Last Friday, the Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation was hosting the inaugural Garnier Celebration of Australian Women in Surf Gala Dinner at the Novotel in Manly, acknowledging the achievements of the women who have paved the way for female surfing today and beyond.
And what a great celebration of Australian Women in Surf it was indeed. Phyliss O Donnell, Pam Burridge, Pauline Menczer, Layne Beachley, Sally Fitzgibbons, Laura Enever, Sage Erickson and our brand new world champ Tyler Wright were just some of the amazing women who were in the room that night.
I have to admit, I’m not big into pro-surfing and have never followed much of the tour but seeing them and meeting them up close was pretty special. Lisa and the rest of Sally’s crew did an amazing job putting this event together. They compiled some beautiful surf footage and we got to listen to speeches and panel discussions of pro surf gidgets of the past, the present and the future, which was a real treat.
Each and every one of them is a massive personality and whilst they are all different and unique, you could tell they are all united in their passion for surfing and their determination and camaraderie rather than competition.
In her heart felt opening speech, Sally Fitzgibbons shared her excitement when Steph Gilmore’s won her first world title. She made the audience chuckle when she told the story of how her and Laura Enever flew to Hawaii to fill in as a surf stunt for Blue Crush (little did I know).
I guess the most discussed topic of the evening was how far women’s surfing has come and it’s really quite incredible to hear first hand what went down way back when…
The likes of Wendy Botha, Pauline Menzies and Pam Burridge all had it pretty tough at the time. Prize money was tiny and sponsorship was something a lot of them could only dream of. Staying on the tour was not only a matter of surfing it seems but also of financial resilience. There was not even proper accommodation; they were staying in tents at the time. Pauline Menzies got very entrepreneurial financing her tour by buying Levis Jeans in the US at a pretty good price and then reselling them in France at a premium. Pauline was an absolute hoot by the way – she had everyone up in stitches with her stories. It took people like her to speak up to sponsors when they got presented with measly paychecks (especially compared to their male counterparts).
The ‘older guarde’ of gidgets truly did pave the way for the Sally’s and Tyler’s of today. And luckily things have changed tremendously since then which was pretty much summed up by Layne Beachley when she said that if Tyler won 9 out of all the tour events in a year, she would be earning more than Layne Beachley in her whole 19 year (!) career. Isn’t that insane?
The most interesting story of the night though I found was that of Sandra English. I have to say I’d never heard of hear before. She wasn’t on the tour but 12 time Australian champion and she now runs a surf school on the Central Coast. What I liked about her? You could tell she’s just the sweetest person and a grom to and through. She does a lot of elite training with the youngsters and you could just see how she puts her heart and soul into it. Just beautiful!
Oh and if it wasn’t enough to hear from all these beautiful gidgets, at the end of the night we got treated to special performance by Guy Sebastian.
Thanks again to Sally Fitzgibbons and her crew for having put on such a special night. It was wonderful. Thank you!