Fitzgibbons pumped for WSL finals format

Murray WenzelAAP
Sally Fitzgibbons says the World Surf League's new season-ending finals is a winning move.
Camera IconSally Fitzgibbons says the World Surf League's new season-ending finals is a winning move. Credit: EPA

Sports fan Sally Fitzgibbons can see the appeal of the World Surf League's new title-deciding format as she prepares for her own grand final moment.

The world title contender finished the season ranked third to qualify for the new initiative that will see the top five men and women compete in sudden-death heats to decide the winner on one action-packed day.

Along with compatriot Stephanie Gilmore (fifth) and male rookie of the year Morgan Cibilic (fifth), Fitzgibbons is waiting for conditions to improve at California's Lower Trestles after fog again delayed the Rip Curl WSL Finals on Tuesday.

Cibilic and Gilmore will have to win four consecutive head-to-head battles to claim the title, working their way through the field before a three-heat decider against the waiting No.1 seed.

Previously the world champion was crowned on cumulative points over the season, with the winner sometimes watching from the beach after losing in the final event.

"As a sports watcher it's been great to have so many EPL-style seasons, but all of my favourite sports do have grand finals and play-offs, so it'll be neat to experience that," Fitzgibbons told AAP.

"The ultimate feeling is to be the person that wins in the water, rather than finding out from the carpark after you've been knocked out.

"And in terms of pressure and the stakes, it's super high and to get it all right on those one or two days is incredibly tough.

"It's grooming us to really perform at a high level."

Surfing's Olympic debut this year offered athletes and fans a similar experience, one that Fitzgibbons was on the wrong end of after she was pipped in a high-quality quarterfinal and missed a medal.

She felt the emotion and drama that came with compatriot Owen Wright's bronze though and believes the clear-cut structure is a way for the sport to reach new fans.

"There will be excitement and it's pretty clean cut, not complicated to watch," she said.

"Just follow who you like and hopefully watch them knock some people out."

Chest to overhead-high waves are predicted in coming days as organisers hope to begin surfing on Wednesday morning (AEST).

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