Gilmore chases record eighth WSL crown

·3-min read

Bruised from last year's premature exit, Stephanie Gilmore feels better prepared as she mounts a quest for a record eighth world title in the World Surf League Finals.

The competition window for the one-day epic, featuring the top five-ranked women and men at Lower Trestles in California, opens on Thursday (early Friday AEST), with Gilmore fine-tuning her preparation at the famed break for the past fortnight.

Australia also have two men's contenders with Margaret River's Jack Robinson ranked No.2, a spot above Queenslander Ethan Ewing.

Australia hasn't had a men's world champion in nine years since three-time champion Mick Fanning last held the honour, with Brazilians winning five of the last seven titles.

Hunting her first world crown since 2018 which would see her surpass compatriot Layne Beachley, Gilmore will have to do it from fifth spot with her first match-up against Costa Rica's Brisa Hennessy.

Under the Finals format, which is in its second year, the No.5 surfer takes on No.4 with the winner then facing No.3 and that victor going up against No.2.

That winner faces the top-ranked surfer in the best of three heats.

Last year Gilmore was ranked fourth but was shattered to be eliminated straight up by French surfer Johanne Defay.

Despite Lowers being a break where she has posted a perfect 10, Gilmore was unable to find any waves of that calibre with Defay cleverly switching from the tricky right-hand break to the more consistent left early in the 35-minute heat.

Gilmore said she was taking a different approach as she targeted defending world champion, top-ranked Carissa Moore from Hawaii.

"I'm just glad I have an opportunity to try again because last year I was in this position and really didn't do great at all," Gilmore told AAP.

"I can use that experience from last year to improve on my performance."

The 34-year-old said there was an unusually large swell last year and she didn't adapt.

"I just had such a set vision of how it was going to go and then it didn't work and it frustrated me and I didn't adapt and this time around I've learnt that lesson," Gilmore said.

Gilmore hoped her Finals experience could be to her advantage against 22-year-old Hennessy.

"Brisa is really talented, she's done really well this year and got her first win on tour at Sunset Beach so she's super confident," Gilmore said.

"She hasn't been in the Finals before and I'm not going underestimate her but I do know from experience how overwhelming the Finals were."

Gilmore is also excited to watch Robinson and Ewing fly the flag in the men's field.

Robinson was a child prodigy who is finally delivering on his potential while Ewing, also 24, has surfing in his blood with his late mother Helen winning at Bells Beach in 1983.

The men's defending champion Gabriel Medina missed most of the season with fellow Brazilian Felipe Toledo, who was runner-up last year, the top seed.

A specialist in small waves which is likely, Toledo also lives close to the Finals venue.

"Jack's on a mission and Ethan's one of the most beautiful surfers ever so it will be really cool to watch those guys," she said.

Ewing is also a big Gilmore fan and said when he was a grommet he used to watch her compete at her home break Snapper Rocks.

"I remember seeing Steph there, and she's so good it's crazy," Ewing told AAP.

"I love watching her - her style and the way she surfs is beautiful so I hope she does well this week."

WSL Finals Rankings:

Women:

1. Carissa Moore (Hawaii)

2. Johanne Defay (France)

3. Tatiana Weston-Webb (Brazil)

4. Brisa Hennessy (Costa Rica)

5. Stephanie Gilmore (Australia)

Men:

1. Felipe Toledo (Brazil)

2. Jack Robinson (Australia)

3. Ethan Ewing (Australia)

4. Italo Ferreira (Brazil)

5. Kanoa Igarashi (Japan).