Surfing’s alpha female Stephanie Gilmore admits it has been tough to deal with her struggles with injury and inconsistency over the past two years.
The six-time world champion ended 2016 without a win on the World Surf League tour for the second year running – a drought that stretches back to when she won in Portugal in October 2014 to clinch her last world title.
In that time compatriot Tyler Wright’s charge to the championship last season has raised the possibility the 22-year-old might be preparing to go on a similar run of dominance like that Gilmore showed in winning four consecutive titles between 2007 to 2010.
Gilmore, however, is confident she can reclaim her status in 2017, starting with the season-opening Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast this week.
“I’m pretty hungry to win and having that desire to win is one of the key ingredients to making it happen,” she told AAP.
“I’ve had experience chasing world titles. I’ve had experience defending world titles and I believe in my surfing.
“I’m feeling strong and my equipment’s really good. It’s just a matter of putting things in place during a heat and I think last year I was unable to keep it together in my headspace but, yeah, that’s something I’ve been working on and that’s the beauty of surfing, you never really perfect it.”
Wright is just one of the obstacles standing in Gilmore’s path, with long-time rival Carissa Moore leading a pack of Hawaiians including Tatiana Weston-Webb and Malia Manuel in this year’s tour pack.
There is also two-time runner-up Courtney Conlogue to contend with while fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons will be hoping for an improved year after also failing to land a win in 2016.
“At the start of my career there was only one or two girls that really were at the top but now it’s the entire tour,” Gilmore said.
“Every single heat you go into is a tough match and with Tyler, Carissa and Courtney, Sally, everyone pushing for the title – it becomes more and more difficult every year.”
The one advantage that lifts Gilmore at the start of every season is the chance to compete one-on-one on her home break at Snapper Rocks.
Local knowledge has also turned into titles on the Gold Coast for Gilmore, who has claimed the Roxy Pro a record five times.
“We’ve had such good waves and I’m praying that we get waves like that for the event,” she said. “I love surfing Snapper with nobody out, whether it’s two-foot or six-foot, I don’t really care. Really excited to get started.”