Stephanie Gilmore was in a strange place at the beginning of this year. Call it a world title hangover. She’d achieved her life goal at 19 years of age, which left her asking a lot of questions. Was she motivated to win another one? A third? An eighth? What was the point of it all anyway?
These questions were clearly floating in her mind during the year’s first event on the Gold Coast, where she finished an uninspired ninth. Those same questions lingered mid-year during a SURFING Magazine boat trip, where she told us she was still figuring things out and considering other paths in her surfing career.
But today, at the Roxy Pro at Sunset, she promptly answered those questions with another exclamation point: she’ll keep winning world titles for now, thank you. “I never expected it to happen today,” she said. “Didn’t think it was gonna even go today, but the girls were keen. So, my game plan was to smash ‘em and fortunately it worked.”
A lot had to happen for it to work. With Gilmore maintaining a slim lead going into the penultimate event, she had to finish second or better in the event without allowing Mulanovich, Beachley or Silvana Lima to win it.
Sofia was the first to fall in the pristine, 4-foot Point surf. A quarterfinal casualty, she was simply a victim of being out of position for the waves that worked. “Nothing you can say or do right now but go and give her a hug,” said Roxy’s Danielle Beck of her Peruvian icon.
Beachley was the next to go — in a wave-starved semi that saw her fall on a wave that could have gotten her through. This marks the end of Queen Beachley’s incredible run. Since she’s now moving on to the final event of her career as a full-time competitor, she will end it with a record seven world titles. “It’s disappointing, sure,” said Beachley. “But I’m not going to let my results here reflect what I’ve done in my career. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
That left Lima, in the final and on fire all event. It was still a longshot for her even if she won, then again — isn’t she the one who scored a perfect 10 at Honolua Bay?
Lima started off the final with a bang. Way up the point, and a wave in the high six and high seven range. Gilmore countered with a low seven of her own, but needed a 6.84 to get past Lima. The other two finalists — Jessi Miley Dyer and Nicola Atherton — may as well have been sitting in the channel at this point. This was between Lima and Gilmore.
At the five-minute mark, it began to look like the title race would move to Maui. Lima was out the back, controlling the peak, and Gilmore couldn’t find an inside crumbler to rack up a score. Lingering doubts? Maybe. But then a set came, and all those winning instincts came right back to her. Taking off on the biggest wave of the heat, she raced around one big, chunky section, then laid down a full-rail power carve right in the pocket. One more big hit, another cutback and it was enough to earn an 8.5, a win, the title and a chair up the beach by her bros. “Defending a world title is so much more difficult than winning one the first time,” she said. “But these girls push me to surf to levels I didn’t even know I had.”
Is she even thinking about what’s next? “This second world title is icing on the cake — I don’t even want to think about number three,” she said. “I’ll hold on to this one for a while.”
Stay tuned to SurfingMagazine.com for a full interview with the two-time champ coming soon.