Well, she did it. After a bit of a mid-tour yawn, Happy Gilmore made a run in Hawaii for the ages, taking down Silvana Lima in the final at the Roxy Pro Sunset to win her second consecutive Woman’s World Title, fending off a hard charge from 2004 World Champ Sofia Mulanovich and seven-time world champ Layne Beachley. We caught up with Steph once the confetti settled on day three of her four-day bender –– because like the rules state: Two world titles, four-day bender.
SURFING MAGAZINE: STEPH, CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THE MOMENT YOU WON THE TITLE THIS YEAR?
STEPHANIE GILMORE: The ratings changed throughout the year and heading into Hawaii and the last two events the ball was in my court. The first couple days at Sunset were pretty big and it was really challenging. Last year I got smashed and I really wanted to make sure I did well this year. Sofia surfs really well out there and then as the day wore on and Sofia lost and Layne lost, but I still needed to win to clinch the title. I was trying to keep my mind off it, and I didn’t want anything less than a win in the final.
TAKE US THROUGH THE FINAL AT SUNSET.
Silvana Lima and I had it out in the final and the waves were a bit smaller and we were surfing on the point more. Silvana was leading pretty much the whole time and Matty Griggs was my caddie and he wasn’t telling me exactly what score I needed, he was just telling me to find the best wave I could find and go to town on it. With a couple minutes left, Silvana was a little too deep and I got the wave that allowed me to do one solid turn then back it up with a couple of cutties. Then I got an 8 and that was it..
DID BATTLING WITH SOPHIA AND LAYNE THIS YEAR REFUEL YOUR COMPETITIVE FIRE?
After doing so well last year I think it really took the pressure off me this year and I went at it this year much too relaxed. A couple of events my mind was in other places and it definitely showed in my results because I wasn’t very consistent. I think towards the end, when I got beat by a wildcard in Sydney it was a wake up call for sure. I knew then I had to snap out of it if I was going to win it. And that’s what made me realize that I did want to win it. From then on it was all business.
SLIPPING INTO SECOND A FEW TIMES BEHIND SOFIA AND GETTING BEAT BY A WILDCARD MUST HAVE BEEN PRETTY JARRING.
Yeah, definitely. Seeing Sofia get into the lead so easily when we were so tight, and knowing that Layne was still in the running for it was the first taste of letting it slip out of my hands. Then I realized this is what I want and I’m going to go really hard to get it back.
DOES IT MAKE YOU MORE EXCITED OR NERVOUS WITH A DUEL ON YOUR HANDS COMING INTO HAWAII?
Coming to Hawaii and into Sunset and knowing that I had Layne –– who’s such a great competitor and Sofia, who’s the defending champ –– definitely made me nervous. And I really had a shocker at Sunset last year so I was really nervous. But instead of worrying, I just put all my effort into making a good impression at Sunset and bettering what I did last year. I wanted to find a comfort zone in the lineup at Sunset.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ON TOUR THIS YEAR?
Last year there were so many expectations to win in my first year, and then it was such a relief to win, that it was so relieving. This year was a completely different type of challenge. A few days ago, when I won, I felt like I worked so much harder and it was much more challenging so when I won it really felt good –– but in a whole different way. It’s hard to explain. I think I was relieved to know that the first year wasn’t a fluke.
IS THERE NOW THE PRESSURE OF CREATING A DYNASTY OF STEPH GILMORE WORLD TITLES NOW?
I’ve had that thrown at me a lot –– like about breaking Layne’s record and Kelly’s record –– and yeah I mean records are meant to be broken, and I think back to last year when they asked me that I didn’t even want to think about it. But now I think I’ve grown as an athlete and a competitor and after winning two in a row, it all seems that little bit more in reach. I’m not setting a number on how many I want to win or setting my life around trying to break Layne’s record or Kelly’s record, but two came pretty easily –– not easily –– but quickly, so I can only hope there’s more in the future.
YEAH, WE TALKED RECENTLY AND SMASHING RECORDS WASN’T ON YOUR MIND. IS IT REIGNITED NOW AND FEEL FRESH AGAIN?
Yeah, I feel much more fresh now. There’s more method behind the madness to me. You know when you win a world title nothing physically changes, but winning number two it’s been such a good journey that this one’s fired me up. Especially seeing the event in Haleiwa and watching Coco Ho and Carissa Moore surfing so well and all the hype and talk about those girls. I found myself sitting going, “Hey, I’m still here and I’m going for a world title and I feel like im surfing well too –– but at Haleiwa it was like everyone was over me. So I feel like its up to me to get back in the spotlight and the only way I’m going to do that is up my performance in the water. So it definitely fired me up to keep winning.
YEAH, AFTER GROOMING THEM, YOU NEED WELCOME THEM, WITH UN-OPEN ARMS AT THIS POINT.
Yeah, exactly. No, we’re all good friend and stuff and they’re surfing amazing and pushing me, but at the same time I’m going to welcome them and try to crush them as well.
WHAT DO THESE YOUNGER GIRLS BRING TO THE TABLE IN YOUR MIND?
I feel so much older than the girls coming up it’s crazy –– and I’m only two years older than some of them. I feel like a tour veteran. It’s good, I’m so glad they’re coming through quickly with talent because it’s helped me. It’s fired me up and it’s good for me to see and to know that to stay at the top it’s going to be exciting and challenging and all the things that keep me interested in competing and being the best at what I do.
HOW WAS THE VICTORY PARTY?
Oh, yes. It was good fun. All the girls were going crazy and that’s the best part of being a world champ; when all your peers and friends on tour have the Happy Gilmore hats and shirts on and they’re there to carry me up the beach –– that’s one of the best parts of the whole thing. I’d be bummed if no one wanted to watch my heats. From there it was a typical North Shore house party, but I guess two world titles means four day bender. This is day three and I’ve slowed up a bit, I’m going to have to fire it back up for day four.
AND NOW IT’S OFF TO MAUI?
Oh yeah, who wouldn’t want to surf Honolua Bay with one other person out? Of course I’ll be there.
Visit Rip Curl’s special Stephanie Gilmore world champ website at www.RipCurl.com/HappyGilmore