Photos: Morgan Maassen
Stephanie Gilmore is on her way to claiming the title of greatest female surfer of all time. Since Steph first bolted out of the gates with a wildcard win at Snapper eight years ago, the dame from Kingscliff, New South Wales has gone on to win and win and win again. But it all started with that smile. She was so comfortably Colgate and so fresh and so clean that "Happy" became an almost inescapable apendage to her name. But, one has to ask, at what point do you throw away all the cutesiness and get downright sexy? —Chris Binns
STEPHANIE: I think the "Happy Gilmore" thing was just a phase. I'm not saying that I'm not still a smiley, happy person. I have the best job in the world — of course I'm happy! I think that vibe was cool and it led to good editorial content. But now, the more that I travel and the more stories I add to my little journey, it feels like I've changed a lot as a person since those early days.
I'm working hard on letting my multidimensional personality shine through, because I think surfing needs more of that. When you pick up an article on an NBA player, you read about all these other business ventures and things they do on the side. It's really intriguing to learn about someone's different interests and endeavors. And a guy like Kelly Slater has a lot of that going on. That's what makes him so interesting, and I think that the public should know him for more than just being freakishly good at a sport.
Pigeonholing female athletes as tomboys or bubbly characters is lazy journalism, and it can strip girls of their sexuality. But it also allows you to be more lighthearted with it all. Look at someone like Rihanna. Her Instagram is just sex, sex, sex, but at the same time she's wearing these completely tomboy getups. It's an interesting approach, and I can appreciate it more as I get older. I'm 25 now; I'm no longer a girl, I'm a young woman; and I want to embrace that and enjoy it. I've realized that you can be glamorous and you can be fabulous and sexy. You're a woman, you can do whatever you want.
I posed nude in ESPN The Magazine "Body Issue" two years ago because it's a magazine that highlights the beauty of an athletic body, and it's got both men and women in it. In the issue a lot of the girls had these serious faces and were standing there trying to hide their bits, while I'm lying there nude and this French photographer I've never met is standing over me saying these awkward things, trying to get me to pose differently. I just thought the whole situation was hilarious. The magazine ended up using the photo where I was cracking up, and I liked my photo the best for that reason. I thought it was cool. It looked natural.