Steph Gilmore Almost Lost The 2015 Title Today, Then Didn't – Sean Doherty On...

3 Mar 2015 6 Share

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Steph had to wait for a wave within the final minute of her Round 2 heat to get a score that would progress her past West Oz's Bronte Macaulay, and through to Round 3. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Steph had to wait for a wave within the final minute of her Round 2 heat to get a score that would progress her past West Oz's Bronte Macaulay, and through to Round 3. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Perfect Lives – Day 2 of The Roxy Pro Gold Coast, 2015
By Sean Doherty

Steph Gilmore’s perfect life trajectory was about 50 seconds from spiking south today.

Already having suffered one shock loss due to the anaemic conditions in round one, Steph faced another one at Snapper Rocks today that would have knocked her out of her own contest, the first contest of the season, in straight sets. But Snapper Rocks came to her rescue inside the last minute, and gave her the wave she needed to breeze past wildcard Bronte Macaulay. As she surfed the wave down the point for the inevitable score, her crew in the Bahaman-décored surfers area erupted. Girls in elegant white cotton dresses, the height of beach chic, promptly stuck their fingers between their teeth and whistled like tradesmen, loud enough to break glass. It was all very Coolangatta.

READ: FORECASTER BLOG - QUIKSILVER PRO PLAYS THE WAITING GAME

When I commented later to Steph that it never looked in doubt she laughed and concurred. “Never in doubt,” she replied sarcastically before grimacing. But just like everyone else in this contest she is being forced to lower her expectations for this event after two weeks of pulsing East Coast Low wave machine has suddenly turned into cute knee-high longboard waves.

“It’s coming off a high and recalibrating completely. That’s one of my struggles. During that swell I had all my boards sorted, I had the bank sorted, I had everything perfect and I’m like, this is too good to be true. I don’t have to pack my bags, I’m at home, plus I’m prepping for my first world tour event. It was all too good to be true… and then we turn up to this.” She looked around at a blue ocean as flat as a billiard table and you could almost hear the noise they use on game shows when someone loses 20K by answering that the capital of Australia is Sydney. “When you’ve been on tour for as long as I have you have to find progressively more motivation as you go, whether that comes from good waves, other competitors, whatever it is. But when you turn up and have to surf waves like this that’s the, err…” she pauses, fishing for the analogy, “the beast that comes with the beauty?”

Steph is a pro these days at working the media. Her sixth World Title elevated her to something beyond a mere sports star here in Australia. She’s now the highest paid female athlete in the country, and something beyond just “Our Steph”, a term generally reserved for female sports stars who aren’t quite as multi-dimensional and can’t play a jazz lick like Steph Gilmore.

The week before the contest started she was featured on 60 Minutes and stole the show to the point where if you had just landed from Planet Goozbain and had no idea who Steph Gilmore was, you might assume she was actually the host of the show and not the subject. The million-dollar smile was backed up by the one hand clapping spiritual quotes and the rolling jokes with reporter Karl Stefanovic. I asked Steph that even now, after being in the national gaze for so long, does switching on the TV and seeing herself on 60 Minutes feel like an out-of-body experience?


STEPH’S SEVENTH WORLD TITLE WASN’T WON AT SNAPPER TODAY, BUT IT COULD HAVE WELL BEEN LOST...


“Not really. It was actually fun. Working with Karl was great he’s a crack up.” Steph had watched the show at home, just up the hill. “I told myself I didn’t want to watch it… I don’t get embarrassed so much, it was more having to relive the emotional moments that I’d already relived on the show. But I was at home and I turned it on and – no joke – I literally turned it on at the bit I was trying to miss, the emotional bit. Bang, there I was, talking about it.”

“It” doesn’t have a name. “The emotional bit” of course was the incident back in December 2010 when she was attacked randomly by a homeless schizophrenic man with a metal bar outside her Snapper Rocks unit, breaking her wrist and fracturing her psyche, the lone nadir in an otherwise pretty much perfect existence. “It was 60 Minutes, I knew they’d go deep and I’d be talking about it, so I was prepared for it. Even though it’s you watching yourself talk about it on the television, it still provokes emotions. I sat there and watched myself talk about it and it hit home that the memory of it all is still living there with me.”

From there Steph effortlessly swings into the awaiting media pack and without a break answers the first of several thousand World Title questions she’ll answer this year by saying, “Seven World Titles? It’s two heats into the new year and I think I’ve answered more questions about seven World Titles than I have about the six I’ve already won!” Steph’s seventh World Title wasn’t won at Snapper today, but it could have well been lost, a result that might have haunted her later in the year.

The next instalment in Steph Gilmore’s perfect life may have to wait a few days. The forecast for the event is looking increasingly skinny, despite a brewing monster system that looks set to arrive a day late for the waiting period, a system big enough to break Queensland away from the Australian mainland and send it floating off into the Pacific.


MORE FEATURES BY SEAN DOHERTY

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