Stephanie Gilmore has made surfing history, becoming the first woman to win eight world titles. The Australian beat Hawaiian great Carissa Moore, the defending champion, two heats to nil on Thursday at Lower Trestles in southern California.
It was a dream match-up between Gilmore and Moore, the five-time world champion. Gilmore was in tears when she won the second heat in the best-of-three final 15.23 to 11.97, having taken out the opening heat 15.00 to 10.90.
The Australian great now has one more world title than compatriot Layne Beachley.
After a shaky start, Gilmore stormed through the top-five finals day on Thursday, winning four matches to claim the world title. It was Gilmore’s first world title in 2018.
The 34-year-old, who honed her surfing on the pointbreaks of Australia’s Gold Coast, consistently racked up big scores on her forehand.
“To be honest, this was the best win I’ve had,” Gilmore said in a podium interview. “To come all the way from fifth [seed] and just grind it out all the way to the final. I knew it was possible, I knew I could try and conserve some energy and make it work…I’m stoked I had a shot at it, and here we are – anything is possible.”
While Gilmore shone, compatriots Ethan Ewing and Jack Robinson fell to Brazilian Italo Ferreira, who was facing compatriot Filipe Toledo to decide the men’s world title.
Gilmore easily beat Johanne Defay of France 16.83 to 10.53, putting her into the title decider against Moore. But she had to come from behind to win her first two matches.
After her opening last-gasp win over Costa Rican Brisa Hennessy, Gilmore then narrowly beat Brazilian Tatiana Weston-Webb. With just 40 seconds left, Gilmore posted a 6.83 for a heat total of 14.76 to eliminate Hennessy, who scored 14.33.
Gilmore also trailed Weston-Webb, but took the lead with 10 minutes left. Weston-Webb needed a 7.31 to beat Gilmore and they traded waves inside the last two minutes. The Brazilian scored a 6.8, meaning Gilmore won 15.30 to 14.87.
Gilmore, the No 5 seed, struggled early against Hennessy with a couple of falls. Hennessy took the initiative in the clean two-metre conditions with 7.0 and 7.33 wave scores to lead Gilmore by 14.33 to 6.67.
But with 12 minutes left, the Australian scored a 7.93 to put herself back into the contest. Needing a 6.40 to win, Gilmore did not have priority inside the last two minutes.
The judges then called a block against Hennessy, crucially giving the Australian advantage and she took full toll. As Hennessy failed to catch the wave immediately behind her, Gilmore produced a ride inside the last minute that left no doubt that she would take out the match.
In the men’s final-five matches, Ferreira first beat Japan’s Konoa Igarashi and then eliminated Ewing 13.10 to 11.83. Ferreira was also too good for Robinson, beating him 16.30 to 13.30.
The two Brazilians then had the heat of the day, with Toledo winning 15.13 to 14.97 to go one-up. Ferreira won the 2019 world title, while Toledo has never claimed the crown.
Brazilians have won five of the last seven world titles since Mick Fanning was the most recent Australian champion in 2013.