In a fortnight that has sent ripples through the surfing world, eight-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) has announced a hiatus from the 2024 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) season. This decision also follows Carissa Moore’s retirement last week, marking a significant moment in the sport’s history, and heralding 2024 as a year of change and anticipation on the tour.
Gilmore, a name synonymous with grace and prowess in the waves, has been a dominant force in professional surfing since her debut on the Championship Tour in 2007. With a staggering 33 Championship Tour event wins and a record-breaking eighth World Title secured in 2022, her absence in the upcoming season will undoubtedly leave a void.
However, this break is not a farewell. I am planning to take this time as a refresh for myself physically, mentally, and enjoy following swells and free surfing in new places,” said Gilmore. Her focus during this sabbatical is on personal rejuvenation, undertaking projects and trips that have been sidelined due to the rigorous demands of competitive surfing. Gilmore’s commitment to the sport remains unwavering, as she expressed her ongoing passion and dedication to competing, with plans to return in 2025.
“I am planning to take this time as a refresh for myself physically, mentally, and enjoy following swells and free surfing in new places,” said Gilmore. “I have some projects and trips I want to do, which haven’t been possible while traveling during the season. I am still passionate and dedicated to competing, and I have goals and dreams that I am still chasing – I’m excited for this year to activate those and I look forward to returning in 2025.”
Jessi Miley-Dyer, WSL Chief of Sport, acknowledged Gilmore’s impact on the sport, stating, “While we will miss Steph’s presence on the CT this season, we wholeheartedly support her decision to take this time for herself.” Miley-Dyer praised Gilmore’s influence on surfing and sport at large, noting her role in inspiring people globally.
In light of her planned return, Gilmore will receive the 2025 Season Wildcard, guaranteeing her participation in the 2025 CT season. This decision by the WSL underscores their recognition of Gilmore’s significant contributions to the sport and their eagerness to see her back in action.
Stephanie Gilmore’s hiatus has implications for the upcoming season’s lineup. According to the WSL Rule Book, her spot cascades down the 2023 CT rankings. Consequently, this opens up opportunities for other talented surfers. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), tied with Brisa Hennessy (CRC) but victorious in the tiebreak due to heat wins, will fill in for Gilmore. Fitzgibbons’ advancement, in turn, paves the way for Luana Silva (BRA) to move up from the Challenger Series, starting her 2024 season at Pipeline.
Additionally, with Silva’s shift to a full-time entry on the CT and Carissa Moore’s withdrawal from the 2024 season, Sophie McCulloch (AUS) has been allocated the WSL Replacement spot. McCulloch will compete in Moore’s place as the first replacement, an opportunity that showcases the depth and talent in women’s surfing.
Gilmore’s decision to take a break is a testament to the demanding nature of professional sport and the importance of mental and physical well-being. It serves as a reminder that even the greatest athletes need time to recharge and find new sources of inspiration.