Stephanie Gilmore’s quest for an eighth world crown fell short at the World Surf League Finals before Carissa Moore claimed her fifth world title and Gabriel Medina clinched his third.
World No 1 Hawaiian Moore added to her Olympic gold medal after beating Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb in the final, while Medina edged out fellow Brazilian Felipe Toledo in an epic men’s decider that was briefly interrupted by a shark sighting.
Earlier, Gilmore suffered a shock first-round elimination while Sally Fitzgibbons also missed advancing to the title decider in further heartbreak for Australia. Aiming to move clear of fellow seven-time champion Layne Beachley, Gilmore lost to French surfer Johanne Defay in the revamped one-day format to decide the world champions.
Fitzgibbons eliminated Defay to book a clash with second-ranked Weston-Webb. Fitzgibbons, a three-time runner-up for the world title who narrowly missed an Olympic medal in Tokyo, had the edge before the Brazilian pulled out a late 8.00 ride to take the win.
Gilmore had won her previous three meetings against Defay and had high hopes after winning the most recent event in Mexico. She won at Lowers in 2014, posting a perfect 10 as well as a 9.5 in the final against Fitzgibbons, but was unable to find any waves of that calibre on Tuesday morning at the famed point break.
The 33-year-old’s top score was a mere 3.5 for a combined best-two score of 6.7.
“It’s not my finest moment, that’s for sure,” a shattered Gilmore said. “It was really tough to pick a great wave out there – there was like a rip running through the left and it created some ribs on the right and my whole plan was to stick to the rights and try to pick off a clean one.”
Relishing the high quality conditions which improved through the day, top-ranked Medina took on fellow Brazilian Toledo in an epic best-of-three heat final. No 3 Toledo earlier ousted reigning world champion Italo Ferreira, who was ranked second.
Surfing was paused for 15 minutes during the second heat of the final while a shark was cleared from the competition area. The surfers were hauled onto jet skies and competition.
“A shark has breached the side of the line-up and it’s about six to eight foot so we’re going to search the line-up and make sure it’s gone,” WSL head of competition Jessie Miley-Dyer said.
Coincidentally Mick Fanning was in commentary at time, with retired Australian three-time world champion famously attacked by a during competition at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa.
Fanning was rattled by the attack, which miraculously left him uninjured, but could now joked about it from the broadcast booth. “They’re probably looking for my phone number to light me up – it’s your fault,” he said of the finalists.