I’m pretty slow to take notice of pro surf contest happenings, but I recently noticed the lack of a Roxy sticker on Sally Fitzgibbon’s white little thrusters. I couldn’t help but wonder: did she leave them? Did Roxy drop Sally? In the fiercely competitive world of competing for a living, I also couldn’t help but wonder what it’d been like for Sally to take a back seat to Steph Gilmore not only in the WSL rankings, but also with her main sponsor Roxy since they absorbed the World Champ from Quiksilver Women a couple of years ago.
When Sally Fitzgibbons announced that she was leaving Roxy on December 23rd via Instagram, I suspected that there was much more to the story since many were unaware that she no longer wanted to represent Roxy; a suspicion that motivated me to do some investigating. After reaching out to Sally, the information I gathered starts tell a much more complete and accurate story.
Roxy was first notified of Sally’s desire to leave their surf team earlier this past summer and she followed through with her decision a handful of days before Christmas. The main reasons include the need for a change and a fresh approach for 2015 and internal management changes at Roxy.
What’s particularly interesting is that all the major female surf teams have a full roster of athletes, which means it is unlikely that Sally will sign with another major surf brand anytime in the near future. While it wasn’t my place to inquire too deeply into personal finances, I can tell you that competing on the World Championship Tour incurs numerous expenses, which can be more difficult to cover if you lose (or leave) a sponsor. However, Sally has proven herself on the WCT and earned more than $650,000 in career earnings thus far and still has partnerships with Red Bull and Samsung. With that being said, this would be a great opportunity for a mainstream brand to sign Sally Fitzgibbons to a multi-year endorsement deal.
Perhaps the underlying message is that things are not always as they seem. I would have never guessed that Sally Fitzgibbons was thinking of leaving Roxy her team for the past 10 years, or that the management at Roxy was having problems. The surf industry is a small community of tight knit individuals who are afraid of saying the wrong thing, double-crossing the wrong person or being blacklisted for one mistake. A prime example of this is Damien Fahrenfort and Jake Paterson. So here’s to Sally Fitzgibbons for being a trendsetter in a largely unexplored territory, as she isn’t solely motivated by financial gains at the expense of her reputation, beliefs and opinions. Cheers!
What year did you start surfing for Roxy?
I started my career with Billabong when I was eleven but joined Roxy when I was fourteen which ended up being a successful ten-year partnership.
Did this sponsorship deal end because a renewal agreement could not be agreed upon or was there a dispute that caused the deal to end early?
After working on my book ‘Live Like Sally‘ last year it gave me reason to reflect on what I have achieved in surfing the past 10 years and I concluded I was extremely proud of my results and profile I have created. What it also made me do was look at what I want to do over the next 10 years and I decided staying under the umbrella of Roxy wasn’t for me. I began to think about starting my own brand and will be partnering with Spartan Sports (an experienced sporting goods company) to help bring that dream to fruition. I’m not sure what the brand will end up looking like yet but I am excited about the opportunity.
How do you about no longer riding for Roxy? Was it a tough decision or did you feel like this is the right time to switch to a new team?
It was an unusual feeling but one that is part of growing up; everyone can expect to change jobs several times over their career. When I peeled the sticker off the nose and looked down it did feel strange for the first few surfs but I am use to it now.
Will this change in sponsorship affect any of your surfing equipment, training regiment’s etc?
It will be business as usual for me in 2015. I have my ongoing partnerships with Red Bull, Samsung, Firewire Surfboards and FCS as well as some exciting new partners looking to come onboard this year. I am still looking for a major partnership to occupy the nose of my board 🙂
Was leaving Roxy a financial decision or were there other motivating factors?
I am not too sure how Roxy is sitting financially but I know in 2014 there were some management problems that helped me make the decision to move on. I indicated to them in July that I was looking to move on. It was a leap of faith to leave a major sponsor and one that I had been with for so long without already having a new one in place but I have a motivated team of amazing people around me to help the change be a successful one.
What are you looking forward to most for the 2015 season?
The thing I am most looking forward to is a clean slate and another opportunity to win the World Title. It was an extremely close title race last year where I won 2 world tour events (Fiji & Brazil) and made 2 other finals so I look forward to converting some of those other opportunities. I always get excited about improving my surfing!
Will you be announcing a new sponsor?
These things take time and as I am looking outside the surf industry it may take a little longer. One exciting partnership I can announce is with X-Dubai where I will be helping promote Dubai as an extreme sporting centre for the world. They have some exciting plans they are looking to activate over the next two years.
I just released my first mobile App called Sally Fitzgibbons Surfing for Android and Apple IOS… just for fun. On those long flights when I am not reading a good book I can fill in some time playing my new favorite game and thinking about my surfing 🙂