Gilmore riding her luck
FIVE-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore will be inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame tonight but it was clear that status was not intimidating her rivals at the Surfest Women’s Classic yesterday.
Gilmore, 25, was on the verge of bowing out of the six-star World Qualifying Series event at Merewether yesterday in her first heat in six months.
Last heading into the final six minutes of the 30-minute round-of-48 heat, Gilmore needed a 6.42-point ride to advance in a nail-biting contest against Australian young guns Dimity Stoyle (13.07), Naomi Stevic (12.24) and 2010 Surfest champion Kirby Wright (11.97).
But Gilmore rose to the occasion, pulling out a 8.77 wave with two minutes and 33 seconds remaining.
The best two-wave score of 14.6 put her into first place and a spot in heat two of the round of 24, which is due to start today at 7.30am.
Gilmore was clearly relieved to survive her first heat at Surfest since winning the event in 2008.
‘‘Fourth place for most of the heat is probably not a great way to start the year,’’ Gilmore said later at a press conference with fellow world champion Joel Parkinson.
‘‘I thought I’d done enough to get second with that last one, but I got first.
‘‘It was a good wake-up call though.
‘‘I actually find QS events harder to surf than world tour events, because there’s no priority system.
‘‘It’s all about strategy, pushing each other deeper and you’re always out of position.
‘‘It’s harder than just paddling out in a tour event and getting right of way.
‘‘But I’m pretty confident in my ability to do what I have to do to win.’’
After enjoying the six-month break since the end of the 2012 World Championship Tour, Gilmore said it was hard getting back her competitive edge.
‘‘I’ve always been pretty relaxed with what I do leading up to these events,’’ she said.
‘‘This year I’ve found it pretty hard to break out of holiday mode because we’ve had so many months to ourselves.’’
But Gilmore, who will become the 35th hall of fame inductee at the Australian Surfing Awards at Doltone House at Pyrmont Point in Sydney tonight, said Newcastle was the perfect place to start her 2013 campaign.
‘‘I really enjoy Newcastle, my dad [Jeff] spent some time living here and he always jumps at the chance to come and hang out here,’’ she said. ‘‘He comes and hangs out with me and sees all his old mates as well. They look after us here and hopefully we get some waves.’’
Gilmore takes on Cannelle Bulard (Reunion Island), Sage Erickson (USA) and Alize Arnaud (France) today. Defending champion and world No.2 Sally Fitzgibbons cruised through her first heat yesterday, posting a score of 16.5 in the one-metre waves.
Merewether’s 2009 winner, Philippa Anderson, (13), was comfortably second in her heat to progress, but three-time champion Rebecca Woods bowed out.
Merewether trial winner Sarah Phelan was eliminated with a 2.1 in her first major event, while Hawaiian Bethany Hamilton was a high-profile loser.
Junior world champion Nikki Van Dijk and 2012 Surfest Pro Junior winner Bianca Buitendag from South Africa, progressed from the same heat.
Buitendag earned the highest single wave score of the day, a 9.33.
Tune into Surfest Livestream at theherald.com.au from today