We saw the future of women's surfing today, and she's in the form of a 5'10" regularfoot named Stephaine Gilmore. The Coolangatta queen may be only 18 years old, but she's already won two WCT events as a wildcard. And today, surfing in her first event at Sunset, she blew right by two of the biggest names in the business: Layne Beachley and Rochelle Ballard. "It's my first time here so it was pretty nerve-wracking to draw a heat with the two most dominant girls at Sunset," Gilmore told the ASP. "I went out there trying to have some fun and trying to catch anything that came my way. I was just doing my thing and I guess the judges like what I was doing."
We all did. In "light and variable," 4- to 6-foot Sunset, with the occasional bowling west peak and plenty of waves off the Point, wildcard Gilmore posted two 9s for a total of 18.10 against Ballard and Beachley. Her combination of traditional grace and modern, tail-drifting torque has the world – including six-time world champ Beachley singing praises. "She will be women's surfing sooner than you know it," Beachley told SURFING.
In similar fashion, her Hawaiian counterpart, Melanie Bartels, also blasted through the trials rounds and won her first round heat against the big dogs. Bartels – known more for her off-the-charts freesurfing than her competitive savvy – fell of the WCT in 2005 but got in the trials after her performance in the OP Pro Hawaii. She's now sitting pretty in the third round of the Roxy Pro, ready to prove she's a necessary ingredient in a progressive women's tour. "I'm on a good roll now," she told the ASP. "I just hope I'm still surfing well when we run the contest next."
With Bartels and Gilmore bursting out of the gates and Beachley zeroing in on that seventh world title, you know there'll be plenty of women still surfing well. Stayed tuned for the dramatic conclusion in more clean, 6-foot surf.
[Special thanks to Tradewinds U Drive car rentals. tradewindsudrive.com.]