Teenage Aussie Wildcard on Top of Surfing World!
Sunday, March 06, 2005 (Snapper Rocks, Queensland Australia): A surfing fairytale came true today when schoolgirl wildcard Stephanie Gilmore took out the Roxy Pro presented by Boost Mobile season opening World Championship Tour event at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast.
Competing in her first WCT tournament, 17-year-old Gilmore showed her cool mastery of the peeling Snapper break defeating Hawaii’s Megan Abubo in front of a huge hometown crowd to complete a dream debut.
Gilmore, a Year 12 student at Kingscliff High south of the Gold Coast, won a spot in the Roxy Pro after taking out the trials.
She then proceeded to cut a swathe through the ranks of the world’s top surfers, eliminating reigning world champion Sofia Mulanovich (Peru), World No.9 Samantha Cornish (Aus) and six-time world champion Layne Beachley (Aus) in succession.
“Holy cow … my whole body’s just like jelly, I’m just so happy said an ecstatic Gilmore after she was chaired off the beach by fellow surfers amid a mob of cheering fans.
“Just to get the chance to surf against my heroes is an achievement in itself and to beat them is just so overwhelming.
“It’s just such a fairytale. I can’t believe it’s happening. I was just dreaming about this all week and for it to come true is just so cool.
Gilmore, the reigning Australian and Quiksilver U/18 ISA World Junior champion, overcame a slow start in a wave-starved 35-minute final to defeat Abubo, who narrowly re-qualified for this year’s WCT after a lackluster early season campaign in 2004.
Abubo, 27, took the lead early with a 5.17-point ride and it was not until the 22 minute mark that Gilmore surged to the front with a stunning 9.33 point ride that included radical lip snaps and not one, but two barrels.
The Hawaiian tried to fight back but lost priority with four minutes to go, allowing the local girl to extend her lead.
The clock became Abubo’s enemy and with time ticking away, she was unable to find the 8.84 point wave needed to take the lead.
“The ocean worked in my favour and it sort of slowed up, said Gilmore, who was presented with her Roxy Pro trophy by fellow Kingscliff local, 1964 world champion Phyllis O’Donnell, as Abubo sprayed her with a magnum of champagne.
“I wasn’t expecting a nine again but I was just absolutely stoked.
Gilmore pocketed a cool US$15,000 for the tournament – $US10,000 for winning the Roxy Pro and a bonus US$5000 for the Evian Longest Tube Ride.
She plans to put the biggest prize cheque of her short, but thus far spectacular career towards a house.
Gilmore is set to cause more carnage on the women’s WCT this year, having been granted wildcards into three more events, including the SPC Pro at Bells Beach later this month.
With Gilmore unseeded, Abubo’s defeat was tempered by the fact that she now takes the lead in the 2005 women’s world title race.
“Stephanie’s really been ripping this whole contest …she’ll be a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure, Abubo said of Gilmore.
“I’m really happy because I’ve never even made it past the third round here. I’m just stoked to make the final — it’s a good start to the year.
In one of the most thrilling heats in women’s surfing history, Gilmore and Beachley staged a semi-final tussle of titanic proportions that had the huge crowd on their feet and cheering.
With just three minutes left on the clock, and needing a near-perfect 9.21-point ride to catch Beachley, Gilmore took off on a walling wave and obliterated it with a series of critical carving turns before finishing with a long barrel.
The judges duly awarded her a 9.27, allowing her to continue her giant-killing run which had already seen her eliminate reigning world champion Sofia Mulanovich and world No.10 Samantha Cornish.
“I’m bitterly disappointed but man, that girl (Gilmore) has been on fire all week, said a shell-shocked Beachley.
“You can never relax against her and Iade that fatal mistake of taking off on a wave with seven minutes to go when I had priority and that’s what lost me the heat.
“Steph’s scored close to two nines in every heat she’s surfed in and man, that’s what it takes to beat that little rookie. She’s tough and she’s an excellent competitor.
In the other semi-final, Abubo pipped last year’s World No.3 Chelsea Georgeson (AUS) by a mere 0.27 of a point.
Georgeson, a Snapper Rocks local, needed a 5.6-pointer to win but could only manage a 4.43 on her last wave.
Defending Roxy Pro champion Jacqueline Silva (Brazil) saw her title defense hopes slip from her grasp in the first quarter-final against Beachley.
With seconds to go and Beachley leading narrowly, Silva found a wave and rode it to the beach, but fell an agonising 0.51 points short of overhauling the Australian.
“Always when you win a contest to want to defend it the next year, said a disappointed Silva. “I tried to defend my championship but the waves didn’t come. Conditions are pretty good but I didn’t find any good waves in my heat.
Mulanovich received some compensation for her undisputable talent by claiming the Boost Expression Session first place bonus prize of US$3,000 for negotiating yet another twisting Snapper Rocks barrel.
Mulanovich out-classed the likes of Hawaiian Melanie Bartels, former four-time world champion Lisa Andersen (USA), former world champion Pauline Menczer (AUS) and local Trudy Todd in the exciting expression session held as a curtain-raiser to today’s final.
Three remaining Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile men’s round two heats were completed prior to the commencement of the Roxy Pro quarter-finals this morning with Hawaiian Bruce Irons showcasing just why he his renowned as one of the world’s finest tube riders.
An incredible seven-second disappearance on his opening ride earned the 24 year-old an excellent 8.83 and helped secure victory ahead of Aussie Lee Winkler by a margin of more than five points. The tube also saw Irons eclipse Bede Durbidge’s (Gold Coast, Australia) six-second effort from day one and take the lead in the “Evian Longest Tuberide competition, a specialty award featuring a bonus prize of AUD$5,000 for both men and women.
“I was just looking for barrels and I found them said Irons. “After a while in there it kind of seemed like I was in a trance. I didn’t want to blow it by being too greedy!
The Hawaiian is now just one heat win away from what could be one of the clashes of the tournament – a showdown against his own older brother, reigning three time world champion Andy.
However, Bruce will first need to overcome explosive Californian Taylor Knox (USA), while Andy will face-off against local wildcard Luke Munro in a re-match of the pair’s 2004 round three encounter.
Brazil’s Marcelo Nunes and American Taylor Knox also advanced to round three after defeating Tim Curran (USA) and Raoni Monteiro (BRA) respectively.
After a day of incredible performance levels from the women, the men closed proceedings today with a 90-minute Foster’s Expression Session in which 26 of the Top 45 busted out their best free surfing moves.
The US$2000 award for best maneuver went to Dean Morrison for a perfectly executed ‘alley-oop’, while his Coolangatta mate Joel Parkinson won US$1000 for best wave after executing every move in the book on a long wave that built down the line.
The excellent run of conditions is expected to improve even further overnight courtesy of a building southerly swell.
Just two full days of competition remain in the US$270,000 tournament, with $30,000 on offer for the winner and an all-important early ratings lead on the 2005 Foster’s Men’s World Tour.
The Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile and Roxy Pro presented by Boost Mobile are proudly supported by the Gold Coast City Council. In 2004 the tournament(s) was awarded Gold Coast Sporting Event of the Year.
ROXY PRO PRESENTED BY BOOST MOBILE RESULTS
1st:Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.00 US$10,000
2nd:Megan Abubo (HAW) 7.10 US$6000>FINAL:
1st:Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.00 US$10,000
2nd:Megan Abubo (HAW) 7.10 US$6000