Stephanie Gilmore and Lakey Peterson's losses today at the Roxy Pro France means the World Title will now be decided during the final Championship Tour event on Maui.
Gilmore only needed to finish ahead of her rival Peterson to secure her seventh World Title here in France. Up against Courtney Conlogue and Malia Manuel in Round 3, the Australian failed to finish in the top two places that would have seen her progress to the Quarterfinals.
The Australian required an 8.33 to progress in the heat in the dying minutes, but fell an agonizing 0.06 of a point short on her last wave. The loss clearly rattled the ever-smiling Gilmore as she tried to come to terms with the lost opportunity.
"It's the worst feeling, ever. You are trying so hard and there's so much pressure," she said tearfully. "Look I'm emotional, but that just shows how much I care about it. It stings and it hurts, but now it's all about Maui."
The winner of that heat Courtney Conlogue, no stranger to a World Title race, provided some sound advice to Gilmore. "What I have learned is that you have to embrace the process because it's such a rollercoaster of emotions," she said. "You have to be to true to yourself and it will all work out. Steph's had an incredible year and if she keeps her rhythm, she will be hard to beat in Hawaii."
In the next heat after Gilmore's, Peterson failed to capitalize on the golden opportunity to gain valuable ground on her rival. The Californian made a series of uncharacteristic mistakes as the pressure of the situation took its toll. Her competitors Coco Ho and Bronte Macaulay took full advantage to progress to the Quarterfinals and leave Peterson with plenty to reflect on.
"I felt like the chips were falling into place, but honestly I am just disappointed with my surfing," Peterson said. "I let a couple of things get in my head too much and that affected the control of the heat."
"On the positive side I'm still in the race and the race is going to Hawaii, so I still have a chance," she said. "I'll go home, get a breather. I'll rest up, get healthy. I'll keep training and keep surfing and be as good as I can possibly be at Maui."
Peterson now needs to win the Beachwaver Maui Pro to have any chance of taking the Title off Gilmore. However even a victory for Peterson would only ensure a Surf-Off. Additionally if Gilmore finishes a third or better in Maui, a win for Peterson still wouldn't be enough.
With the two top seeds out of the event it was left to Carissa Moore to stake her claim as a favorite. The 3x World Champion is attempting to win her third Quik Pro France in succession and put in the dominant display of the Round with a heat total of 16.04.
"Waking up I was a little nervous as it has been a week since my last heat, but I was able to find some good waves and felt great from the start," Moore said. "Posting big heat scores builds your confidence and indicates you have found a rhythm. And that's always a good sign in France."
Watch the Quik/Roxy Pro live on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook Oct 3-14.