There were a few years there were you couldn’t really tell is Steph cared about winning more world titles (hell, she’s even said that that she couldn’t tell at times). But after blitzing her way to her seventh world title, tying Layne Beachley as the winningest female surfer of all time, it became pretty clear her head was back in the game. Steph looked in top form the first few heats of the event, even if the conditions for her heats didn’t offer a whole lot in terms of performance, but any plans to take the big W in this event were swiftly derailed in her quarterfinal against the young Caroline Marks.
Steph came out swinging, linking carves and tail drifts on her way to a 7.17 on her very first ride. But that would prove to be the high-water mark for Steph in the quarterfinal, as she fell strangely out of sync for the rest of the heat. Struggling to find a decent backup score, Steph kicked out after the opening turn on a few waves rather than opting to try to manufacture something on the crumbly inside.
Caroline, on the other hand, got to work on her backhand, linking vertical backhand snaps and tail drifts on nearly every surfable wave. Often compared to Mark Occhilupo for her bottom turn, Caroline might as well have been strapped to a rocket as she drove off the bottom each time to crack the lip. By the time the final horn sounded, she’d handily defeated Gilmore with a 16.80 heat total to Gilmore’s mere 8.77.
With the 2018 World Champ now out of the hunt, following the early exit of last year’s event winner Lakey Peterson in Round 3, you’d have to give Carissa Moore pretty good odds to make it out with the trophy in hand. Although Caroline has already proven herself adept at upsets. With the way both have been surfing, it’d be a hell of a final either way if they can make it through semis.