Stephanie riding a wave of success
AFTER a dream week, Stephanie Gilmore knows reality is about to hit hard.
Having survived qualifying trials then beating the best women surfers in the world to win the World Championship Tour (WCT) opener at Snapper Rocks on Sunday, 17-year-old Gilmore could be forgiven for letting it all go to her head.
Basking in the attention yesterday, with sponsors and the media swooning, it was clear the tall blonde is hot property. But, Gilmore knows sometime this week its going to be back to basics.
She is expected to return to Kingscliff High School today, where she will complete year 12 and she will also go back to the Australasian junior series before she even starts the World Qualifying Series (WQS) fulltime next year to pursue a berth on the WCT.
"I should be there now (school), but I got out of it," Gilmore said.
"This year it really does come down to the crunch at school."
While the past week was a fairytale for Gilmore, she knows she faces a tough task on the WQS before she becomes a fully fledged heir-apparent to six-time world champion Beachley.
On the WQS fairytales are few and far between.
Over 100 women tackle the 13-event secondary tour every year.
Only the top six graduate to the World Championship Tour.
Prizemoney for the winners is less than half the $19,000 she won on Sunday.
It is cut-throat competition often held in waves far inferior to the 1.5m barrelling walls she tore apart at Snapper Rocks near her home last week.
Currently Gilmore is ranked 72nd and despite her flurry of success she is prepared to bide her time.
"I will continue to do the (Australasian) junior series (this year) and hopefully after next year (on the WQS) I will qualify," she said.
"There is just so many girl surfers and it is not the best of waves in those QS events.
"I'm pretty keen and cannot wait to finish school and get up there and see how I go.
"Chelsea (Georgeson, world No.3) did it. In one year she qualified and won the WQS.
"I know it can take a couple of years and I am prepared for that. This year I will do some select events and next year I will do them all.
"It could take me a year, it could take me two. But I am determined to get there."
Gilmore's victory in the WCT comes as little surprise to those who have followed her career.
In December last year she convincingly won the world junior title, improving on her fourth place the year before when hit with an interference penalty.
With multiple Australasian titles and a string of contest victories, Gilmore, along with 19-year-old WCT rookie Rebecca Woods, are the hottest junior surfers coming through the ranks.
Woods has already accelerated her career onto the WCT.
In the meantime, however, Gilmore will be offered several more opportunities to tackle the world's best at WCT events.
Later this month she will contest the wildcard trials at the SPC Pro at Bells Beach in Victoria, the Rip Curl Pro in Hossegor, France, in June and Rip Curl Malibu Pro in California in October.
"These last couple of months have been so amazing and everything just fell into place so well," she said.
"I hope I can keep riding the momentum and get to where I'm going.
"I cannot wait for another crack at these girls."