TWEED surfer Stephanie Gilmore has retained her World Surf League (WSL) number one ranking with a runner-up at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach on Monday.
Gilmore went down to American Courtney Conlogue in yesterday's final, but retained top spot after winning the season opener at Snapper Rocks, followed by a semi-final showing at Margaret River, Western Australia last week.
In 4-6ft waves, Conlogue unleashed her aggressive power-surfing to take down a star-studded field, including six-time WSL Champion Gilmore, reigning WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) and three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW).
Conlogue's win saw the Californian ring the coveted Bell for a second time after her dominance throughout the final series.
"This was an incredible event,” Gilmore said.
"We've had some awesome waves over these past few days and it was a special Easter weekend to have everyone down here.”
Coming into the Final, Gilmore was looking to add a fourth Bell to her trophy cabinet to equal the great Lisa Andersen (USA) for Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach titles and charged out of the blocks with an excellent 8.33 (out of a possible 10) to Conlogue's 8.00.
Gilmore and Conlogue continued to charge, again posting excellent-range scores with Gilmore leading Conlogue's 15.27 combined score by only 1.06 points.
In the last five minutes, Conlogue took off on the biggest set wave of the final and displayed her trademark power in the pocket to post an excellent 9.00 point ride for the lead. With only seconds left, Gilmore attempted to scratch into a medium-sized set but was unable to make it, leaving Conlogue to win her second consecutive Bell with a heat total of 17.00.
Gilmore said her focus was now holding onto her Championship lead as she searches for a seventh WSL world title.
"To surf in front of this crowd is a really special experience. I always try my best, but it is a tough field to beat so I am happy to come away with a second and still hold onto that lead,” she said.
"I will hopefully hold onto it for as long as I can.”
Conlogue came into the start of the 2017 season as world number two, but a ninth place finish at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast and fifth place result at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro set her back to World No. 9. The Californian's win today moves her up to fourth on the Jeep Leaderboard to now put her World Title campaign back on track.
"Coming up against Stephanie (Gilmore) in the Final was incredible,” Conlogue said.
"Maintaining composure at the end was key. I had a lot of last-minute wins this contest and that's why it's true that you should never give up because it's not over until it is over.
"She is such an amazing surfer and tough competitor.”
Rip Curl Women's Pro Final Results:
1 - Courtney Conlogue (USA) 17.00
2 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.33
Rip Curl Women's Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 18.33 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 15.00
SF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.66 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 9.73
Rip Curl Women's Pro Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 16.56 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.33
QF 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 15.26 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 11.60
QF 3: Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.86 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.60
QF 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 18.60 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.80
2017 WSL Women's Jeep Leaderboard (After Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach):
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 24,500 pts
2 - Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 21,700 pts
3 - Tyler Wright (AUS) 19,700
4 - Courtney Conlogue (USA) 18,500
5 - Lakey Peterson (USA) 16,250