It’s been a good few days for Steph Gilmore. Yesterday during the quarterfinals of the 2018 Rip Curl Pro, she celebrated her 400th heat as a World Tour surfer. Today, she secured her 4th Bells title.
In the 35-minute final against the snappy goofyfoot Tatiana Weston-Webb, Gilmore put the first score on the board with a clean 7-pointer, while Weston-Webb searched for a solid rebuttal with handful of smaller waves. While Weston-Webb was knocking out 9s throughout the event, it seemed clear from the onset that Gilmore was going to set the pace for the final.
The wind picked up as the final progressed, but the changing conditions didn't seem to trip up the always steady and stylish Gilmore. Gilmore stayed steely, waiting for the best set waves, drawing out classic lines and adding progressive exclamation marks to the end of each wall. She backed up her 7 with a 7.17, but in the dying minute of the heat, the 6-time Champ made an uncharacteristic mistake: she let Weston-Webb take a wave under Gilmore’s priority, with Weston-Webb only chasing 6.80.
Fast-forward a few nervous moments for Gilmore as the judges analyzed Weston-Webb’s last wave, and Gilmore dodged the bullet, keeping her lead. This puts Gilmore in a familiar position--the top of the rankings, that is--heading into the Margaret River Pro. Not a bad place to be if she’s eying that seventh title.
“This is incredible,” said an emotional Gilmore in her post-heat interview. “I just visualized so much this morning and yesterday. I could just feel myself winning the bell. It was an emotional build up. I feel like so much of the focus is on Mick right now, so I feel like I can just sneak in and get a little ding and no one would even care [laughs], so it took the pressure off. I love the yellow jersey, so hopefully I can hang onto it a little longer than last year.”