Surfers hoping to deliver Irukandji sting
March 17 2021 - 4:17PM
The Australian surf team will be known as the Irukandjis at the Tokyo Olympics.
Australia’s Olympic surfer Sally Fitzgibbons is hoping to live up to the team’s new name - the Irukandjis - and shock her rivals with some new moves and a special sting in Tokyo.
Just like other national teams like the Dolphins, Kangaroos and Wallabies, the Australian surfing team want to be known as the Irukandjis after the most venomous species of box jellyfish in the world that inhabit northern marine waters.
Australian representatives across all surfing genres will compete under the national identity, embracing a new logo.
Led by seven-time world champion and fellow Olympic surfer Stephanie Gilmore, Fitzgibbons, as well as men’s representative Julian Wilson, decided on the name after months of consultation and with the blessing of the Yirrganydji (Irukandji) Indigenous people of Queensland.
“The team collaborated on an identity and as a competitor you want to have that sting,” Fitzgibbons told AAP.
"It’s a pretty deadly creature but also has that grace and the relation to waves.
“The Yirrganydji people came down and gifted us the name, so we have a connection to our homeland when we are away.”
Fitzgibbons used the one-year Olympic delay to work on aerial manoeuvres, believing it will be a key to medal success in the small waves expected in Tokyo.
“Japan is known for small wave surfing so really technical and progressive style,” the 30-year-old said.
"It won’t be the usual showcase with big waves and reef breaks.
"There’s a big push towards progress on the women’s side and for me, picking up aerials in my arsenal.
"There’s been a lot of bumps and bruises and falling off but it’s a pretty thrilling feeling when you start to land some.
“It’s just about taking risks and taking that chance and I feel like come Olympics time I’m ready to do that.”
Fitzgibbons tried some aerial manoeuvres in a local competition late last year before the World Surf League kicked off, with varying success.
She said a number of women, particularly younger surfers, could nail the moves in practice and wave pools but competition was another story.
“In the long term you’re going to have push toward that surfing to reach the lofty heights like Olympics or world titles so I jumped in the deep end,” she said.
“It hasn’t really been seen in competition yet so I think it’s an opportunity for me to really push into that space.”
With the annual tour event at Victoria’s Bell’s Beach cancelled for the year due to COVID-related restrictions, the next stop is at Newcastle from April 1.
Surfers will then head to Narrabeen and then across to Western Australia for two events.