Wow, what a close final it was. Needing to win the event to take the world title to a surf-off, Tyler Wright fell to the marauding Carissa Moore and handed a 6th world title to Steph Gilmore.
The fist pumping of Carissa Moore after winning in home waters showed that this competitor would never allow a sense of the dramatic to override her will to win. Already being out of he world title race all she had to do was let Tyer Wright take the event and the points total would have been tied between Tyler and Steph. The resulting three heat surf-off would have provided an historic moment of high drama to end a season which came down to a difference of 4 points in the final heat of the year.
The calibre of surfing on tour this season is the highest it has ever been. There are no easy heats. This was the hardest title I’ve ever won. Steph Gilmore
An elated Steph Gilmore must have been biting her nails to the quick after falling to Courtney Conlouge in the quarter finals and handing the initiative to the pursuing duo of Sallly Fitz and Tyler Wright. The buzzer signalled the moment Steph could stop mentally preparing for a surf-off and start celebrating – an abrupt change in emotion which was there for all to see.
“I just didn’t really find the positioning in that heat,” Gilmore said. “I looked at the draw for the quarterfinals and I was thinking to myself what a tough competitor Courtney (Conlogue) is to draw here. That’s what happens when you change the seedings around and get the yellow jersey, it mixes things up. It was tough and I’m super disappointed. I really didn’t put on a performance that was world title worthy but that’s the way it goes.”
“I paddled off after that heat and there were some tears and some emotions,” Gilmore said. “I took a few breaths - it was a long year and I have to think about everything that’s happened along the way - the good results and the bad.”
Immediately following Gilmore’s elimination, Fitzgibbons was ousted from the event by Bianca Buitendag, dashing her hopes for a maiden world surfing crown and leaving only Wright remaining in the hunt against Gilmore.
I wish I could have got there today, it was such a heartbreaker but I just have to pick myself back up.Sally Fitz
“That quarterfinal was definitely a tough one for me and a real nail-biter,” said Fitzgibbons. “I just had to tell myself that I gave it everything. It was still a great day for me, my family’s here to support me and I’ve had amazing people around the world supporting me all season.
“I wish I could have got there today, it was such a heartbreaker but I just have to pick myself back up. You never know how you’ll feel, but I definitely felt devastated. It’s something you pour all your heart and energy into, and it’s a long year.
Whilst Sally was gutted, Tyler professed have used the occasion as a character building session. An impressive display of fortitude considering she came from behind Sally to almost take the event and force a three heat surf-off for the title.
“Today was amazing, we had a blast and I had a fantastic day,” said Wright. “I loved all the close heats and all the women really pushed me. Today was definitely character building for me. Thanks to everyone for coming down and supporting me it really helps. I’m just in a good place right now, enjoying my surfing and I’ve never been this inspired.”
“That was probably the most emotional I’ve ever been watching someone else surf in my life,” Gilmore said after the spray had settled. “I know how focused Tyler is and I was completely prepared for a surf-off. However, I also knew how incredibly capable Carissa is at virtually every venue. I feel like I had a year’s worth of emotions packed into one heat. I won my first title here at Honolua Bay, but after my loss in the quarterfinals, I was prepared for anything to happen. I’m really emotional right now.”
Clinching the title puts Gilmore one behind the all-time women’s record-holder of Layne Beachley with 7 and third behind all-time men’s and women’s record-holder Kelly Slater with 11.
“The calibre of surfing on tour this season is the highest it has ever been,” Gilmore said. “There are no easy heats. This was the hardest title I’ve ever won. The talent level is only going to increase in future years but I’m so pleased I’ve won and want to thank everyone who has supported me this year - my family, my friends and my sponsors.”
Watch all the heats on demand here.
Target Maui Pro Final Results:
1 - Carissa Moore (HAW) 18.23
2 - Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.03
Target Maui Pro Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.67 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.93
Semifinal 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.76 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 9.74
Target Maui Pro Quarterfinal Results:
Quarterfinal 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.20 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 9.50
Quarterfinal 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.67 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.03
Quarterfinal 3: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 15.97 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.33
Quarterfinal 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.03 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 16.30