Fitzgibbons aims for the sky in title bid

Sally Fitzgibbons is hoping 2021 will be the year when she wins her first World Surf League title.
Sally Fitzgibbons is hoping 2021 will be the year when she wins her first World Surf League title.

Australian surf star Sally Fitzgibbons believes the 2021 WSL title battle will be a wide-open race and she's hoping her new-found aerial game will help propel her to the top.

Fitzgibbons is yet to win a world title, finishing runner-up on three separate occasions.

The 29-year-old spent much of the COVID-19 lockdown in the coastal town of Gerroa in NSW, where she was able to enjoy some home comforts and spend long stints in the surf after the 2020 season was called off.

The 2021 title race begins this weekend for the women in Maui, Hawaii, while the men start on December 8 in Oahu.

Normally, the surfer who wins the most points throughout the year is crowned champion.

But in 2021, the top five surfers on the leaderboard at the end of the regular season will head to California for a one-day, winner-takes-all shot at the title.

Fitzgibbons believes the new finals format, plus the change in order of the regular-season surf events due to COVID-19, will throw the door wide open in the race for the crown.

"I reckon it will be awesome. I reckon it will be a major shake-up," Fitzgibbons said.

"Anyone can win in the final event. I'll try my best."

Fitzgibbons has been working hard on her aerials in a bid to make the marginal improvements she needs to snare an elusive world title.

"I just find it really fun, it's really challenging and there are a lot of stacks," Fitzgibbons said.

"I really want to push it into the competitive space.

"The more you work on something, the more you find the opportunity in the heat of battle. It's good to have it in my arsenal. Let's just hope for an opportunity.

"I still feel really youthful. I feel like I've got a lot to give to the sport.

"I feel more experienced when it is that roll-of-the-dice moment."

Four-time world champion Carissa Moore, who won the 2019 world title, is among the favourites to win in 2021.

Australian Stephanie Gilmore will be aiming to win an eighth world crown, while two-time champion Tyler Wright's progression will be closely watched after she missed almost all of 2019 with a long-running illness.

Australian Associated Press