Currently the best female surfer in the world, it wasn’t far into our interview with the lovely Stephanie Gilmore that we realised that there’s a lot more to success in the world of surfing than catching the perfect wave. In part one of this two-part interview, Stephanie spills on everything from why Australian beaches are the best in the world, to how she stays focused when all eyes are on her.
First up, congratulations on your sixth world title! Talks us through what the world tour is like…
It’s very much a moment by moment thing and then a world title at the end… it’s like icing on the cake. It really is the steps and the small goals along the way that you’re trying to achieve that make the world title fall into place. To be at this point, with six, is pretty crazy, I don’t even think I ever imagined I’d win six. No I do remember being young and arrogant and probably like, ‘yeah, I could win 10, no problems’ [laughs]. Not so much arrogance, but confidence. I’ve always, from a young age in the surf, had a confidence that has definitely helped me achieve a lot of my success.
So the first event of the year – the Roxy Pro – is always held on Australia’s Gold Coast. How does it feel knowing you always start each year in your home surf?
I feel like it’s cheating because we spent so much time surfing here growing up and whenever I’m not traveling somewhere, I’m here surfing. I just love it, you know. It’s still one of my favourite places in the world. We’re so spoilt really – waves, warm water and everyone here is so supportive of surfing and surfers so we’re pretty lucky in that respect.
How is the surf in Australia different to waves around the world?
The water is clear; we look after our beaches, I travel to a lot of places around the world and they don’t look after their beaches.
Can you tell the difference?
Not so much the surf but just your experience in the surf, everyone that’s out there is obviously enjoying being in the water because it’s clean and you feel like you’re being rejuvenated. And you’re not scared to walk across the sand without shoes on because you know the local council is looking after the beaches.
What’s one of your earliest memories at the beach?
I have very vivid memories of surfing Greenmount Beach, which is just down the road from Snapper [Rocks], and I remember being on a boogie board. I was probably nine or ten and I was just getting into surfing. I just remember the surf was perfect and the water was crystal clear and there was lots of swimmers on the shore break and I wanted to impress them. I wanted to make sure I got up on the boogie board and spun around. There was something about performing for them that I really was drawn to. And I think about it now, when I’m competing in the world tour events and it’s a very similar feeling – you want to impress the crowd and be a performer.
When you’re about to hit the water in a competition how do you keep your focus?
It’s just a matter of being able to shift your mindset. For me, I’ve always just been able to do some breathing. I don’t even call it meditation, it’s literally just breathing and just centring myself – they’re sort of the things I do before a heat, during the heat even. Like if I’m getting nervous and the commentators are yelling stuff like, ‘you need a nine point ride and there’s two minutes left!’ and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh’.
So you can hear the commentators in the water, what else is going on?
Yeah, you can hear it. They tell you everything basically. It’s interesting because you find yourself under pressure and it’s really whoever can compose themselves and stay calm that usually ends up winning.
When you’re in rhythm with the ocean too there’s something… you can get real deep and weird and spiritual with this stuff but it’s pretty cool when you’re in rhythm with the ocean. You just always find yourself in the best place for the best waves and when you need a wave with two minutes left, the wave will come to you.
How are you feeling about the 2015 competition and potentially equalling Layne Beachley’s record of seven world titles?
Yeah, you know, Layne’s an incredible athlete. She’s done so much for female surfing professionally and I’ve always admired the way Layne has been driven outside of her sport. She’s constantly working on projects, doing motivational speaking, and she’s just never stopped.
But yeah, I’d love to go on and achieve more world titles. I don’t know, I think I could win seven and it would awesome but as long as I’m still enjoying what I do and improving on my actual surfing, that’s really what matters to me the most.
Image courtesy of Roxy.