Stephanie Gilmore has done it, capturing a historic eighth world title to be crowned the greatest women’s surfer of all time — and she did it in the most “wild” of ways.
Gilmore was in fifth place heading into the WSL finals day at the Lower Trestles break in California but won five-straight heats to book a spot in the final against Carissa Moore.
The Australian then defeated the five-time champion two heats to nil to put her name in the history books, in tears after her latest triumph.
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“F*** yeah,” a tearful Gilmore screamed.
“I don’t have much left to be honest,” she later added, speaking with Strider Wasilewski, who said the Australian “defied all odds” with her win.
“Oh my God, I’ve visualised it so much and I was just like: ‘Let’s do this’, I have a chance, let’s just prove this whole system wrong.
“You can come from the bottom, come from fifth and win a world title. That’s freaking cool. But Carissa is really the world champ to me this year. She’s had the best season ever. I’m so honoured to surf against her in this final. I’m so spent. It’s been a wild day.”
Gilmore took the opening heat 15.00 to 10.90 before winning the second 15.23 to 11.97 to guaranteed victory in the best-of-three final and now has one more world title than Layne Beachley.
“That’s incredible,” fellow Australian surfing legend Mick Fanning said in commentary.
“She had to surf all the way from the heat this morning.”
A classy Moore came over to Gilmore immediately after the final wrapped up, with the pair sharing an emotional embrace in the water as the Australian celebrated her incredible triumph.
“To see a battle of the biggest names on paper on tour who have changed the game of pro surfing, to share the water, it was a long shot for Steph Gilmore,’ Joe Turpel said in commentary.
“One of the most emotional and deserving moments of Steph Gilmore’s career. She holds the record to herself, officially an eight-time world champion. What an unbelievable moment in pro surfing history.”
Gilmore had to overcome plenty of challenges this season, most notably testing positive for Covid-19 before the opener in Hawaii.
“It feels like the shortest season but the longest year of my life,” she said.
“To start with such a shocker at Pipeline, to miss it and to have a bad one at Sunset, I just had to crawl my way back into the cut. I was out there thinking, whatever happens, happens.”
Gilmore had to get through tough competition in Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessy, Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb and France’s Johanne Defay before the final against defending champion Moore.
“I was really proud to make it past Brisa, Tatiana, Johanne, all of the most awesome female surfers in the world and to the final against Carissa, who in my mind, she’s the real world champ this year,” Gilmore added.
“She had such a stellar year, so many wonderful performances and I’m so inspired by what she does.”