Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) has won the final event of the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Maui Women's Pro, today in four foot (1.2 metre) conditions at Honolua Bay after the competition saw the exciting conclusion of the Women’s World Title race yesterday.
Six-time WSL Champion Gilmore locked in her 26th Championship Tour victory today after wins over Malia Manuel (HAW) in the Final, newly-crowned WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) in the Semifinals, and Silvana Lima (BRA) in the Quarterfinals.
Gilmore came charging into 2017 with a big win at her home break at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast and battled throughout the year for the 2017 WSL Title. With Wright clinching the World Title crown yesterday, Gilmore was not able to win her seventh title but was able to claim an historic fourth event win at Honolua Bay.
“This means the world to me, this is so awesome,” said Gilmore. “When I couldn’t win the World Title, this was the next best thing. I started at the top in the beginning of the year and then I was a hot mess in the middle but that is all part of it. That is what I love about the sport -- you are always learning. What an incredible event to come here and have all the drama unfold and to come out on top is really special. I am so happy.”
Gilmore, 2017 World Title runner-up, is now just one CT event win and one World Title win away from tying event and title records with Australian Layne Beachley. The 29-year-old finishes the year in second place on the Jeep Leaderboard and is excited for the upcoming 2018 CT schedule.
“It has never really been so important to get the numbers, I’ve just always wanted to win and win in style,” continued Gilmore. “That would be awesome to match Layne Beachley’s record, but obviously I have to go one better, right? This is my 11th year on Tour, so most of the places I go to now just feel like home. There’s nothing more rejuvenating than having WSL show their support and ask us girls, ‘What do we need to grow the Tour? What do we need to do to evolve the sport?’ For us to be able to give them our feedback and for them to be like, ‘Okay let’s go to J-Bay. Let’s go to Keramas. Let’s really put the women and the men in the best waves.’ That means the world. That gets me more excited than ever before to be on Tour for another year and to chase another World Title.”
Gilmore was the first to build her scoreline during the Final and take the advantage. Manuel locked in a 7.30 (out of a possible 10) but was not able to find a significant back-up. Meanwhile, the 6X WSL Champion continued to post scores and slowly increase her lead. Three-big turns for Gilmore on her final wave gave her an 8.53 and sealed her victory.
“In that Final, I knew the swell was dying so my whole game plan was just to get whatever I could and stay active,” continued Gilmore. “I knew Malia (Manuel) would stay really patient and I just thought that I did not want to get stuck out there without needing a 4 or a 5. It felt a little scrappy but it worked in the end. I always have such a good surf against Tyler (Wright). She always pushes me and makes me so nervous and I had to win that one, I really did.”
Today’s result marks Manuel’s third CT final of her career and best result of 2017. Earlier this season, Manuel suffered a sidelining knee injury, which took her out of four events following the Margaret River Pro. Since her return to competition at the Swatch Pro at Trestles, Manuel has showcased incredible surfing with a third-place result in Cascais and a fifth in France. The 24-year-old has yet to secure a win on the elite CT but, with her return to form at the end of this year, she will be one to watch in 2018.
“It was an interesting year,” said Manuel. “Happy to be here and very blessed to surf a final with Steph (Gilmore) here at Honolua. That is one of my dreams -- to win -- so I am one step closer to my goal. When I came back, I tried to not have too high expectations for the rest of this year just so I would not be disappointed, but, this is a great stepping stone. I wish this year wasn't over already. I am very excited for next year -- we have a very exciting schedule. I am very happy to be here as part of women’s surfing -- it is the best time ever.”
Newly crowned WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) bowed out in Semifinal 1 at the hands of Gilmore, despite an exciting last-minute exchange. Wright, who claimed back-to-back world titles yesterday following a Quarterfinal win over wildcard Brisa Hennessy (HAW), couldn’t match Gilmore’s near-perfect 9.77 and was eliminated in equal 3rd place.
“That was probably one of the funnest, most enjoyable heats I’ve ever had,” said Wright. “There was definitely a bit of heckling back-and-forth. I dared her to give me a wave and she didn't. At the end, what an opportunity -- it was perfect and the wave that I had just kind of pinched. It was amazing, it was so fun.”
Bronte Macaulay (AUS) delivered the best result of her rookie season today by securing a Semifinal appearance at the Maui Women’s Pro. The young Australian was defeated by eventual runner-up Manuel in Semifinal 2 and finishes out the 2017 season in 15th place on the Jeep Leaderboard thanks to the breakthrough performance.
The final stop on the men’s WSL CT, the Billabong Pipe Masters, opens December 8 and runs through December 20, 2017.
Maui Women’s Pro Final Results:
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.20
2 - Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.90
Maui Women’s Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.87 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.43
SF 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 16.10 def. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 10.00
Top 5 on the WSL Women’s Jeep Leaderboard (after Maui Women’s Pro):
1:Tyler Wright (AUS) 54,400 pts
2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 53,400 pts
3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 52,900 pts
4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 50,000
5: Carissa Moore (HAW) 49,200 pts
- Photo credit: Kelly Cestari/Poullenot