Two-Time Reigning World Champ Starts 2009 In Pole Position

In fun, shoulder- to head-high waves at Snapper Rocks on Queensland's Gold Coast, current ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore beat Hawaii's Melanie Bartels to establish an early lead in her charge to win a third consecutive crown.

Sunday Morning

The 32 men and four women remaining in the Gold Coast contest on Sunday morning woke up unsure of what would transpire under the baking Australian sun, and with decent surf on tap at Snapper, officials opted to finish up the Roxy Pro by lunchtime. The women often get the short end of the stick as far as surf conditions go when they're competing with the guys for the best chunks of a swell, but the officials actually gave the girls a nice bit of event real estate, and on a perfect summer Sunday to boot.

In semi-final action, Gilmore and Bartels easily swept aside Paige Hareb and Coco Ho, booking their spots in the final. To give the girls a rest between the semis and the final, organizers ran the event expression session then they sent the finalists back out.

The Final

Gilmore opened the scoring with a 9.95, perfectly working a wave like someone who grew up with it in her backyard, and the effect of the opening volley seemed to take the wind out of Bartels' sails. The Hawaiian who's know for radical maneuvers caught two waves in the first half of the heat and literally just went straight along the wave face with her knees locked like she'd already given up. Bartels is known for being either all in or all out, but it was kind of pathetic watching a woman with so much talent almost appear to be pouting.

Gilmore had Bartels combo'd with six or so minutes left in the final, when suddenly Bartels came to life, hooking into a solid wave and milking it from the rocks to where the water patrol were waiting, a couple hundred meters down the beach. The wave earned her a 7.5, and she was out of combo and back in the game. The energy of the final went from flat to full-on, and Bartels caught the first wave of the next set with less than two minutes left, she again rode it all the way across the beach at Snapper.

Just as Bartels was kicking out, Gilmore caught what looked like the best set wave of the morning and after a couple solid turns, unexpectedly fell. The crowd collectively gasped, unable to believe that the girl who'd done everything right all week made a mistake in the most critical juncture imaginable. But ten seconds after falling, Gilmore had caught the next wave through and rode it all the way to Rainbow Bay. The spectators went mental. As time expired, Bartels' final wave's score was announced…a couple points short of what she needed. It was a great final effort by Bartels, but one must wonder what the result would have been had she had her focus the entire final.

After being carried up the beach on the shoulders of friends, Gilmore smiled ear to ear as three-time World Champion Lisa Andersen described this years World Tour Women as "tremendously talented."

In talking about her first wave, Gilmore smiled: "I had a few flashbacks from 2005 where I was trying to pick off the little ones that were going to grow down the line. Today it just so happened I picked a good one. It is important to get a good start and get a lead early in the heat. To win on your home turf, in front of all these people, it's unbelievable."

There's a beauty to the women's ASP World Tour events that's directly traceable to the fact that it's still a tour and a sport searching for it's place in the sporting pantheon. But with women like Gilmore and Bartels, and up-comers like Ho, Hareb, and Fitzgibbons, the Women’s ASP World Tour is an organization on the rise.

The next stop for the women is at Bells Beach for the Rip Curl Women's Pro presented by Ford New Fiesta, April 8-13.

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Final Results:
1. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.07
2. Melanie Bartels (HAW) 12.50

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.33 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 12.16
SF 2: Melanie Bartels (HAW) 17.34 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 13.27

Current Asp Women's World Tour Ratings and Point Totals:
1. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 1200
2. Melanie Bartels (HAW) 972
3. Paige Hareb (NZL) 756
3. Coco Ho (HAW) 756
5. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 552
5. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 552
5. Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 552
5. Bruna Schmitz (BRA) 552
9. Silvana Lima (BRA) 360
9. Amee Donohoe (AUS) 360
9. Samantha Cornish (AUS) 360
9. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 360
9. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 360
9. Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 360
9. Alana Blanchard (HAW) 360
9. Megan Abubo (HAW) 360
17. Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 180
18. Layne Beachley (AUS) 0