With One Event Left, Steph Gilmore Claims World Title
Atop a Jetski, her smile glowing in the sun, Steph waves to the cheering crowd gathered on the sand. She throws her fists up in the air as fellow competitors and friends (who are already wearing the “Happy Gilmore” hats and T-shirts that RipCurl has passed out) whisk her in the air. Riding on their shoulders through the sea of celebration, Steph makes the obligatory victory jaunt up the beach, where she accepts both her Roxy Sunset Pro trophy as well as her second ASP World Championship cup.
The day was flawless, and not just for Stephanie—the sun came out and the variable winds blew lightly and steadily offshore, the tide dropped and the day shaped up to be as picturesque as the Day One, albeit a bit smaller. But the day started out uncertain, and almost didn’t happen. Before the sun had even risen, the surfers were at the beach, some on bikes others huddled on the metal bleachers in the center of the contest site. The surf had dropped considerably since the prior day, the massive 15-footers that blanketed the shorebreak in whitewater on Sunday giving way to small, clean Monday morning sets breaking far up the point. The girls were debating whether to run the event; it would be a gamble: if they opted not to hold the final day in today’s 3- to 5-foot swell, the week may not offer surf that is any more ideal—there’s a good chance the massive incoming swell (a swell large enough to possibly hold the Eddie Aikau contest) will arrive tomorrow and continue for the rest of the contest window. Despite some dissent, the surfers agreed to finish the event today. And they were glad they did.
With the world championship tension in the air, the audience’s sights were set on the top title contenders: Steph, Sofia, and Layne. But when, in the second quarterfinal, Australia’s Nicola Atherton and Jessi Miley-Dyer knocked out former ASP World Champion Sofia Mulanovich, talk turned what Steph needed to score in order to finish her title campaign here at Sunset. The ASP calculated the possibilities and discovered that the only way the title would be decided here is if Steph won the entire event, otherwise it would depend on the final tour event. As the final got under way, Silvana jumped into an early lead and held it for most of the heat. But with just minutes left on the clock, and Steph needing little more than a six to advance, she slid into an overhead set, and destroyed it. The judges awarded her an 8.5, and essentially, the championship.
“It’s such an unbelievable feeling right now,” said Stephanie, elated. “I’m undefeated so far and that’s kind of the way I wanted to go into the world tour. Hopefully I’ll keep going strong.” And at only 20-years-old, it’s likely this world title won’t be her last.