No matter which surf tour you're talking about -- from the Junior circuit to the Championship Tour -- every athlete has his or her inner circle, the trusted group that helps make travel arrangements, coaches during the competition, and simply keeps things running smoothly. But if a surfer is lucky, there's also the best friend, too -- a parent, a mentor, a sibling -- a confidante who can carry emotional burdens along with a board bag.
For Stephanie Gilmore, the six-time World Champion, that person is her sister, Whitney. During the Oi Rio Women's Pro, Gilmore opened up a bit about their dynamic, and why her sister is such a meaningful presence in her life -- in the water and out.
What is it like traveling with your sister?
We know each other well enough that we can give each other space without having to ask for it. I think with sisters and siblings, you have that relationship where you don't have to necessarily talk all the time, or ask for specific things. It's almost built in your DNA where you know what each other are feeling, our emotions. So it's a really easy relationship to travel with.
And you know, she's fun. Whitney is curious about the places we travel, and it inspires me. I've always loved to look outside of the surf world when I get to a place. And it's important to be focused on your surfing and the event when you're here. But it's also nice to have that balance, and Whitney's really good for that, too. She's intrigued by the area, likes to take a walk around, see what else it has to offer. Design, too -- she's obsessed with what the houses look like, and the structural design, the little things like that where, when you're really in the zone, you can skip past it. You'll spend two weeks in a place and not even experience it to its fullest. So I think it's important to travel with people like that, to broaden your focus.
Does she get in the water with you?
She rides a soft top, so we surf together sometimes, but she doesn't travel with a board. She's gotten a lot more into it lately and really loves it. I think she's probably wondering, if she had really gotten into it when we were younger, how she would be now, if she would have chased it competitively. I don't know, but it's interesting to me.
It sounds like a good combination.
We have a really good balance where we can go do athletic things together or we can cruise and hang out. She's not so surf-centric, so it gives me that balance, to feel like it's OK and you're not missing out on anything. Because the people you're around, they encourage you to stay focused on what you're doing - and I have a lot of people, like Matthias [Maallem, the Roxy team manager], who is like a brother -- his job is to make sure we're comfortable with everything to do with surf. So between him and Whitney, there is a really good balance.
Watch Gilmore surf next at the Outerknown Fiji Women's Pro, May 28 - June 2. Heats will stream live on the WSL website, app and connected devices.