Aussie surfers make strong start at World Games

Melissa WoodsAAP
Sally Fitzgibbons won both her first two heats at the World Surfing Games. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconSally Fitzgibbons won both her first two heats at the World Surfing Games. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Australia's surfers have made a winning start to the International Surfing Association World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico where they are looking to secure another two spots for the Paris Olympics.

The Irukandjis, as the Australian team are known, headed to the Caribbean island after Jack Robinson and Molly Picklum won the titles at the World Surf League event at Hawaii's Sunset Beach.

Other team members include Tyler Wright and Ethan Ewing, who have already qualified for the Olympics via their 2023 world rankings, Sally Fitzgibbons, who competed at the Tokyo Games and Morgan Cibilic, who was a surprise selection in the men's division.

While Fitzgibbons returned to the Championship Tour this year, Cibilic finished in the world top five in 2021 but then missed the cut and has competed on the second-tier ever since.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


The World Surfing Games is the final qualification event for the Olympics, which will be contested at Teahupo'o in the French territory of Tahiti from July.

Nicaragua, Sweden, Senegal, Germany, the Netherlands and Taiwan are among 55 nations competing, with 12 spots - five for men and seven for women - up for grabs.

The Game AFL 2024

The winning men's and women's teams will also earn their country another Olympic quota spot.

Should the Irukandjis taste success, Surfing Australia's high-performance team will make the call on Olympic contenders, taking into account form since early 2022 and suitability for the big-wave conditions likely to come in Tahiti.

Surfers can contest up to 11 heats if they go through repechage all the way to the final, making it a marathon competition over a week.

Fitzgibbons has thrived in the format, winning the event three times (2008, 2018, 2021) and finishing third in 2022.

The 33-year-old was again in impressive form, winning both heats she contested while Picklum blew away rivals in her opening heat and then backed up with another victory in a low-scoring second outing.

Wright also won her first heat but was upset by Chinese 15-year-old Siqi Yang, although she still advanced straight into round three.

Fitzgibbons was thrilled to be back in the green and gold.

"It's just awesome to go out and represent your country and you look around and there's so many nations, it's amazing," the 33-year-old said.

In the men's event, Robinson and Ewing were both undefeated through two rounds while Cibilic was forced into the repechage after finishing last among the four surfers in his second-round heat.

"The waves are actually fun - it's small today but it's super fun," Robinson said.

"Puerto Rico has been treating us well - nice people, warm water and good waves as well."

America's Tokyo Olympic champion Carissa Moore, who has taken the year off the World Surf League tour, and Brazilian Yago Dora posted the best scores of the day.

An 8.83 from Dora set the bar at El Pico, while Moore's 16.00 heat total topped the action at Margara.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails