Donning a helmet that stops her from hearing anything hasn’t dulled Sally Fitzgibbons’ surfing skills.
The Australian has moved into the quarter-finals of the US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach to continue her fine recent form.
Fitzgibbons wore a protective helmet as she still overcomes the perforated eardrum suffered on her way to victory in the last World Surf League event in Fiji.
After being upset by France’s Johanne Defay in round one, Fitzgibbons bounced back on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) with a defeat of fellow Australian Keely Andrew in a sudden-death second round heat.
She then scored a two-wave total of 15.03 out of 20 to narrowly pip another Australian, Nikki van Dijk (14.86), in the third round and move straight into the last eight.
The 24-year-old says the helmet is noticeable but necessary.
“It was a tricky month off and I’ve been trying a long-term solution to dealing with perforation,” she said.
“I can’t hear with all the gear and it’s a little disorienting and uncomfortable but as long as I’m in the water I’m happy.”
Others through to the quarter-finals include world No.1 Carissa Moore and fellow Americans Lakey Peterson and Malia Manuel.
Van Dijk is the only other Australian remaining in the competition and will face Brazil’s pocket rocket Silvana Lima in a sudden-death fourth-round heat when competition resumes.
Two-time world tour runner-up Tyler Wright suffered a disappointing second-round exit.
The Lennox Heads surfer, the defending event champion, was knocked out by America’s Alessa Quizon.
It’s Wright’s first round two exit in her world tour career.
“I found it really tricky out there,” she said.
“Alessa’s wave selection was really on point. I’m definitely bummed that I didn’t get through. I definitely would have liked to put on more of a performance.”