Stephanie Gilmore solidified her fate on Monday at the Beachwaver Maui Pro, winning the World Title in classic 6-8' conditions. The milestone was a historic one, setting a new bar for the sport and cementing Gilmore as the greatest of her generation.
Now, with 7 World Titles in tow, the Australian is tied with former Championship Tour competitor Layne Beachley for most women's Titles in history. In addition, not including the Maui Pro, she's won 29 Championship Tour events - second to only Kelly Slater.
The new World Champ won her first Title during her rookie season in 2007. She then went on to win three more consecutive Titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
"I don't know how to feel," said Gilmore upon hearing the news. "I wasn't expecting this to happen right now. I can't even believe it. It's so cool. I'm dedicating this win to Pierre Agnes (former Quiksilver CEO who passed away at the beginning of the year). Surfing means everything to me. Ever since I was a little girl, surfing has been all I can think about. It's my first love."
The sentiment shined through during her first heat of the day in the most epic conditions this event has seen. Gilmore earned an 8.43 for stringing a variety of maneuvers together, leaving both her competitors combo'd in Round 1.
And while World No. 2 Lakey Peterson came to Hawaii still very much in contention, her performance today was shaky at best. She was caught on the inside while paddling out for her first heat and never fully recovered.
For the first time in her career, the Californian was eliminated in Round 2 at Honolua Bay, upset by wildcard Alana Blanchard. The loss took Peterson out of Title contention.
"I just didn't perform to the best of my ability today," said Peterson. "But it's been an incredible year. I have a lot to learn still. And congrats to Stephanie. What a beautiful surfer. There's no one more deserving. This hurts but I'm not done yet."
Although she's had two event wins this season, Peterson has never beaten Gilmore in a head to head heat.
Peterson's coach Mike Parsons, who is also the WSL Big Wave Tour Commissioner, was about 45 miles away at the Jaws Challenge that was happening simultaneously.
"It's crazy that Mike couldn't be here," continued Peterson. "But I wouldn't be where I am without him. The whole team showed up for me and I've never been more proud to be apart of women's surfing."
Despite the loss, this marks the best result of Peterson's career and she'll have more than one reason to celebrate her accomplishment today.
Amidst the World Title excitement, Ventura native Sage Erickson was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Eliminated in Round 2 by Nikki Van Dijk, Erickson failed to requalify and will not be surfing on the Championship Tour next season. She also narrowly missed requalifying through the QS by one heat at the Port Stephens Toyota Pro earlier this month.
With the apparent setback, she remained in high spirits.
"I'm proud of myself," said Erickson. "I'm proud of the career I've established. I'm excited for this next year and to figure out how to establish my surfing more. And to dive into other aspects of my life."
Both Sally Fitzgibbons and Carissa Moore were able to soak up some limelight, coming out with dominate performances during the early Rounds. Fitzgibbons earned the highest score of the day with a 9.67 and also highest combined heat total with a 17.60.
With the highs and lows of the World Title race, pumping conditions and requalification scenarios in the air, there were a lot of mixed emotions going around the island.
But at the end of the day, and after months of World Title talk weighing heavily on everyone's mind, Gilmore became the new World Champion. The Australian made history this afternoon and raised a new bar for the sport.
But she can't fully celebrate yet. Gilmore is set to surf in the Quarterfinals against Johanne Defay once the event resumes.
Stephanie Gilmore's Championship Tour Career Rankings:
Check back tomorrow at 7:30am HST for the call. Watch live on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.