Seven-time World Champion Layne Beachley (AUS) will be formally honored for her 2006 title at the Foster’s ASP World Champion’s Crowing this weekend, but from next week forward, it’s all about 2007 and ASP Women’s World Title No. 8.
“Starting the season defending the world title and having the first event on my home turf is a great way to start the tour and I’m really looking forward to getting off to a good start,” Beachley said. “I’m also looking forward to seeing how the new girls like Stephanie Gilmore, Caroline Sarran and Rosy Hodge perform in their debut event as ASP World Tour surfers.”
The 34-year-old champion, whose career spans a very decorated 18 years, will be drawing challengers nearly half her age when the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, the first stop on the 2007 ASP Women’s World Tour, kicks off next week. Beachley’s confidence remains unfaltering.
“Mentally, I’m one of the toughest competitors you can come up against so I don’t really need to work too much on my mental strength,” Beachley said. “My preparation has really been about spending more time in the water and more time working on my equipment.”
Beachley has won countless ASP Women’s World Tour events, but has never clinched a Roxy Pro Gold Coast crown. Local girl and tour rookie Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) has. Gilmore won the Roxy Pro as a wildcard in 2004 and beat Beachley in the final of the inaugural Havaianas Beachley Classic to post her second elite tour win as a wildcard last October.
“I know that Stephanie (Gilmore) probably knows this wave better than anyone – she proved that in 2004,” Beachley said. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to competitiveness, being confident with your surfing ability and just being patient. Every girl on tour is a good surfer, everyone has the ability to win events so it just comes down to who wants it the most, who’s willing to work hardest for it and who’s going to be the most patient in the lineup.”
Gilmore has spent more time in the Snapper Rocks line-up than the rest of the world’s Top 17 female surfers, but expectations and media speculation surrounding Gilmore’s rookie year could place additional pressure on the 19-year-old.
“There are definitely a lot of expectations floating around, but I think a lot of them are ones I have put on myself because I really want to perform at my best and prove to everyone that I am here to stay,” Gilmore said.
“I’m thinking the best way to deal with it is to try to put it out of my mind and have some fun. Plus, I think I have a little bit of an advantage living here – I surf Snapper almost every day. Hopefully I’ll be able to take that local knowledge and use it to get myself all the way to the final.”
And on Beachley and their budding rivalry: “I have come out on top in the couple of heats I’ve had against Layne, so I think she is pretty keen to put me back in my place and show me who’s boss,” Gilmore said. “It will be pretty interesting if we draw each other again at Snapper. Layne is a seven-time world champ with nothing to prove, so I think that’s the advantage she’ll have, less pressure.”
Sitting slightly under Beachley and Gilmore on the radar but reveling in that fact, is another local, 2005 ASP Women’s World Champion Chelsea Hedges (formerly Georgeson).
“I would say that Steph is definitely going to be one of the hardest girls to beat out there because she’s got so much experience and she’s been surfing this wave ever since she could stand up on a board,” Hedges said.
“Steph will be really good for our tour, as is Layne (Beachley) having seven world titles now. All the focus is probably going to be on those two girls, which is good for me because I can just cruise along quietly and do my own thing. It’s going to be a really good year for us and I think this event is going to really set the standard for the rest of the year. It’s going to be really exciting.”
The waiting period for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pros begins February 27th, 2007. Be sure to catch all the action LIVE at www.aspworldtour.com, www.quiksilver.com and www.roxy.com For a full list of surfer profiles, season schedules, event profiles, news stories and much more, be sure to log on to the new and improved aspworldtour.com