Pictured: Newly-crowned two-time ASP Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 20, claimed the Billabong Pro Maui over Melanie Bartels (HAW), 26, today in clean two-to-three foot (1 metre) waves on offer at Ho’okipa Beach Park, marking her second consecutive Billabong Pro Maui win and earning the young Australian her first Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 20, newly-crowned two-time ASP Women’s World Champion, defeated Melanie Bartels (HAW), 26, to claim the her second consecutive Billabong Pro Maui in clean two-to-three foot (1 metre) waves on offer at Ho’okipa Beach Park, earning the young Australian her first Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (an ASP Specialty Series) Title.
The final event of the 2008 ASP Women’s World Tour, the Billabong Pro Maui opted for the relocation this morning from Honolua Bay to Ho’okipa Beach Park (the first relocation in the event’s 10-year history) in order take advantage of the swell on offer, and the action didn’t disappoint.
Gilmore opened the Final strong, posting a solid 7.33 out of a possible 10, but Bartels put her in the corner with two solid scores of her own. In an exciting exchange that saw the Hawaiian pull ahead on the first wave, Gilmore answered back with the highest score of the day, a 9.57 out of a possible 10 to retake the lead, immediately following it up with an 8.03 for a massive forehand turn combination. Bartels was unable to answer back.
“The tide dropped and the conditions got really fun,” Gilmore said. “Mel (Bartels) is one of my favorite surfers and I just go as hard as I can when I draw her in a heat. You can’t put in a performance at half-speed and I saw her get a solid wave so I just went for broke on the next one and it paid off.”
The win marks the first Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Title for the prodigious natural-footer, an accolade considered second only to the ASP Women’s World Title.
“It feels incredible to win the Vans Triple Crown Title,” Gilmore said. “We had really fun waves at Haleiwa and then solid surf at Sunset Beach and we had a beautiful opening day of competition at Honolua Bay before finishing today at Ho’okipa. It’s a real honor to be considered a good surfer in Hawaii and in such a variety of conditions.”
Gilmore will now head home to Australia to rest and recharge for the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour, and with two ASP Women’s World Titles, a Vans triple Crown Title and 11 elite tour victories under her belt (five in 2008 alone), the makings of an icon are well within place.
“To win so much in my short career is incredible and it feels great, but I know there is so much more to accomplish,” Gilmore said. “I had that head with Layne (Beachley) today, and to see what she’s accomplished in her career makes me that much hungrier to continue to perform at my best. Next year is going to be incredible. We have so much talent on the tour and so many young girls who are really pushing the boundaries of surfing. I can’t wait to get home and prepare for next season.”
Bartels, whose runner-up finish sees the explosive Hawaiian rocket to No. 7 on the ASP Women’s World Tour, put in a solid effort in the Final (at one point holding lead), but her 14.80 out of a possible 20 wasn’t enough to overcome Gilmore.
“I have one of the most amazing shapers in the world who lives right up the beach and my boards today were going unbelievable,” Bartels said. “I felt like I was surfing well all day, but just got out of rhythm in the Final. Congratulations to Steph (Gilmore) though. She was surfing amazing and deserved the win.”
With a bevy of young guns joining the ASP Women’s World Tour in 2009, Bartels will look to continue her momentum in the off-season in preparation for an ASP Women’s World Title campaign next season.
“I’m going to train my butt off in the off-season,” Bartels said. “The girls coming on tour surf amazing and I know that I need to be at my best if I want to make a dent. I beat Steph earlier this season in really good waves in Brazil and then finished second to her today so that’s given me the confidence to believe in my ability. The next step is to ensure that I am putting 100% into the entire year.”
Layne Beachley (AUS), 36, former seven-time ASP Women’s World Champion, has announced that 2008 will be her final season as a full-time ASP Dream Tour competitor. Despite a solid Quarterfinal win over Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), 21, Beachley was unable to overcome eventual winner Gilmore in their hard-fought Semifinal bout, going down 15.07 to Gilmore’s 16.80.
“I think it was a great way to go out,” Beachley said. “We all have to lose sometime and to go down to Steph (Gilmore), who I consider my protégé and the one I am passing the torch to, is probably the most fitting way.”
Beachley’s illustrious career has spanned 19 years and the renowned natural-footer has collected an unprecedented seven ASP Women’s World Titles. While the Billabong Pro Maui marks Beachley’s final event as a full-time ASP Women’s World Tour competitor, the legendary Australian is confident in the new crop of surfers and may be back in 2009 surfing in select events.
“It’s difficult reflecting on something like this (retirement),” Beachley said. “Of course I would have liked to go out with a win and on-top, but I also feel like this past season and these past events haven’t defined my career. I’ve won seven ASP Women’s World Titles and have had an incredible journey of a career so I suppose the most rewarding part of this is that I’m leaving professional women’s surfing in the hands of such capable and exciting young surfers. While it’s my last year as a full time competitor, I’m planning on competing in a couple of events next season.”
Silvana Lima (BRA), 24, went down in the Semifinals to Bartels, but her solid equal 3rd place finish at the Billabong Pro Maui saw the young Brazilian finish a career-best No. 2 on the ASP Women’s World Tour.
“I’m happy because I had a good year,” Lima said. “I started slow but had lots of good results at the end. Lots of 2nds, but to finish No. 2 in the world, I am very happy. I am going to go home and relax with my family and friends over the holidays and then start training in the gym before we start in Australia next year.”