstanding heat performances. Baum had a great Quarter-final battle ousting Women’s elite tour member Alana Blanchard (HAW). With this result Baum will now head to the following event in Portugal with much added confidence.
“I am super stoked with a third here. I didn’t expect to get this far in the event and last year I made it to the Round of 12 and I am really pleased to beat that. It is my best result for sure and all the girls are ripping and it is a great feeling to be part of it. I am heading down to Estoril on Tuesday and I am now looking towards that contest.”
Courtney Conlogue (Santa Ana CA, USA) 18, finished equal third after an incredible semi-final bout against Fitzgibbons which came down to the wire. Conlogue lead early after a combination of backhand hooks and floater to have her opponent on the ropes. With less than one minute remaining without priority Fitzgibbon paddled into the bomb wave of the heat to claim an 8.50 out of 10 and a narrow victory.
“Definitely in this contest Sally is one of the toughest competitors,” began Conlogue. “She and I compete against each other all the time and it is either one or the other but she got my number today. I will see how it goes in the next one but here she surfed very well so it was not a bad battle to lose.”
The Swatch Girls Pro Junior France commenced today with two rounds of explosive surfing put on by the finest under-21 athletes with Sarah Mason (Gisbourne, NZL) 16, leading the charge with an incredible display of backhand surfing to claim the single highest wave score of both events, a near perfect 9.50 out of 10.
“It was really cool going out there with these girls because they are at the top and it was good heat and I am glad to win it. The wave I paddled into I knew it was going to be a good one straight away. I surfed it the best I could and I made sure I finished it to get that score.”
Mason, like many other Pro Junior competitors, impressed in the Swatch Girls Pro France eventually finishing equal 25th. Her committed surfing highlighted her as a future performer at the highest level.
“I love surfing in the Star events because it gives you a lot of confidence when you go into the pro juniors and so it is a very good experience to do the Star contests as well.”
Marie Dejean (Sables D’Olonnes, FRA) 19, competing in her first Pro Junior of the season, advanced comfortably to Round Three in a low scoring tussle ahead of Bianca Buitendag (ZAF). Performing rapid snaps in the critical part of a long right, Dejean was rewarded for her patience waiting for a quality wave.
“At the start there were no waves and I was waiting for a good one and eventually it came and I caught it. It is really cool to have so many French girls in the event and to not feel like a stranger and be in your own country. We are French and in France and we are here to represent our country and I think we are doing a good job.”
Phillipa Anderson (New Castle, AUS) 19, was another standout in the Swatch Girls Pro Junior France with her forehand attack on the long peeling low-tide rights. Anderson smashed out a series of hacks to claim a 9.40 out of 10 and advance to the final 16 surfers.
“I hadn’t actually heard the score but at the end of the wave I knew it was a good ride. I took off and it was a bit smaller and then it just ran along the bank and I did a few solid turns and finished off with a good landing. This is my first year here so I am enjoying myself and just trying to learn and have a good time.”
Surfers competing at the Swatch Girls Pro France are out to gain the valuable points on offer in an attempt to either maintain themselves on the elite Asp Woman’s World Tour or possibly qualify for the 2012 Asp Woman’s World Tour. Meanwhile Europe’s finest under-21 athletes will face some of the world’s best up-and-comers in the Swatch Girls Pro Junior France in their attempt to qualify for the Asp World Junior Series which starts October 3, in Bali, Indonesia.