Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore claims Roxy Pro
Stephanie Gilmore has made the perfect start to her quest for a record-equalling women's world surfing title, downing American Lakey Peterson in the final of the Roxy Pro at Snapper Rocks.
The Gold Coast local was in imperious form on Sunday, beating Hawaiian superstar Carissa Moore in the quarter-finals and fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons in the semis to set up the decider against Peterson.
The 29-year-old Gilmore held the whip hand throughout the final, winning 16.60 points to 12.66.
It was her first World Surf League (WSL) victory since saluting at Cascais, Portugual in 2014.
Almost two-thirds of the surfers who have won the season-opening event on the Gold Coast have gone on to claim the overall title that year - a statistic not lost on Gilmore, who needs only one more women's crown to equal the mark of compatriot Layne Beachley.
She will now wear the leader's yellow jersey at the next WSL event at Margaret River beginning later this month.
"The colour yellow - I haven't had it for a while and it's going to feel so good. I can't wait to put that on," said Gilmore.
"This is one event, (another world title) is so far from here.
"Like they say, the stats are pretty good - when you win here you sort of go on to do pretty good in the world title race.
"Hopefully it happens.
"I'd love to win another world title, that'd be pretty cool."
Several months after winning her sixth world crown in 2014, Gilmore suffered a knee injury at the Margaret River Pro, which cruelled her overall title defence.
Her only appearance in a WSL final in 2016 was at Lower Trestles in California, where she went down to eventual world champion Tyler Wright.
Gilmore paid tribute on Sunday to the fervent support she received from her home fans on the Gold Coast.
"They're here in the rain and the sun; they're here in the dark first thing in the morning," she said.
"Every single time you walk down the beach they're cheering for you.
"It's just the greatest feeling in the world.
"You feel like you've won the heat before you even paddle out."
Peterson booked her spot in the final by beating Wright in the last eight and Frenchwoman Johanne Defay in the semis.
"I can't complain too much, I just missed it by one spot so this keeps the fire lit within me a little bit," she said.
"I really feel like I put together a nice contest and did my absolute best.
"It was super-fun to compete here against Stephanie - it just gives me the chills."