Australian Stephanie Gilmore, 26, has claimed her 6th world surfing crown today, besting an international field of world-class athletes on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP Women’s World Championship Tour.
Gilmore opened up this year’s season with an emphatic win at home on the Gold Coast, reestablishing herself as a threat to the title following years of pressure applied by a new generation of talent.
“I didn’t win an event last year and I think that was a bit of a wakeup call for me,” Gilmore said. “I came into this season with the goal to surf better and I think the improvement in wave quality on the women’s tour was very motivating for me. To open up with a win at home on the Gold Coast and, maybe more importantly, feeling like I was surfing at a level I was pleased with, was really important in setting the tone for my year.”
While Gilmore started the season strong, it was opponents Carissa Moore (HAW) and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) who quickly surged to the front with back-to-back wins at Margaret River/Bells Beach and Rio de Janeiro/Fiji respectively. Compatriot Tyler Wright (AUS) would throw herself into the race with wins at Huntington Beach and France, but September saw Gilmore strike back with a major win at Lower Trestles before consolidating with another victory in Portugal and taking the ratings’ lead heading into Hawaii.
“It’s been one of the most exciting title races in the sport’s history,” Gilmore said. “All the girls at the top were really close and it came down to the last event. I fell back a little bit in the ratings through the midway point in the season, but I was still getting results and always felt like I was in the race.”
Heading into the final event of the year, the Target Maui Pro, the world’s best surfers returned to the idyllic pointbreak of Honolua Bay – a venue that Gilmore dominated when it was previously on the schedule, posting victories in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Despite an in-form campaign at this season’s event, Gilmore fell in the Quarterfinals to Californian Courtney Conlogue (USA), leaving to the door open to remaining contenders Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and Tyler Wright (AUS).
“I just didn’t really find the positioning in that heat,” Gilmore said. “I looked at the draw for the Quarterfinals and I was thinking to myself what a tough competitor Courtney (Conlogue) is to draw here. That’s what happens when you change the seedings around and get the yellow jersey, it mixes things up. It was tough and I’m super disappointed. I really didn’t put on a performance that was World Title worthy but that’s the way it goes.”
“I paddled off after that heat and there were some tears and some emotions,” Gilmore said. “I took a few breaths – it was a long year and I have to think about everything that’s happened along the way – the good results and the bad.”
Immediately following Gilmore’s elimination, Fitzgibbons was ousted from the event by Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), dashing her hopes for a maiden world surfing crown and leaving only Wright remaining in the hunt against Gilmore.
Wright, needing to win the event to send the title race to a three-heat surf-off, proceeded to smash her Quarterfinals and Semifinals heats before meeting Moore in the Final. The two form surfers went blow-for-blow in the Final match, but it was Moore who nailed the coffin shut on her final ride with a 9.73 (out of a possible 10), taking the Target Maui Pro win and handing Gilmore her 6th ASP Women’s World Title.
“That was probably the most emotional I’ve ever been watching someone else surf in my life,” Gilmore said. “I know how focused Tyler (Wright) is and I was completely prepared for a surf-off. However, I also knew how incredibly capable Carissa (Moore) is at virtually every venue. I feel like I had a year’s worth of emotions packed into one heat. I won my first title here at Honolua Bay, but after my loss in the Quarterfinals, I was prepared for anything to happen. I’m really emotional right now.”
Today’s title clinching puts Gilmore one behind the all-time women’s record-holder of Layne Beachley (AUS) with 7 and third behind all-time men’s and women’s record-holder Kelly Slater (USA) with 11.
“The caliber of surfing on tour this season is the highest it has ever been,” Gilmore said. “There are no easy heats. This was the hardest title I’ve ever won. The talent level is only going to increase in future years but I’m so pleased I’ve won and want to thank everyone who has supported me this year – my family, my friends and my sponsors.”
Gilmore’s 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP WCT Results:
Roxy Pro Gold Coast: WINNER
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro: 3rd
Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach: 3rd
Rio Women’s Pro: 13th
Fiji Women’s Pro: 2nd
Vans US Open of Surfing: 2nd
Swatch Women’s Pro Trestles: WINNER
Roxy Pro France: 5th
Cascais Women’s Pro: WINNER
Target Maui Pro: 5th
Target Maui Pro Final Results:
1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 18.23
2 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.03
Target Maui Pro Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.67 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.93
Semifinal 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.76 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 9.74
Target Maui Pro Quarterfinal Results:
Quarterfinal 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.20 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 9.50
Quarterfinal 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.67 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.03
Quarterfinal 3: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 15.97 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.33
Quarterfinal 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.03 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 16.30
The final stop on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour will be the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, featuring the men’s world title race between Gabriel Medina (BRA), Mick Fanning (AUS) and Kelly Slater (USA), from December 8 – 20, 2014.