Eight-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore felt like she went from “hero to zero” after suffering a shock early exit at the hands of two American teenagers at Pipeline.
Gilmore was thrust into the elimination round after posting a two-wave total of just 2.8 in her opening heat in Hawaii. It meant the 35-year-old Australian needed to finish in the top two of her three-person elimination heat in the second round, and she found herself in last spot with five minutes remaining against Americans Caitlin Simmers and Alyssa Spencer.
Gilmore required a score of 3.03 to move into second spot ahead of 19-year-old injury replacement Spencer, but her attempt to pull off a barrel with just two minutes remaining came unstuck when the wave collapsed on top of her. It meant 17-year-old rookie Simmers won the heat with a score of 12.67 ahead of Spencer (6.63), with Gilmore (6.43) eliminated.
“It’s funny, I feel like I’ve gone from hero to zero,” defending world champion Gilmore said. “Surfing has a way of keeping you humble, that’s for sure. Caity [Simmers] did really well, she sat and waited, and got two really good waves. But that’s the sport, that’s the way it is, and there’s no better motivation than to have a shocker and want to come back better.”
The result is by no means a disaster for Gilmore, as she proved last year, when she missed the 2022 Pipeline event after being forced into quarantine. She recovered from that to finish fifth in the overall rankings and sneak into the season-ending finals. Gilmore then won five straight heats to claim a famous world title.
American Courtney Conlogue was another high-profile victim of the elimination round, as Simmers and Spencer had their dream runs ended in the round of 16. Two-time world champion Tyler Wright moved into the quarter-finals after defeating fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons in their round of 16 battle. Wright posted a two-wave total of 10.24 to beat Fitzgibbons (7.27), setting up a quarter-final showdown against star Brazilian Tatiana Weston-Webb.
Molly Picklum became the second Australian into the last-eight after she beat countrywoman Isabella Nichols in the round of 16. Picklum will take on five-time world champion Carissa Moore in the quarterfinals.
Defending Pipeline champion and local favourite Moana Jones Wong was sent packing in the round of 16 by American Lakey Peterson. Peterson will face off against Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessy when action resumes, while the fourth quarter-final will be an all-Hawaiian showdown between Gabriela Bryan and Bettylou Sakura Johnson.
All seven Australian men, led by world No 3 Jack Robinson, made it through to the third round on Thursday, but there was no further action for the men on Friday.