Stephanie Gilmore shares how her love for surfing continues to grow both inside and outside of competition.
Stephanie Gilmore is preparing for her run at her eighth world title. She has a tall task coming into the Rip Curl WSL Final at the number five seed out of five. In order for Gilmore to walk away with the title and with the big trophy at the end of the day, she must beat out four of the best surfers in the world in up to six heat-to-head heats in one day. Gilmore has been on the World Surf League (WSL) tour since 2007 and is no stranger to adversity. She is confident in her skills and knows that if she gets the right waves she will be the champ at the end of the day.
Having spent so many years on tour, Gilmore is one of the veterans of competitive surfing. She has seven world titles to her name but has not tired of the rigorous ins and outs of the competitive life just yet. Gilmore is truly in love with surfing and being a part of the WSL is an opportunity that she continues to cherish.
“I think the best part about surfing is that we’ve got a lot of room to grow, and a lot of places to improve, and WSL has been really keen to give us those opportunities, and they’re really keen to support us in a way that is, for a lot of sports, it’s kind of unheard of, you know, it’s still not happening,” Gilmore told FanSided in an Exclusive interview. “So to have equal prize money, and now having the opportunities to serve in these prime locations, like Pipeline, and we’re back at Sunset Beach and Tahiti, it’s how you progress the sport, these are the ways that you enable the future generations to come through and push them to new levels and evolve women’s surfing.”
Gilmore has seen the WSL and women’s surfing make leaps and bounds in terms of equality since she first joined the tour. This year alone, women have received equal prize money as their male counterparts, and have had the opportunities to surf the same waves as the men, waves that were deemed “too dangerous” for women in past years.
“For me personally, in my career, I’ve had such a long and amazing career and now I’m at this point where I’m like, oh, whoa, I’m finding these new ways that I’m completely motivated and completely excited by the challenge,” she said. “And I think that’s what keeps me going. Obviously, I want to win a world title, but I’m also just very excited to test myself in these new waves, and there’s really nothing better than being pushed out of your comfort zone in these waves in competition and doing it in front of a crowd. It’s quite exhilarating when you get these good waves in competitions.”
The sport of surfing has seen such a surge in the mainstream in recent years from TV shows following surfers on amazing journeys to the sport being included in the Olympics for the first time in 2021, it has never been a better time to be a surfing fan. For Gilmore, she is taking it all in and enjoying every moment whether she wins or loses.
“I really love women’s surfing, like I love surfing in general and whether it’s free surfing or competitive surfing or whatever it is, it’s such a unique and special sport,” she explained. “This lifestyle that we have is something that goes much further than competitive surfing for me. I live and breathe it, and I love being able to travel the world and see all these cool places and surf these wonderful waves and the tour is kind of like a family on the road, you know, we get to surf these great waves together. And yes, we’re competing, and we’re trying to kill each other at some points, but it is a great life. I’m not tired of it yet. I really love what I do and I would love to win an eighth world title. That’s really my main goal. I think I can do it. I just have to knuckle down hard and make it happen.”
Stephanie Gilmore has continued to grow right along with the sport she loves so much
There is no doubt that the level of surfing has grown since Gilmore first came to the tour in 2007, but she has grown right along with it. She remains one of the best on tour and shows no signs of slowing down just yet. There is always that search for the perfect wave, and the realization of knowing that may not be possible after all.
“That’s the cool thing about surfing, you know, you can win 100 world titles, but I’m not sure you could ever perfect surfing, there’s always a bigger wave, a different board, different styles, it’s just such a subjective sport, I guess. So it’s kind of hard to be able to perfect it and just keep on pushing, keep learning and keep traveling, it’s too much fun.”
One surfer who has been competing for a long time and continues to find success into his late 40s in Kelly Salter. Slater recently won the Billabong Pro Pipeline at 49 years old and at 50 continues to compete. Gilmore looks at what Slater has and continues to achieve and knows that she too can follow suit.
“It definitely gives me a lot of inspiration to think that you know, I’m 34 years old and in those moments where I am a bit tired from traveling and I am a bit tired where I’m not getting the results that I want, stuff that I’m like, you know, do I still have it in me and then I kind of look at Kelly and I’m like, Yes, there’s so much time is long as I’m taking care of my health and my mind and everything then anything is possible. Kelly’s really proved that to a lot of people. Age really is just a number. He has great genetics also. I admire him a lot in that way. I think he has that same approach you know, it’s, he’s forever learning he’s so open-minded to what’s out there and what’s possible, and yeah, if you stay on top of your health and you find new ways to continually be motivated then you can just keep going as long as you want.”
Gilmore will be taking o her chance when she goes head to head with the other top competitors at the Rip Curl WSL Final taking place on Sept. 8 live from Lower Trestles in CA. The event can be seen on The WSL app or on WSL YouTube Channel.