MELBOURNE: Four-time world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore aims to kick start her season at the iconic Bells event and rebound from an uncharacteristic form hiccup.
Gilmore showed she was, indeed, human at last month's world tour-opening event at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast, finishing fifth.
The Australian lost her world No.1 ranking for the first time since September 2008 as Hawaiian Carissa Moore won the event and replaced her at the top.
It continued a tumultuous few months for the 23-year-old, who switched main sponsors in January.
The massive deal is understood to be worth about $1 million per year.
On December 27, Gilmore was bashed in a random attack outside her home on the NSW north coast, suffering a broken wrist and cuts.
"The Gold Coast event was obviously a bit disappointing for me in terms of results, but I felt like I wasn't at 100 per cent so I was happy with the effort in finishing fifth," Gilmore said.
"I feel like my wrist is much stronger now and I've been putting time in with my (board) shaper and working on my equipment.
"Hopefully that will transfer to an improved performance at Bells."
As well as chasing her fifth straight world title this year, Gilmore is the defending champion at the Rip Curl Pro and has won at Bells three times. While Moore now has the top ranking, Gilmore will be the favourite once the competition starts next Tuesday.
"You never know what you're going to get in terms of waves and weather and I guess that keeps everything interesting," she said.
"I've had a good run there over the past few years and hopefully we can get some good surf there this season."American legend Kelly Slater, the 10-time world champion, will also defend his title in the men's event after starting the season with a win on the Gold Coast.