With the start of the Championship Tour set to kick off in Hawaii in December, we're taking a look at eight of the toughest competitors on Tour. To be the best you gotta beat the best, and these are the dreaded heat draws.
Some things are as close to perfect a match as nature allows, like Stephanie Gilmore on a walled-up right-hander.
Snapper, Bells, J-Bay and Keramas are just some of canvases where she's drawn a beautiful, deftly efficient line over a storied career that's seen her become one of the most successful competitors of all time, as is Maui's Honolua Bay.
That's the result of learning to surf at some of the best point breaks in the world, on the Gold Coast. So, if you want to win at Honolua Bay -- another of the world's famous, long rights -- drawing Gilmore probably won't help your cause.
It's a wave that looms large in the galaxy of her stellar career: On her way to winning seven World Titles and securing a spot as one of the greatest surfers, ever, she's been victorious there no less than five times. That's the most Honolua wins of any CT athlete.
And this year she's going for an eighth Title, which would break her tie with Layne Beachley, who also has seven to her name.
"Of course I'm really looking forward to getting started at Honolua Bay, because it is one of my favorite waves in the world. Although it is fantastic to start the year down here at Snapper Rocks, which is my home break, it's exiting to shake things up," Steph recently told the WSL.
But beyond a style considered one of the best in the business, there's also just something about Honolua Bay that brings out Steph's competitive best. She has won 83% of her heats at Honolua...
We don't have to look very far back at all for examples of her dominating at Honolua. in 2019 all the attention was on the three women who had a shot at winning the World Title: Carissa Moore, Lakey Peterson and Caroline Marks.
That clearly didn't sit quite right with Gilmore, to be left out of the Title conversation. In fact, it seems it made her determined to have the last word on the 2019 season. She took out all three of these Title contenders, and rival Tyler Wright, denying her a fairytale finish to her return to competition.
On first inspection it looks like a case of Gilmore doing what she does best -- surfing very well at a right-hand pointbreak, showcasing her understated, elegant style which is punctuated by moments of unleashed aggression.
But if you look a little deeper, there's another reason she is so dangerous at Honolua Bay. The wave has many faces, and for Steph they're all old friends.
In many heats last year, the high tide made for full faces, without too many vertical walls to hit. Where others struggled, Steph highlined and waited for her moment as if she was riding a tropical Bells -- the point break in Victoria infamous for its at-times sluggish offering.
And when the wave did finally wall up, she timed and smacked it like it was another day at lined-up Snapper -- or Keramas, where earlier in the year she'd locked in a perfect ride which will go down as one of the best ever ridden on Tour.
GIlmore had something to prove, at a wave she knows and loves, and the rest is history. Just like she made history during her Rookie Year on tour in 2007, when she sealed her maiden World Title at Honolua Bay -- the first surfer to barnstorm their way to surfing's highest accolade in their first full-time year on Tour.
She also secured wins at Honolua in 2008, 2009 (on her way to winning four World Titles in a row) and 2017. And since her rookie year, her worst result at Honolua Bay is a ninth-place finish.
In the past, Steph has come to Hawaii ready to end the year on a high. Now, with the tour set to start at Honolua Bay, she's going to be looking to remind every one of her rivals -- Tyler Wright, Carissa Moore, Lakey Peterson and Caroline Marks especially -- that she's there to win an eighth World Title, no matter how badly they'd like to get in her way.