Last week, the chatter among pro surfing’s grades centered on a massive swell steaming toward Maui, where the ripples would converge with two of “the worlds largest” watched events of the World Surf League’s 2018 season. By Monday morning, at the notorious big-wave break Pe’ahi the 10 females set to compete in the Jaws Challenge were staring down 50 -foot mountains of raw, wind-shorn swell. Over the next few hours, the world evidenced Hawaiian Keala Kennelly lead the women through some of the biggest preconditions ever seen in the sport’s history, period. Meanwhile, 30 miles out at the Beachwaver Maui Pro, Australian Stephanie Gilmore was painting the idyllic blue walls of Honolua Bay with the smooth paths “shes just” famous, and envied, for. By sundown, Gilmore had assured a record-tying seventh world-wide title.
This year has been groundbreaking for women’s channel-surf. So it was only fitting that 2018 would culminate with Gilmore being crowned world-wide champion. Gilmore, who is 30 , now ties fellow Australian Layne Beachley for “the worlds largest” ever women’s world-wide title wins. By this past July, Gilmore had already foreshadowed greatness when she won her 29 th tour occurrence, more than any other woman. Surfers have a tendency to overuse the word legend to the point of meaninglessness, but when it comes to Gilmore, there is no better descriptor.
That the world’s better females surfers were predominating the airwaves on Monday without doubt deep pandered the WSL’s new–and first woman–CEO, Sophie Goldschmidt, who announced in September that beginning next year, the WSL will be giving equal prize money to its males and athletes. Equal fee had been one of Goldschmidt’s key mandates when she took over the WSL in 2017, along with getting surfing into the 2020 Olympic Games. To have Gilmore win the name was just the kind of you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up prowes that Goldschmidt needed to cap off 2018.
For Gilmore, the crowning celebrated another rebirth in a career fully completed. She began her pro vocation as a twiggy 19 -year-old in 2007, when she dominated formidable veterans, among other issues Beachley and Kennelly, to win her first world-wide name at Honolua Bay, which has long hosted the women’s tour’s final stop of the season. No rookie in women’s pro surfing had ever fulfilled such a stunt. The perpetually sunny Australian–branded Happy Gilmore by her then main sponsor Rip Curl–continued winning for the next three years. Her ascent recognized its transformation in women’s professional surfing, as Beachley, Kennelly, and other old-guard jocks retired and a brand-new harvest of young surfers( like Hawaiian Carissa Moore) entered the fray, more talented and competitive than their predecessors had ever been.
Suddenly, 23 -year-old Gilmore was the tour’s grizzled veteran. Personally, Gilmore interpreted herself similarly. This new, most serious mindset didn’t jive with the youthful, airy one she’d been wedged into by Rip Curl. In 2010, she walked away from a lucrative re-signing offer to become the first woman ambassador and crew equestrian for Quiksilver, which had always simply sponsored its female contestants under its Roxy label. Gilmore embraced the confident, socially self-conscious, fashion-centered persona that Quiksilver had tailor-made for her. The transition, nonetheless, coincided with a brutal, random assault outside her home in Coolangatta, Australia, that left her with a broken wrist and lingering psychological trauma. At the end of 2011, Gilmore had stolen to third in countries around the world tour rankings–a disaster by her standards.
In a course, the attack and subsequent loss of countries around the world title permitted Gilmore to take a step back and explore her figure in the water. Where Beachley embraced her competitive ruthlessness and Moore her unrivaled strength, Gilmore perfected a smooth, knock-kneed style that gave a grace to competitive surfing that’s rarely been recognized on either the men’s or women’s tours. She traveled around, went retro boards, and played guitar with Jimmy Buffet. In between, she won two more world-wide titles, in 2012 and 2014.
For the next three years, Gilmore bounced all over the rankings. But when the 2018 season kicked off in Australia this past March, she settled into a scorched-earth campaign, winning three of the tour’s ten occurrences and taking runner-up in two others. Gilmore’s confident reemergence was only accentuated by Goldschmidt and her own ambitious mandate to bring the world’s better women and men surfers to the Olympics–equally.
More than anything, Gilmore’s seventh world title feels like the people’s win. Coupled with Kennelly and the women of the Jaws Challenge, it’s a monumental win for progress and for female jocks of every stripe. It’s also a clear sign that a record-breaking eighth name is on the horizon.
Read more: outsideonline.com