The West

Margaret River snares world champ
Stephanie Gilmore in action at Huntington Beach, California. Picture: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Australia's four-times world champion Stephanie Gilmore and Hawaiian teen sensation John John Florence will headline the Telstra Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River next month.

The pair and a number of other big-name surfers will be confirmed as starters by event management this morning.

Florence, 19, who is regarded as the hottest young surfer in the world, will be joined in the men's competition by dual world champion Mick Fanning and multiple runners-up Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow.

Owen Wright, who finished third in the world last year, will also compete at Surfers Point.

Officials are in discussions with 11-times world champion Kelly Slater, who is due in Australia this week for the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast. Slater is weighing up his options beyond that event.

Florence won the Vans Triple Crown last year, a three-event series on Oahu's North Shore that ranks second only to winning the ASP world title.

Earlier this month, Florence created one of professional surfing's most dramatic moments when pipping fellow Hawaiian Jamie O'Brien to the Volcom Pipe Pro title in the last 15 seconds of the 35-minute final.

Gilmore, who will join Peru's former world champion Sofia Mulanovich in the women's competition, won four consecutive world titles from 2007-10 before finishing third on tour behind Carissa Moore and fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons last year.

Gilmore missed the Drug Aware Pro last year with a broken wrist following an attack by a man armed with a metal pole outside her Tweed Heads apartment.

The 24-year-old missed the 2010 event to attend the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Dubai, where she was crowned best action sportsperson.

Her participation next month is seen as a major fillip for the event.

"We've been trying to get Steph here for the last few years," a spokesman said. "Obviously she's the hottest woman on the planet from a surfing perspective and a four-times world champion.

"We were pretty disappointed the last couple of years so we see it as a real coup that we got her to confirm that she was coming."

Florence is also expected to excite local crowds on the powerful Margaret River break "He's without doubt the hottest young surfer on the planet now," the spokesman said.

"The last couple of years we've had some enormous surf and to get someone of his reputation here is really big."

Cowaramup's Yadin Nicol, who made way for Florence on the world tour last year after suffering a broken fibula while free-surfing in Japan, is another drawcard for next month's event.

The West Australian

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