Beating Wright bittersweet for Gilmore

Melissa Woods
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SURFING 2019 MAUI PRO

Tyler Wright and winner Stephanie Gilmore contested the final of the season-ending WSL event

While hoping it's a springboard to an eighth surfing world title, Stephanie Gilmore admits it was "bittersweet" beating Tyler Wright to win the Maui Pro.

Gilmore faced her fellow Australian in the final of the season-ending event, which was Wright's competitive comeback after 17 months out due to a debilitating illness that left her unable to hold a conversation or get out of bed.

Wright's older brother Owen was out for more than a year after suffering a traumatic brain injury at Pipeline in Hawaii in 2015, and won in his first event back in the 2017 season opener.

Gilmore said that played on her mind as she entered the water for the final, in which she produced the two best wave rides to claim a 14.16 to 9.67 victory.

"It's definitely bittersweet as I would have loved to have seen Tyler win," Gilmore told AAP.

"I remember when Owen won his first event back at Snapper and I was thinking, 'It would be so cool if Tyler could win her first event back' and I could tell she wanted it really bad.

"The waves slowed down and the swell died and it fell my way.

"She's so young and she's feeling fresh, I'm sure she will be more motivated than ever - there's nothing better for the motivation than coming second."

Gilmore's career was almost derailed when she was randomly attacked outside her apartment late in 2010, which left her with a serious wrist injury and mental scars.

"Mentally is the biggest one to come back from, just regaining that confidence ... obviously Tyler is a two-time world champion so she knows how to win but you lose that confidence," she said.

"I've been there and it's tough to fight back from but every single win since that has felt so much more more rewarding than any other."

Gilmore said she and 25-year-old Wright spent some time together "body-boarding and hanging out" as her younger rival recovered, which solidified their friendship.

"I'm so happy for her. She's in love and she's so comfortable with where she's at in her life and she's ready to go on a tear which is awesome," Gilmore said.

The Maui win was Gilmore's fifth at Honolua Bay and extends her record to 31 career titles.

The 31-year-old showed she will be a force in 2020 - eliminating newly crowned 2019 world champion Carissa Moore of Hawaii and teenage American contender Caroline Marks en route to the trophy.

Gilmore is also set to surf at next year's Olympics, representing Australia along with Sally Fitzgibbon after the duo provisionally qualified for Tokyo.

"I can't wait to see it all unfold and of course an eighth world title is definitely my goal, so whether that happens next year or the next I'm not too stressed, I've definitely got a lot more in the tank."