Six-time WSL World Champion Stephanie Gilmore was injured for most of 2015. As in, she missed six events and dropped down to a career-low 12th in the world type-injured. Certainly, that can do a number on your confidence entering a brand new year, especially if your opponents think you're flying with a broken wing.
And returning to her very first Championship Tour (CT) heat of the year at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast in Round One, Gilmore did look a little shaky.
But then came Round Two against Coco Ho, and Steph threw the gloves off. In perhaps one of the most astounding and gorgeously surfed heats in all of pro surfing history, she tore the lid off of Snapper's rifling righthanders.
With jaw-dropping speed and flow, Steph carved arc after arc, absolutely stunning the other CT competitors watching from the sidelines, building a near-perfect 19.77 heat total. Indeed, the woman was letting go of 8.8's, dropping 9.9's and 9.87's for the impressive win and a near-perfect total score of 19.77 out of a possible 20. And with that, Gilmore achieved a feat that no one touched in 2016, earning the highest heat total of the year among the CT women.
Gilmore didn't end up winning the event. But in that heat in Australia, she proved she still had it inside of her to raise the bar of what women's pro surfing will become.