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Stephanie Gilmore on women´s Surfing: „In bigger waves, we’ve still got a way to go“

Stephanie Gilmore - Photo by Kelly Cestari @WSL

Stephanie Gilmore is one of Women Surfings most influential characters. She has dominated women´s high performance surfing since she entered the scene. Never, not in women´s nor in men´s surfing has another surfer accomplished what Stephanie Gilmore has achieved: She won her first World-title as a rookie in 2007, followed by three consecutive world titles, 6 World titles in total and 24 Elite World Tour victories.

Meeting Stephanie Gilmore at one of her favorite waves, Honolua Bay - where she ended the season, claiming her 4th win, made a perfect set up for an interesting talk about Women´s Surfing current state.

 „Technically, women´s Surfing has evolved so much more than it was back then“ - Stephanie Gilmore

Steph, how would you describe the change Women´s Surfing has made over the years from when you started competing until now?

When I first started on tour, the generation of Layne Beachley and Chelsea Georgeson, Sofia Mulanovich, Rochelle Ballard, Megan Abudo all those girls, there was a real fierce intensity to them. And I feel like in big waves they were more ready to attack the ocean. But in smaller waves, I don't think they were as in tune with their equipment. As much so, I think technically, women's surfing has evolved so much more than it was back then. 

„…in big waves, they [the girls] were more ready to attack the ocean“ - Stephanie Gilmore

So the women's tour now, I feel like the girls, technically they're doing maneuvers that are a lot faster, sharper. They're a lot more dynamic. But I think in bigger waves, we've still got a way to go. I think we need to sort of push ourselves a lot more in that realm. That´s what the Rochelle and Layne, that’s what they lived for. They were charging gnarly waves. And I think, yeah, we've sort of let of the gas a bit on those ones. 

"But at the same time, I think the men's tour is the same. Where technically they're insane, they're still learning in the bigger stuff." - Stephanie Gilmore

So yeah, I love it. I think that it's probably a little more entertaining when the girls now are so much more dynamic. But it leaves room for us to grow and move. And obviously aerials aren't such a big thing in women's surfing, but you see Carissa trying them in heats all the time, and it really is just a matter of time before we have to do airs to make heats, so that's something that I have to work on. And that's something that everyone has to work on, and that's what keeps me excited to still be here doing the tour.

So, do you think that (Air´s) is what we will be seeing from the girls in the near future?

I hope so, yeah. I think that there's a lot of really young girls, they're 8, 9 years old, 10 years old, that are going for airs a lot, and it's cool because by the time they're 15 years old, they'll be nailing it. And I think right now, just good surfing, good strong, powerful surfing is still the ultimate what everyone wants to see. But aerials is something that we all have to work on, and I'm presuming between now and say 2020, I think the girls will really be doing them more consistently. 

Stephanie Gilmore about Women surfings Future


Do you miss the passion for the bigger waves and the courage of the girls going for the bigger ones? Would you say there's an event missing on the women´s tour which supports bigger, gnarlier waves? 

Yeah, I think that's the thing. I once saw the girls charging. Courtney Conlogue is a maniac. I've literally seen her out at Third Reef Pipe. And Laura Enever, she charges hard. All the girls, when the waves are big, they'll definitely show up and do their thing. But I think it's the fact that, yeah, we don't have Sunset on the tour anymore. My first few years on tour, watching it run out Sunset was a big thing, because we were riding 7'2s in our heat. I don't even travel with a board over 6'3 anymore, unless we go to Fiji, Cloudbreak. But even in Cloudbreak, sort of everyone goes in figure and they're not really going to be there anymore. But yeah. And these are things that the WSL is all looking at too, like, "All right, what are the waves we can push the girls in and make sure that we're getting all aspects of surfing?" So yeah. I mean, I don't really miss it because it's pretty scary [laughs]. I'm really not a big wave person. But yeah, at the end of the day, to be a world champ, you really have to win in all conditions.

What needs to be changed regarding women´s surfing and the women´s tour?

I'm really proud of the WSL and everything they're doing for us, to up the prize money, to putting us in decent waves, to giving us more priority when we're at events with guys. It's just insane. And I know a lot of people are still like, "Oh, it still needs more this or that or whatever," but if you really look at how much has already changed, we're heading in the right direction. And the WSL, they listen to us. They want to hear from us. Obviously, it needs to be a marketable business. It's a business. It's a sport that has the potential to be like an NFL or something, but obviously, the WSL have the spirit of surfing at heart. And they don't want to tread on anyone's toes, so they don't want to make it too corporate. But, in saying that, they obviously, for 2019 and onwards, they want to look at new models, new schedules that can potentially make it more exciting for sponsors and stuff like that. So yeah, I think that we're on the right track. It's really heading the right direction and I'm excited to be part of it. It gets me excited. I mean, I've been on tour for quite a long time [laughs]. And every single year, I think, "Oh, awesome. What's next?" A little bit of change is not so bad.



Stephanie Gilmore & Janine Reith // Photo by Andreas Ummenhofer, @aframe_images

Stephanie Gilmore about the importance of Fan support

I saw you brought your own fanclub with you. These girls have been cheering for you every heat. Do you know them? 

Yeah, well, I know two of the girls from home. They're from the Gold Coast. Well, they're from Sydney, but they're living on the Gold Coast. So I see them and surf with them a lot at home. And my dad knows them because he sees them in surf all the time. So yeah, they mentioned that they were going to come over for this event earlier in the year, and I mean, I didn't think they were going to come in full force with flags and everything [laughter]. But yeah, I love those girls. Every single wave I took off on, I could hear them screaming at me, and it was-- it's so cool to take off on a wave, and you can-- because normally you don't hear anything or think about much. It's all intuitive or you don't really think, you're just feeling, but I could hear them the whole time. And I was like, "That's awesome." That kind of support is what makes it all [worthwhile?].

Do you think the support that you're getting has an effect on your performance as well? Would you say if more of the athletes had that support, that would push women's surfing as well?

I mean, I don't know. I think so. Some people love it, some people hate it. There are athletes out there that-- and I know maybe there's some girls on tour that to have all that on the [heel?] would add more pressure to them and they wouldn't like that. Everyone's different. Maybe that was too much to handle, because they're like, "Oh, I'm not only winning it for myself, but I'm winning it for everyone else too." So it's just it is what you make of it, and I just, yeah, I love it. I think it's funny and it kind of lightens the energy a bit. But each to their own. Some girls love it, some girls would hate it.

Okay. Thanks for chatting with us.

No worries. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Have a good one.

Have a nice day.

Have a look at how Stephanie Gilmore lives: Watch "Nowness"

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