Fitzgibbons wins Rio to become world No.1

Australian Sally Fitzgibbons has beaten Carissa Moore 14.64 to 12.57 to claim the Rio Pro title and the yellow leaders' jersey in the World Surf League.

Australian surfers Mick Fanning and JULIAN WILSON speak to the media during a press conference at All Sorts Sports Factory in Sydney, Australia.
Australian surfers Mick Fanning and JULIAN WILSON speak to the media during a press conference at All Sorts Sports Factory in Sydney, Australia. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Australian Sally Fitzgibbons is the new world No.1 after beating Carissa Moore in the final of World Surf League's Rio Pro in Brazil.

The 28-year-old Fitzgibbons prevailed 14.64 to 12.57 over former world champion in clean 4-5 foot surf at the beachbreak of Saquarema on Sunday.

The win, Fitzgibbons' first since the 2017 Margaret River Pro, adds to her three other podium finishes in 2019 to give her the yellow jersey at the halfway point of the season.

Both she and Moore have overtaken reigning world champion Stephanie Gilmore, who was eliminated by the Hawaiian in the semi-finals.

"It feels pretty delightful," Fitzgibbons said.

"Just coming in and receiving that welcome back to the beach, that was insane, and some of my mates cheering me up the beach and a big hug from my dad.

"And I know my mum's watching out there with all my family and friends, and just the team that had my back, so it's all part of the process and they've all chipped in and it's pretty cool to be standing here."

The Gerroa local said it didn't feel "surreal" to be in the leaders' jersey heading into the mid-season J-Bay event in South Africa on July 9-22.

"It's all incremental things and experiences, they just accumulate. When I'm out in the water I just feel so free," Fitzgibbon said.

The final started slowly with a lull starving the pair of set waves and Fitzgibbons attacking two smaller waves, with an attempted aerial on the second, but she fell on both to log a total of 1.67.

With Moore holding priority, the Australian chipped away on the inside and managed to put together two snaps for a score of 4.83 on her fourth wave.

She backed it up by stalling into a small tube but the Hawaiian immediately dropped into a large set wave and stalled into a bigger barrel of her own.

Fitzgibbons narrowly led Moore 8.16 to 7.27 with 15 minutes left on the clock.

But former world champion then strung together some small turns on her next wave to lead 12.57 to 10.80 despite the Australian back-dooring what looked to be a better barrel.

The Australian responded with a small cover-up before aggressively hitting the curling lip and landing a half-floater for a score of 8.67 to put her ahead over her ahead at 14.64 to 12.57 with about three minutes to go.

In final 30 seconds FItzgibbons used her priority to take the very last wave and deny Moore the chance to snatch the win.

Fitzgibbons now leads the world rankings on 32,580 points with Moore on 31,175 and Gilmore in third on 30,320.

In the men's final, local Felipe Toledo beat South African Jordy Smith 18.04 to 8.43.

Toledo threaded a barrel before landing a massive aerial and transition into a quick snap to log a 9.37.

His next wave featured a massive tail slide going before he cut back into the lip and somehow emerged from the whitewater to score an 8.67 and send the home crowd into raptures.

Australian Julian Wilson was eliminated in the quarter-finals and is ninth in the rankings.


AAP