Australian surfer Stephanie Gilmore made history Thursday with a record-breaking eighth world surfing title.
Her last title came in 2018, but she finally surpassed previous record-holder Layne Beachley at the World Surf League finals in California. Beachley congratulated Gilmore, calling her a “f–king legend” in a comment on an Instagram post by surfing magazine Tracks.
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A post shared by Tracks Magazine (@tracksmag)
Gilmore made her debut in 2007, becoming the only surfer to win a world title in her debut season. Her 33 WSL event wins are the most of any woman surfer.
This year, though, didn’t get off to a strong start for the Australian. The 34-year-old missed the season opener with COVID-19 and earned just one event win throughout the year, and she entered the Rip Curl WSL Finals ranked fifth.
“I really feel like this year emotionally was one of the toughest years,” Gilmore told Olympics.com. “Mentally I had to dig deep on a much gnarlier level than I’ve ever had to before.”
In her opening heat Thursday, Gilmore trailed against world No. 4 Brisa Hennessy but secured the ride she needed to win with less than a minute to go.
She won three heats in a row and then faced defending world champion Carissa Moore in a final surf-off.
Moore had won the previous two titles and entered the finals with the most regular season points after finishing second three times this season, third twice and winning one event.
“Carissa is really the world champ to me this year,” Gilmore said. “She’s had the best season ever. I’m so honored to surf against her in this final.”
Moore was quick to congratulate Gilmore on her title, calling her “the GREATEST of all time!” in an Instagram post.
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A post shared by Carissa Moore (@rissmoore10)
“An honor to surf against you always,” she wrote. “Congratulations on your 8th title! Wow! 8X!!! Holy moly. Five X 35 min heats in one day with all the pressure and win or die situations…it’s all yours undoubtedly.”
Gilmore appreciated the support she received from Moore and from others after her record-breaking win.
“I had so many of the women on the tour come up to me after this event,” Gilmore said, “and they just all said to me how inspired they were by the fact that I didn’t have the best year, but I was still able to pull through with an incredible, incredible performance in the last event to make it happen and be a world champion. And that made all of them realize that, hey, we can do this.”
She called that moment “really rewarding.”
“I just felt so happy that I was able to give them that confidence because they’re all such incredible athletes and we’re all progressing the sport together,” she said. “And if I can help push that along, not only in my own actions, but to inspire my peers to do the same thing, then job done.”