Steph Gimore Wins…Everything

With the ASP World Title already in her back pocket, Steph Gilmore (or, as her fellow competitors have dubbed her, “The Grinch”) came to the final day of the Billabong Pro Maui oozing with a subtle brand of confidence that sent her soaring to the finals, winning both the event and the Vans Triple Crown.

Though on the surface the contest threatened to provide a recipe for the quintessential anticlimactic finale — with all the necessary ingredients: no world title on the line, meager swell, and a forced relocation to a spot lacking the luster of Honolua Bay – the event ended up having a bit more bite than expected. With photographers perched like snipers on the cliffs and pasty tourists in beach chairs looking on, the final eight surfers came to Ho’okipa ready to finish the event.

Having spent six lay days on Maui (six surfless days of tennis, golf, planting trees, swimming with dolphins, dancing in Lahaina, and more time logged in the pool than the rest of the year combined) there was little doubt that everyone was raring to get the thing done. With no more swell forecasted in the contest window, the event was forced to run in the clean, 3- to 4-foot conditions, and although the surf may not have been world-class, there was no shortage of excitement. For those who lean toward the Cliff Notes version, here are the quick-hits of the day:

Unstoppable Steph

Though Melanie Bartels put up an incredible fight throughout the entire event – surfing with the powerful flair that saw her defeat Carissa Moore in the quarterfinals – Bartels wasn’t able to get the scores needed extinguish the champ’s flames in the final heat. Steph was on fire. Enough said.

Nine Titles Hit Ho’okipa

The first semifinal pitted Aussie on Aussie, as seven-time world champ Layne Beachley found herself matched up against the reigning champ, Steph Gilmore. With years of combined wins under their belts, the heat was…heated. But, with her seemingly commonplace dominance, Steph managed to score two of the highest scores of the event, finding her way into the final match-up against an equally on-fire Melanie Bartels. Layne reached the shore after the heat first, waiting in the shallows to give Steph a hug and congratulations; it was the passing of the torch, the moment where Layne imparted her legacy on another Aussie proving to be fully worthy of the honor.

Layne’s Last Hurrah

Having announced her retirement at the Beachley Classic earlier in the year, Layne Beachley’s semifinal heat marked the last jersey-clad jaunt of her ASP World Tour career. “The last heat of my professional surfing career was shared with the current two-time world champ,” says Layne. “It gave me some time to reflect on my whole career, and with 15 minutes to go, I was needing a 9-point-something, and I just started crying, just going, ‘I can’t believe it’s over, but I’m so glad that I’m sharing it with her.’ It wasn’t tears of sadness or disappointment or heartache, it was just joy, gratitude. I’m glad. If I had to lose to anyone I’m glad it was Steph…Now I’m ready to embrace the next chapter…”

The Changing of the Guard

The end of the last ASP World event marks not only the closing of one season, but the introduction of the next. As the final rankings were shuffled and the 2009 requalifiers solidified, the crop of WQS qualifiers was also announced. Joining the tour next year will be a wealth of youngsters, including Sally Fitzgibbons, Paige Hareb, Alana Blanchard, Coco Ho, and Bruna Schmitz. With several of the seasoned tour vets moving on, the face of next year’s lineup will be a bit a younger, a bit less experienced, and hungry as ever.

Billabong Pro Maui Results:

1. Steph Gilmore
2. Melanie Bartels
3. Silvana Lima, Layne Beachley

Final 2008 World Tour Ranking:

1. Steph Gilmore
2. Silvana Lima
3. Sofia Mulanovich
4. Layne Beachley
5. Amee Donohoe