Australian surfer Stephanie Gilmore made history Thursday (8 September) as she grabbed her eighth world surfing title at the Rip Curl WSL Finals in San Clemente, California. Brazil's Filipe Toledo won the men's title, his first.
Gilmore, 34, broke the record for women's world title wins, previously held by compatriot Layne Beachley.
"I don't have much left to be honest. I've visualised it so much. I was like, 'Let's do this. I have a chance. Let's prove this whole system wrong, that you can come from the bottom,' that you can come from fifth and win a world title - that's freaking cool. But really, Carissa is the world champ to me this year. She had the best season ever. I'm so honoured to surf against her in this final," Gilmore said afterward. "It's been a wild day,"
Gilmore, whose previous world titles came in 2018, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007, won the opening 'Title Match' heat against American Carissa Moore, 15.00 to 10.90. Gilmores total came from her best two scores of 8.33 and 6.67.
Moore won the Olympic title at last summer's Tokyo 2020 Games and is a five-time world champion, but today could not stop Gilmore who was on an undeniable roll. Earlier int he finals day, prior to taking on Moore, Gilmore defeated Brisa Hennessy, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Johanne Defay.
In the second heat, Gilmore was in command early, recording an 8.00 on her third wave.
With three minutes left to go, Moore needed a 7.88 to move ahead of Gilmore and force a third and final heat. But, then, she missed the wave, losing priority and instead gave Gilmore a chance to extend her lead. Gilmore's 7.23 fifth wave score meant Moore needed more than 8.43 to pass Gilmore. She couldn't come up with it with only seconds remaining in the competition.
In the end, Gilmore won the second 'Title Match' heat, 15.23 to 11.97.
"This has been a challenge for sure. It feels like the shortest season, but the longest year of my life," she said. "It's just unbelievable."
En route to his first title, Toledo took a narrow victory in the opening best of three heat 'Title Match' showdown: 15.13 to 14.97 over fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira, the Tokyo 2020 gold medallist and 2019 world champion.
Toledo led the entire second heat and by a comfortable margin for the majority of it. Toward the end of the heat, both Toledo and Ferreira threw down massive rides, recording scores of 8.67 and 8.60, respectively.
That put Ferreira within striking distance but in a race against the clock, as he needed 7.91 with a minute to go to force a third heat.
Ferreira wasn't able to gcatch another wave before time ran out, giving Toledo the second 'Title Match' heat win he neeed for the overall victory (16.50 to 14.93).
"It's a feeling that obviously I've never felt before. It's just like the relief, all the hard work of nine years, sacrificing a lot," Toledo said afterward. "For this moment, for my family, to see the spark in everyone's eyes of my family, it's priceless."