Gilmore amps up world surfing title hunt
SURF champion Stephanie Gilmore says she is relishing the pressure of a close battle for her seventh world crown after extending her lead in the championship title race with her best ever performance at a bogey break.
Gilmore says she is growing and improving as a surfer due to the close battle with title rival American Lakey Peterson.
Gilmore joked she "owed" Courtney Conlogue the victory at the US Open world tour event at Huntington Beach after the American eliminated her biggest rival for the 2018 world crown in the quarter-finals.
The early dispatch of Peterson and Gilmore's second-place finish to comeback star Conlogue has seen the Australian finally put some distance between them on the world rankings with just four events to surf.
"I probably owed her the win in the final because she had taken Lakey (Peterson) out earlier," Gilmore said.
"I'll take a second at Huntington any day. I'm very happy with that."
Conlogue, who beat teen Caroline Marks for her spot in the decider while Gilmore downed triple world champion Carissa Moore, won the final 13.83 to 11.86.
"Huntington is a tough one for me, I love it here but I'm always finding myself just struggling to get a good result so to come here and get a second place is great," Gilmore said.
"Courtney (Conlogue) was on fire after coming back from that injury and I'm stoked for her to get that win. "
The win extended Gilmore's lead over Peterson in a world title race the Australian is determined to win after losing last year's battle to Tyler Wright by a single heat.
"I'm loving the pressure, it's what I do this for," Gilmore said.
"I'm thoroughly enjoying myself."
Gilmore, who downed triple world champion Carissa Moore to reach the final, has found it difficult to showcase her best surfing at Huntington but now finds herself in a great position for a record-equalling seventh world crown.
"I was just so determined this time that I was going to do well here," she said.
"There were moments when I didn't think I was going to get there but I worked through them.
"I'm very pleased."
Australian duo Sally Fitzgibbons and Nikki Van Dijk were knocked out of the event in the quarter-finals.