She did it. While the world of women's surfing got caught up in the Carissa Moore/Sally Fitsgibbons title race, Stephanie Gilmore came back from a somewhat rocky 2011 that included a random attack near her home in Australia where she sustained a broken wrist, and clinched her fifth ASP world title last weekend in at the Roxy Pro Biarritz.
She came on strong at the start of the season, winning the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, taking second at the Rip Curl Womens Pro at Bells, acing the TSB Bank New Zealand Surf Festival and then wrapping it up at Biarritz with one full event to go on the women's abbreviated seven-event schedule. You might say that Gilmore is a machine. And this year, the engine has been turned up to maximum RPMs. But Gilmore is more than a machine. She's got fantastic insight on not only her surfing, but the whole season and females riding surfboards. Gilmore makes a great champ, and it's good to have her back.
ESPN: So, how you feeling?
Stephanie Gilmore: I am feeling great, of course. What a wonderful feeling to have the title back.
What was the defining moment this year, where things kind of clicked?
I think probably the very first event, as far as confidence and remembering the emotions you go through when you're succeeding at each event. The event at Snapper Rocks, I felt pretty strong, pretty confident. And when I won the event to start the year off -- I'm not saying I knew I could win the world title right then and there, but it was kind of like, "Yeah, this is what I needed and I can do it."
So, what was missing last year?
I was just a little bit lost. It might have come down to something as simple as not being 100 percent passionate about it. The main part was that was missing. I was just so tired and wanted to have a break and I didn't really take it. I was trying to force things that can't be forced. So things weren't falling into place the way things do when you let go of them.
Did the attack incident have anything to do with that?
Of course. It had a lot to do with it. But it made me appreciate everything that much more. As much as it took away, it also gave me perspective as well.
And there was physical injury you sustained during the attack with the broken wrist. Did that kind of throw off your rhythm last year?
Yeah, to not be in the water -- that rhtym is so important. I mean, if you're not injured, you don't have to go in the water all the time to keep that rhythm. But when you're injured and you have a lot on your mind, it's kind of like stepping into another phase and I had to adjust to all these different things. So being out of the water for sure played a different role there.
You must be pretty excited right now about the general level of womens' surfing with Carissa Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons and the rookies. It's so much higher than it was before these girls were on tour.
It is so much higher. And there are so many more rivalries between all of us, which is the greatest part. It's not just the number one and number two at the top. There are rivalries between Sally and Carissa, Carissa and Tyler, me and Tyler, me and Sally, Sally and Coco, and it goes all the way down to the girls that are at the bottom of the rankings, but there are still a lot of rivalries going on and that's something that has been in the making on the womens tour for a long time. But yeah, I think it's also one of the most rewarding parts, to be able to come back and step it up again even thought the whole tour has stepped it up.
I hear there is no plan for the women at all in Hawaii this year. Since we lost the Womens Triple Crown and the Vans Duel for the Jewel, the ASP had Carissa Moore surf the Mens Triple Crown last year, but nothing this year. Is it a down note that there won't be anything going on in Hawaii?
I think mainly just for the girls who want to compete there, including myself. I think Hawaii is a pretty vital stop to have on the tour for any surfer because it has been known as the proving ground of professional surfing from day one. But at the same time, it's sort of been an advantage to have event after event like a normal season in any sport and to finish next week in Huntington Beach. For waves, quality wise, it's not the best option in my eyes. We'd all rather end the year at Honolua Bay in Maui but at the same time I feel like we can utilize this to our advantage. I feel like the timing just fits so well. We're not competing with the guys for coverage over in Hawaii. But I kind of like having the long break. I'm still surfing. It's kind of the ultimate way to do it. A lot of the guys and girls on tour love to compete, but at the same time we love to travel, freesurf and film video parts, really work with our sponsors to created anything from clothing lines to movies to photo journals- all kinds of different projects. So having that time on the tour, you focus on that, and having that six months off, you can focus on something else, which is what surfing is all about -- encompassing the whole culture of what we do.
This is something that we've talked about before. In regards to apparel sales -- guys will buy the Mick Fanning trunk because they want to surf fast. But as much as a girl might look up to a Woman on the tour, she wants to dress like a model. Has that changed?
I think the beauty of womens surfing right now is that the girls on tour are surfing with power and grace and we're striving to be on the podium, but we're doing it with this femininity and grace that's never really been part of the sport in the history of surfing. I really think we 're starting to crossover the two- the beauty and femininity and power, all mixed together. If you see the women on tour, we're so passionate about what we wear and how we present ourselves. We want to dress like models and show our personalities. We want to look good and then we want to go out and surf really well in addition to that. In my eyes, I think that's kind of the perfect role model for any young girl.
But the apparel sales have to be there for the industry to come back and support more events on the Womens tour. So, are we just waiting for the industry to catch up?
Yeah. I think the whole industry is hurting full stop. And it's a bit tough. With surfing, you're buying into a lifestyle. And the surf companies have to compete with the likes of the fashion brands that are just pumping out disposable fashion that's not necessarily quality -- they borrow the lifestyle that we have and do apparel for half the price. In my eyes, there's so much potential out there for beauty products. Think about the products that females use every day of their lives. I think that female surfing, and these events, is the perfect way to showcase girls being girls and living healthy lifestyles. (Our events) really involve every aspect of what makes an idol for young girls. It's a hot topic, I don't know...
Well that's a good point. Do you feel like with your fifth world title, you're in a position to really affect some change in womens surfing and the industry?
Yeah, I don't even think you have to have five world titles to do that. I think it's a matter of all of us putting our heads together and getting what we want from the sport and what we want from the ASP, and also what the ASP wants, to really be able to reach its full potential and utilize the character of professional surfing and take it to new heights. There have been some articles lately about the proposals coming to surfing -- some exciting stuff in the mix. Having input from the surfers is so important, whether its from Kelly or me, or Mick, or Sally. We want to see it go to new heights.
Will we see the Womens ASP Tour return to any critical waves? And can we see a surfer like Tyler Wright win a world title without a critical wave. I really hope we return to that balance on tour. Yeah, we can have events in the city. We cankeep the Huntingtons and Biarritz, but we need to have the whole package, which includes the Fijis and Hawaii. I think Tyler can win a world title even without any of those venues on the tour. I think any of the girls can, but that is something that's missing -- that extra element of dealing with the ocean in its full power and most challenging form.
The Hurley US Open is coming up. Do you feel like you're going to just have fun -- as if it were one big "no-loser" round where you can let loose?
Well, I've had the pleasure of doing it before in Maui. You're already the world champ and you end up doing really well most of the time because you're not really expecting too much at all. Huntington is a really great event. It's a pretty cool place during that week. We'll just have to wait and see if goes like a "non-elimination" event.