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Happy days and it’s ‘friggin cool’: Steph Gilmore wins record eighth surf title

The Gold Coast’s Stephanie Gilmore has made surfing history, becoming the first woman to win eight world titles in what was also her greatest and toughest victory.

Sep 09, 2022, updated Sep 09, 2022
WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore after winning the World Title at the Rip Curl WSL Finals at San Clemente, California. (AAP Image/Supplied by World Surf League, Beatriz Ryder)

WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore after winning the World Title at the Rip Curl WSL Finals at San Clemente, California. (AAP Image/Supplied by World Surf League, Beatriz Ryder)

The Australian surfing star made history on Thursday at California’s Lower Trestles break, beating world No.1 and five-time world champion Carissa Moore in the title decider.

Gilmore was in tears as she hugged Moore immediately after winning her eighth world title, one more than compatriot Layne Beachley.

Moments later she let out an animal roar as Gilmore took in the enormity of what she had achieved.

The 34-year-old did it the hard way on finals day, winning four rounds back-to-back as the fifth seed in the top-five format.

She also beat Moore, the defending champion, 2-0 in their dream best-of-three championship decider, meaning the Australian surfed a marathon five heats in one day.

“I visualised this so much and I was like ‘let’s do this’,” she said.

“Let’s just prove this whole system wrong – you can come from the bottom, come from fifth and win a world title. That’s friggin’ cool.”

On social media, Beachley rected to Gilmore’s win with typical class, posting that she had “officially and unequivocally become the GOAT!”.

“I’m immensely proud of you and your passion, determination, tenacity and courage. 8 times world champion!!,” she wrote on her LinkedIn account.

Adding weight to the historic moment, men’s surfing greats Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning were on the commentary team for Gilmore’s title-winning heat win.

“I’m so proud of her, it’s so great. She had such a tough way to start the year … it was a real bummer for Steph,” Slater said.

Indeed, it was that sort of season for Gilmore, who had to pull out of the opening round of the world tour because of Covid-19 and then had a poor second event.

By the fourth round at Bells Beach, the world title could not have been further from Gilmore’s mind – she was more worried about being forced into requalification.

Gilmore then gradually improved, winning the El Salvador round and finishing in the top five to set up Thursday’s heroics.

“This has been a challenge, for sure. 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.

“It’s just unbelievable.”

Gilmore paid rich tribute to Moore, calling her “the real world champ” this season.

“She really is the greatest of all time, in my opinion,” Gilmore said.

“I disliked this format … the world championship should be crowned in all the different waves.

“Now I love it.

“I don’t think I’ve won a world title sitting in the water against the world No.1. There are not many words that can describe this feeling right now.

“I’m freaking out. I can’t believe it – it’s insane.”

Gilmore’s day nearly ended in her opening match – she made a shaky start against Costa Rican Brisa Hennessy.

Judges then called a crucial block against Hennessy, giving Gilmore priority, and she took out the match with her last wave score, inside the final minute.

She then came from behind as well to beat Tatiana Weston-Webb of Brazil, but was building momentum in the tricky conditions and was too good for Johanne Defay of France, to set up the decider against Hawaii’s Moore.

In the men’s final, Brazilian Filipe Toledo won his first world title, beating compatriot Italo Ferreira 2-0 in the decider.

Fereira beat Australians Ethan Ewing and Jack Robinson on Thursday on the way to the decider.

 

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