The 2015 Roxy Pro Final is a snapshot of one of the most enduring match-ups in surfing. Stephanie Gilmore, then a six-time world champion, faced off against 22-year-old Carissa Moore, who had two World Titles to her credit already.
From the start of her career, Moore was viewed as the future of the sport. Not so fast, said Gilmore. And 2015 turned out to be a turning point for both women.
Gilmore and Moore were both prodigious talents that enjoyed early successes as rising stars of the sport. Since 2007, they now have 11 titles between them, though they've rarely been direct rivals. Today, the two women have shown a remarkable resilience, which has ensured their longevity through both setbacks and challenges.
Gilmore came into the 2015 season as the defending world champion. She'd begun her world title run with a win on the 2014 Roxy Pro Gold Coast. In fact, Gilmore first won the Roxy Pro in 2005 as a 17-year-old wildcard. Two years later, she qualified for the world tour and won her first title. Between 2007 and 2010, Gilmore quickly racked up four world titles in succession. She was virtually unstoppable.
Likewise, Moore began winning at an early age. She qualified for the world tour in 2010 at age 17, winning two events as a rookie. The following year, she interrupted Gilmore's streak and won her first world title. For the next three years, Moore and Gilmore traded world titles: Gilmore in 2012, Moore in 2013, Gilmore again in 2014.
On paper, it looks like a rivalry for the ages, but that isn't really how it unfolded. Moore's 2011 victory, for example, came in a year when Gilmore only won one event, the Roxy Pro France. In December of 2010, a homeless man had assaulted Gilmore outside her apartment in Coolangatta. Five weeks later, she'd paddled out for the Roxy Pro Gold Coast event still mentally shaken and not completely recovered from her injuries.
Gilmore's comeback is a story of its own that reveals steel underlying her silky smooth style in the water and gracious nature on the beach. Some observers questioned whether she could still compete with younger women, such as Moore, but Gilmore returned in 2012 and smashed her way through the draw to win the title. Moore, meanwhile, struggled to find the confidence that had fueled her rapid ascent and won only a single event that year.
In effect, the two women's relationship was a bit of a see-saw. When one was at her peak, the other struggled. Only in 2014 did they reach a kind of equilibrium. That year, both Moore and Gilmore won three events, and Gilmore won the title. The rivalry that had seemed inevitable was -- just maybe -- on for 2015 as the two women competed in the final at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast.
As the heat began, Gilmore opened with an 8.33. She made few mistakes, but the judges wanted more. It's always a surprise when Gilmore looks nervous, but this heat offers one of those rare occasions where she did. On her second wave, she tried to push through a layback and slid out. The mistake seemed to derail her.
With a .50 on the board, Moore tried an air reverse. Close, but not quite. Having tried and failed to take to the air, she found her groove on a long wall, earning a 9.40. On her very next wave she unleashed another series of powerful turns. Moore's signature style was on full display -- fast, powerful, intense. The judges awarded her with another nine-point ride. Moore had the heat won.
Her success on the Gold Coast marked the first of four victories on the way to securing the 2015 world title. A perfect ten in the final at Honolua against Sally Fitzgibbons provided an emphatic finish to her title run. For Gilmore, meanwhile, the 2015 season was lost to injury. The see-saw had swung again.
Moore captured her fourth world title in 2019. Gilmore is currently the owner of seven titles. In 13 years only one other woman -- Tyler Wright -- has won a world title (2016, 2017). Neither Gilmore nor Moore looks likely to stop just yet. When competition restarts, their dominance may continue. Of course, with more talent in women's surfing than ever, there will be no easy victories.