Last hurrah for GOAT as Aussie gun stuns

MARGARET RIVER, WESTERN AUSTRALIA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: Eleven-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater of the United States prior to surfing in Heat 3 of the Opening Round at the Western Australia Margaret River Pro on April 15, 2024, at Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia. (Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League)
Eleven-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater at Margaret River, (Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League)

Sally Fitzgibbons gave an elated fist-pump after a high-scoring late wave secured her one more chance to keep her season alive surviving an elimination heat at the Margaret River Pro where the career of surfing superstar could be coming to an end.

Slater is just one elimination heat away from the likely end of the most successful careers in history after the 52-year-old was sent into sudden-death in WA with the mid-season cut, and likely retirement, looming for the 11-time world champion.

After a weekend without surfing in the second of two Australian events six local men progressed to the next round with another two, like Slater, needing to survive elimination heats with only the top 22 surfers man and top 10 women in the rankins after the Margaret River event surviving the cut.

Fitzgibbons, ranked 14th before her must-win clash, found her groove late with two monster eight-point rides to secure passage in to the round of 16 where she will need to

make the semi-finals to guarantee her spot for the rest of the season.

“They are the moments, why I keep playing the game, why I keep fighting,” Fitzgibbons, who had missed the cut the past two years, said after displaying all her best to stay alive.

“That’s what gets me out of bed. The process to get to now has been over 20 years, and I just wanted to try this stuff in pressure moments.

“Just so much adrenaline, but they’re the moments, that’s why I keep playing the game and just keep fighting for my surfing because if I fight for another opportunity hopefully I can keep showing a bit more.”

Local star Jack Robinson was among those to earn passage to the Round of 32 despite losing his heat while Ethan Ewing won his as did Aussie wildcard George Pittar who took down two-time world champion Jon Jon Florence.

Pittar isn’t even in the top 34 surfers on the rankings which will be sliced at the end of the event with only the top 22 to see out the second-half of the World Surf League season, a number which could yet include 26th ranked Aussie Jacob Wilcox who helped his own cause with a huge heat win.

Callum Robson won the first elimination heat, the last of the day, to also progress.

Slater, however, is ranked 32nd and, having declared at the previous event at Bells Beach that he was going to “wrap this thing up pretty soon” in reference to his career, would need to win at Margaret River to make the cut mid-season cut having narrowly lost his heat.