Stephanie Gilmore is officially the greatest women’s surfer of all time, winning a record eighth World Surf League crown in a final against five-time champ Carissa Moore.
Gilmore, who entered the WSL finals day at the Lower Trestles break in California in fifth place, won five consecutive heats to advance from fifth place to the final against Moore where she nailed the best-of-three series 2-0.
The 34-year-old was left in tears in the water and celebrated with an emotional embrace with Moore.
“I don’t have much left to be honest,” Gilmore said.
“If you can come from the bottom, come from fifth and win the world title, that’s cool.
“But Carissa is the world champion to me, she’s had the best season.”
After winning her first title in her rookie season in 2007, Gilmore won another three in a row before adding more titles in 2012 and 2014.
She equalled fellow Aussie Layne Beachley’s record in 2018 but has struggled since to replicate her best form.
Gilmore’s first seven crowns came after she dominated the season, winning the year-long tally.
And even though she won a record-breaking title at Trestles, she was not initially a fan of the system that can take you from fifth to first in a day.
“I disliked this format to be honest, the world champ should be crowned in all the different waves over the entire period of the year,” Gilmore said.
“And now I love it.
“I don’t’ think I’ve ever won a world title sitting in the water against the world no.1 – there really are not many words that can describe this feeling right now.
“And that’s why I now love this format because it puts all the pressure on you, it puts you under the pump, it’s truly incredible.”
Gilmore said the season had been a massive challenge.
“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 into the cut.
“I was out there thinking, whatever happens, happens.
“I was really proud to make it past Brisa, Tatiana, Johanne, all of the most awesome female surfers in the world and to the final against Carissa, who in my mind, she’s the real world champ this year.
“She had such a stellar year, so many wonderful performances and I’m so inspired by what she does.
“I was out there thinking if this happens, it’s freaking cool but if it doesn’t I won’t be bummed because it’s against Carissa and she really is the greatest of all time in my opinion.”
Gilmore won the heat 15.23-11.97, dominating Moore in a steely performance in her fifth heat of the day.
Speaking in commentary, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater paid tribute to Gilmore, saying her reverse rail-hold turn on her final wave was a “big moment in women’s surfing”.
“I’m so proud of her, that’s so great,” Slater said.
“She had such a tough way to start the year – I know it’s going to be a tough pill for Carissa to swallow – but Steph started the year with that Covid situation.”
Gilmore was forced to miss the opening event of the year at Pipeline given she was in the final day of isolation when the event started.
“Twelve hours later if they ran her heat she could have surfed, so it was a real bummer for Steph.”
Three-time world champion Mick Fanning, who watched Gilmore grow up surfing their local Snapper Rocks break said during the final that his fellow Aussie was “on point”.
“Whatever she’s done in the lead-up to this, it’s the best she’s performed on a five-heat day,” Fanning said.
Gilmore said she had visualised winning her eighth title for so long.
“I thought, let’s just do this,” she said straight after the win.
“I have a chance, let’s just prove this whole system is wrong – if you can come from the bottom, come from fifth and win a world title, that’s freaking cool, but Carissia is the world champ to me this year, she’s had the best season ever.
“I’m so honoured to surf against her in this final.”
While yellow-jersey holders Moore and Gabriel Medina won the world titles last year in the opening season of the WSL finals, Gilmore has upset the apple cart, while Italo Ferreira also won through to the men’s final from fifth.
Originally published as WSL: Stephanie Gilmore comes from heat one to win eighth World Surf League title