Stephanie Gilmore. Photo: Moran
Stephanie Gilmore. Photo: Moran

The Eye of Le Tigre

Stephanie Gilmore remains the most important surfer on the women's tour, she's a high tide that floats everyone's boat

Steph wins!

And you can probably gather from the early use of the exclamation mark, just two words into the report, that we're pretty happy about this. But while Steph winning in Brazil today might be good news for Steph and her legion of fan boys, it's good news for the women's tour.

It's not just the fact that Steph won the contest, it's the style she did it in.

"I just want it! I love competing!"

Huh?

"You have to have the eye of the tiger."

Whaaa?

Is this the same Steph who for the past few years has been walking aimlessly around contest sites, pining to be anywhere a little more cosmopolitan, or trapped inside a black and white monologue commercial about the ocean or about style? No, this was the Steph of a few years back who toyed with the tour, winning titles at will. She acknowledges it herself.

"For a few years there I was sort of half-hearted with things and I realized that you can't be that way if you want to win."

Oi Rio Pro Winner, Stephanie Gilmore. Photo: Moran

And it happened in Brazil, the event where most travelling surfers lose their will to compete/live, not find it. And yet here's Steph, rediscovering her competitive joie de vivre in Brazil, setting herself up with a big lead in the ratings and a clear shot at a seventh world title. Somewhere, Layne Beachley is shifting uncomfortably in her seat. Steph remains the most important surfer on the women's tour, despite Tyler's world titles and Carissa's rendition of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams. Steph in the game is a high tide that floats everyone's boat.

So what's changed? That's easy.

Jake “Snake” Paterson sports a large tiger tattoo, and Steph employing his coaching services has indeed resulted in her rediscovering the eye of le tigre. I talked with Snake on the Bells stairs while he was watching Steph surf her way to a win in the final. He says in many ways Steph is uncoachable in the same way, say, Mick or Joel would be uncoachable. They've been so good for so long there's not a lot even a guy like Snake can tell them about their surfing. But he can stop them from making mistakes, and he said that if he could clean up 10 percent of the mistakes she makes in a heat, she'd be unbeatable.

She hasn't lost since.

Stephanie Gilmore. Photo: Moran

On the other hand, things have gotten a little rocky for last year's supercoach Glen Hall, who is having trouble getting Wilko or Tyler out of a heat.

The lasting image of today - besides of course Steph Gilmore's luxodontic smile - was the sight of Phil Toledo flying out of the frame, and potentially out of the Southern Hemisphere with his backhand air during the men's round. The shot of Seabass's reaction said it all, watching on in perplexed disbelief, looking like the Magikarp guy. The Brazilian seemed totally weightless as he popped above the lip, masterfully slowed the rotation, then stuck it cold and bowed to the crowd.

Yesterday's flyboy, John Florence couldn't break the gravitational shackles on the turgid left and lost meekly in the round before the quarters. He now heads to Bali in an attempt to bring his season back to life. The Margaret River cancellation and subsequent rescheduling to Uluwatu has hurt him badly. Margies was his for the taking, and while I don't know this for sure, I'll bet he hasn't surfed Uluwatu since he was a kid.

Perfect 🔟!! @filipetoledo #OiRioPro

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