SURFING adores Steph Gilmore (this love letter explains why). After all, we took her on her first date. Ever. Now, after world title No. 4, we sit down to catch up.
Q: First of all, what have you been doing to celebrate your fourth world title?
A: I won the world title at eight in the morning — I could’ve just gone back to bed or gone and had some breakfast. I’ve been doing lots of interviews, which isn’t really celebrating, but…we’re in the land of rum. Rip Curl put on a pretty cool party last night with a marching band. There were these crazy drummers playing Latino and hip hop beats. It was good fun. I’m not a very good dancer, but I shook my booty. Did that and had pina coladas for breakfast this morning.
Q: I heard you had a couple drinks in between your heats after winning the title?
A: That’s how I celebrated, actually. They showered me with champagne after my quarterfinal and then I had a beer. Went out and surfed my semi and felt pretty damn good. I was a bundle of nerves in my quarter. I honestly thought Melanie won that heat, so I was really surprised when I won and maybe a little upset, but at the same time it was cool. I’ll take it. You don’t want win a world title and then have a fizzle heat and watch someone else win the contest. I wanted to take the whole lot.
Q: How does this title compare to others you’ve won?
A: They’ve all been different journeys but I feel like four is a cool number — a cosmic number. I’ve always looked up to Lisa [Andersen], Frieda [Zamba] and Wendy Botha, who all had four. I think it was a difficult year, mainly because of the end. I feel like at the start I was winning events but I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t really deserve it. Towards the end, I really felt like had to lift my game, but I was struggling. But it switched on when I needed it.
Q: It must be hard to compare them when you’ve won the title every year you’ve been on tour.
A: It’s hard to compare it to anything else. I guess everyone else would compare the years that they won to the years that they lost — the devastation of losing compared to the elation of coming back and winning. I think the last four years have been one giant, euphoric daze.
Q: Is your goal to win a world title every year you’re on tour?
A: It would be pretty cool.
Q: How many do you want to win?
A: There’s no set number. Sometimes I’ll think about going and doing something else. That would be pretty rebellious, I guess. But then I think about having a perfect record. Imagine staying on tour for 10 years and winning the world title every year. That would be radical.
Q: How have you adjusted to having younger girls like Carissa and Sally pushing you?
A: At the start of the year, they probably weren’t getting the results they were hoping for, but then they started finding their groove. It wasn’t until Carissa won in Portugal that I thought, “Carissa’s in this race now.” She and Sally kept meeting early on in events and taking each other out, which really helped me out a lot. When I met Carissa in the final this event I was really fired up to win — to sort of seal the deal. But anyway, to have girls like like Carissa, Sally and Coco on tour really pushes me along and makes me a better surfer.
Q: Where do you see women’s surfing going?
A: I feel like women’s surfing was getting closer to the guys’ level, but then Dane and Jordy came along and took it to this incredible height.
Q: Most of the guys on the men’s tour can’t do the things they do.
A: That’s right, but the young, young kids are surfing like that in a scaled down version. The younger girls coming — they’re watching the Danes and their young peers surfing like that, so they don’t know any different. They’re going to be trying those crazy airs. So I feel like they’ll be a step ahead.
Q: Whereas you were influenced by Mick and Joel?
A: Yeah, watching them surfing points and doing big carving turns.
Q: A polished, stylish way of surfing.
A: Yeah, and now it’s more punk rock. Go mad. Maybe I don’t really fit into surfing anymore [laughs]. The progression of aerials is unbelievable.
Q: How do you balance femininity with athleticism?
A: The girls on tour at the moment are doing that really, really well. We live the lifestyle of dreams. It’s amazing that we have the opportunity to live that lifestyle and also compete. To use our minds and have a strategy and challenge ourselves.
Q: Are there any rivalries or cattiness that we don’t see from the outside?
A: There’s definitely some cattiness, that’s for sure. Relationships probably get a little more tangled up on the women’s tour than they do on the men’s.
Q: What do you think about how women’s surfing is being marketed? Do think the sexy side of it has gone too far?
A: Sex sells; everyone knows that. Women’s surfing is sexy and beautiful. I think beautiful is a better choice of words. It’s elegant, enticing, graceful. That’s the best part about the female surfers, is that we go and surf and all the girls are in their bikinis here in Puerto Rico and they go out in rip. Then in February they walk down the red carpet for the awards nights and they look gorgeous, whereas guys are wearing thongs, T-shirts and boardshorts at the ASP banquet. That’s ridiculous. Come on guys, have some style. Dress up! I’m serious. The boys are letting us down in that category.
Q: Speaking of the boys, who are the most eligible bachelors on tour?
A: Goodness, where do I start? There’s a couple good ones. Jordy’s become a really nice guy lately. Owen Wright. Yeah, Owen’s meant for the catwalk. I’m going to be his model management and get him on the cover of Vogue. Look at him, he’s like a praying mantis.
Q: Which guys have the best style?
A: Kai Otton dresses pretty nice. He always looks good. Owen dresses pretty cool and Wilko, too. These are the boys that make an effort to look good. —Interview by Jamie Tierney
Thanks, Steph — you look pretty good yourself.