Stephanie Gilmore sent a clear warning to rivals after she and Taj Burrow clinched an Australian double in the season-opening surfing world championship events on the Gold Coast.
Local heroine Gilmore showed she was back in the mood to secure a fifth world title as she snatched victory from countrywoman Laura Enever with a 9.2 wave in the last minute to win the Roxy Pro final 16.37 to 14.2.
Burrow gave early hope that an Australian can stop Kelly Slater running off with a 12th men’s world crown as he won a thrilling Quiksilver Pro final from Brazil’s Adriano De Souza, while 40-year-old Slater fell to Gold Coast’s Josh Kerr in the quarters.
Gilmore said the new season feels like a complete flip-side to her last season, which was marred when she was injured by a man wielding an iron bar near her Tweed Heads home in the off-season.
That incident weighed on her as she won only one event while battling to third place in the 2011 series behind Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, having won the world crown the previous four years.
“I’m 100 per cent more confident, my strength, my whole knowledge, awareness, everything. I just feel really good,” said Gilmore after being carried shoulder-high up the beach following Sunday’s triumph.
“Last year was one of my best years, in the sense that I learned so much about myself, about what I want to do, where I want to go, how much I enjoy being on tour and how much I enjoy being in that No.1 position, because I missed it.”
Gilmore was on fire from the opening heats and blasted her way into the semi-finals where she defeated world No.2 Sally Fitzgibbons.
Gilmore said the last 35 seconds of the final against Enever seemed to drag on like three days.
“Laura in her last heat showed everyone she’s willing to take off on anything and turn it into a big score in the last seconds, so I was really nervous,” she said.
In the men’s event, Burrow said fine-tuning he did during a four-day layover due to poor surf helped him beat De Souza in the decider.
Burrow grabbed the highest wave score of the final, a 9.43, halfway through but De Souza fought back and the result hung in the balance after the siren until the judges tallied their scorecards and the West Australian prevailed 15.86 to 15.60.
“It was good to have a little break and I felt like I was able to take a breath, have a couple more free surfs, try some more surfboards … find my feet again,” said Burrow.
“I peaked at the right time and it really went my way .. it’s been sick.”
A runner-up to Slater in this event last year, Burrow admitted he was nervous coming up against De Souza.
“I don’t like surfing against him because he’s really tough and he always gets two good waves .. so I just tried not to think about who I was against and just two good waves and tear them to pieces.”
The new season is already over, though, for Brazil’s Silvana Lima, who tore a cruciate ligament in her knee in her quarter-final loss to Enever.
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