Steph Gilmore's 'unbelievable' act to win eighth world surfing title

·5-min read
Australia's Steph Gilmore is the greatest female surfer of all time after clinching a record eighth world title. Pic: Getty
Australia's Steph Gilmore is the greatest female surfer of all time after clinching a record eighth world title. Pic: Getty

Steph Gilmore broke down in tears moments after the reality had sunk in - that the Aussie had just become the greatest female surfer of all time.

The 34-year-old made surfing history at California's Lower Trestles break on Thursday (Friday AEST) after beating World No.1 Carissa Moore to claim a record eighth world title.

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Tied with compatriot Layne Beachley on seven world titles before the decider against America's five-time world champion, Gilmore's emotions spilled out after she defeated Moore 2-0 in their best-of-three championship finale.

Gilmore burst into tears after the extraordinary victory, with Moore showing her class by giving the Aussie a congratulatory hug.

Moments later, Gilmore let out an almighty roar as the enormity of the achievement overwhelmed her.

"I visualised this so much and I was like 'let's do this'," Gilmore said.

"Let's just prove this whole system wrong - you can come from the bottom, come from fifth and win a world title. That's friggin' cool."

The 34-year-old did it the hard way on finals day, winning four rounds back-to-back as the fifth seed in the top-five format.

She also beat Moore, the defending champion, 2-0 in their dream best-of-three championship decider, meaning the Australian surfed a marathon five heats in one day.

Tributes for Gilmore immediately started rolling in from across the surfing world, as fans hailed the Aussie as the 'greatest of all time'.

Adding weight to the historic occasion was the fact Aussie legend Mick Fanning and 11-time world champion Kelly Slater were part of the commentary team for Gilmore's big moment.

"I'm so proud of her, it's so great. She had such a tough way to start the year ... it was a real bummer for Steph," Slater said.

Steph Gilmore seals 'unbelievable' world title

It was a rocky road to the title for Gilmore, who had to pull out of the opening round of the world tour because of Covid-19 and then had a poor second event.

By the fourth round at Bells Beach, the world title could not have been further from Gilmore's mind - she was more worried about being forced into requalification.

Gilmore then gradually improved, winning the El Salvador round and finishing in the top five to set up Thursday's heroics.

"This has been a challenge, for sure. 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.

"It's just unbelievable."

Seen here, a delighted Steph Gilmore after clinching a record eighth surfing world title.
Steph Gilmore couldn't hide her delight after clinching a record eighth surfing world title. Pic: AAP

In a classy touch of her own, Gilmore paid tribute to Moore and declared that the American was "the real world champ" this season.

"She really is the greatest of all time, in my opinion," Gilmore said.

"I disliked this format ... the world championship should be crowned in all the different waves.

"Now I love it.

"I don't think I've won a world title sitting in the water against the world No.1. There are not many words that can describe this feeling right now.

"I'm freaking out. I can't believe it - it's insane."

Gilmore's day nearly ended in a shaky opening contest against Costa Rican Brisa Hennessy.

Judges called a crucial block against Hennessy, giving Gilmore priority, and she took out the match with her last wave score, inside the final minute.

She then came from behind as well to beat Tatiana Weston-Webb of Brazil, but was building momentum in the tricky conditions and was too good for Johanne Defay of France, to set up the decider against Hawaii's Moore.

In the men's final, Brazilian Filipe Toledo won his first world title, beating compatriot Italo Ferreira 2-0 in the decider.

with AAP

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