You might assume that any other accolade earned by World Champion Tyler Wright at Honolua Bay is strictly candy at this point. But a win at the Maui Pro for Wright could tie a record that concludes one of the most dominant Tour seasons to date: five event wins in a year, set in 2008 by six-time World Champion and longtime friend Steph Gilmore. As we wait through another lay day for the women’s Honolua comp, we thought it proper to journey back to Steph’s record year, when she returned from her debut Title win in 2007 at just 19 years old.
Rip Curl Women’s Pro (Bell’s Beach, Victoria, Australia)
Gilmore’s 2008 run began with her second consecutive Bells victory against Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich in ideal 4-6 ft surf. The win came after a heroic last-wave effort from Gilmore, who surfed from behind with five minutes left in the final. As time expired, she took off on a quintessential Bells set and stylishly stamped a 9.33 score, the day’s highest. “I don’t know how I did that on that wave,” Gilmore said after the win. “Sofia had been surfing so well all day, and to come back from such big scores, it just feels amazing. I was feeling a bit nervous and I knew I needed a big score. My boards have been feeling good all week, so I just put everything I had into it, and it paid off.” The win jumped Gilmore from ninth-place to second-place in the ASP rankings.
Rip Curl Pro Mademoiselle (Seignosse, France)
The third ASP event of the season – one in which Gilmore regained the rankings lead – came after a faceoff against a competitor who, in both success and spirit, was Gilmore’s Australian Forerunner: seven-time world champion Layne Beachley. The unpredictable sandbars of Southwest France helped form relatively clean 2-3 ft surf, and while Gilmore found the quick maneuvers she needed in the heat’s critical sections, Beachley had no such luck in her wave selection. “I’m absolutely fired up,” Gilmore said. “I had a bit of a wobbly start to the year [She finished in ninth place at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast], but I’ve had two really good events in a row. To be back on top is an amazing feeling. It’s my second year on tour and I’m looking to defend my title. I’m excited to be where I’m at heading into the next few events.”
Movistar Classic (Máncora, Peru)
A late change in venue couldn’t stop an on-fire Gilmore from collecting her third ASP win of the year, and on her backhand, no less. She saved her best for last in the punchy South American surf, going vertical in the pocket for powerful snaps in an effort that earned her a 16.10 final score against Brazil’s Silvana Lima. Gilmore’s underwhelming opener at the Gold Coast now felt like a thing of the past as the ASP headed to Hawaii for the Tour’s last two events. “I think Sydney was good for me in that it motivated me to refocus on my primary goal, which is to win another ASP Women’s World Tour,” Gilmore said afterward. “Now that I’m ahead, I feel great, but I know there are still two more events, and a lot can happen. I’m excited for Hawaii and am looking forward to a great end of the year.”
Roxy Pro (Sunset Beach, Oahu)
Like Wright’s 2016 season, Gilmore celebrated her world title before the year ended after winning the Roxy Pro in 3-5 ft Sunset surf. The victory followed another last-second wave from Gilmore, this time against Silvana Lima, when a loaded wall appeared out of the meager sets to give Gilmore a decisive 8.50 score. But help also came from another source: then 22-year-old Australian Nicole Atherton, who defeated World-No.2 Sofia Mulanovich in the quarterfinals and World-No.3 Layne Beachley in the semifinals, which put Gilmore in position to win the title outright. “I had no idea this was going to happen today when I woke up this morning,” Gilmore said. “Sofia went down, and then Layne went down, and I found myself in the Final with a chance to clinch it. It feels unbelievable.
“The second [title] definitely feels better than the first one, Gilmore continued. “I’m going to savor this one for a while and then readjust my goals for next year. There should be big celebrations on for tonight.”
Billabong Pro (Ho’okipa Beach Park, Maui)
A second World Title in just two years on Tour – Why not top it off with an inaugural Triple Crown win? Gilmore would need to do it at Ho’okipa Beach rather than Honolua Bay, the first relocation of the event’s 10-year history, but the new World Champion dealt with the move in characteristic stride, netting a 9.57 and an 8.03 score that effectively sealed her finals win against Hawaiian Melanie Bartels. “To win so much in my short career is incredible and it feels great,” Gilmore said. “but I know there is so much more to accomplish. I had that close heat with Layne Beachley today, and to see what she’s accomplished in her career makes me that much hungrier to continue to perform at my best. Next year is going to be incredible. We have so much talent on the tour and so many young girls who are really pushing the boundaries of surfing. I can’t wait to get home and prepare for next season.”
Beachley, who announced that 2008 would be her last event as a full-time ASP competitor, could see in her shadow another Australian driven to build her own legacy: as one of the most dominating surfers in history, male or female.
“I think it was a great way to go out,” Beachley said. “We all have to lose sometimes. To go down to Steph, who I consider my protege and the one I am passing the torch to, is probably the most fitting way.”