Brazil's Toledo wins first world surf title, Gilmore goes Gr8t
Sept 8 (Reuters) - Australia's Stephanie Gilmore surfed her way through the field to claim a record-breaking eighth world title in California on Thursday, while Brazil's Filipe Toledo claimed his first to cement his reputation as the world's best small wave surfer.
The stylish Gilmore, who won her first title as a rookie in 2007, overcame Hawaii's five-times world champion Carissa Moore in decent waves at Lower Trestles, near San Clemente.
The 27-year-old Toledo, the top seed after the 10-stop world tour, beat high-flying countryman Italo Ferreira to extend the dominance of the "Brazilian Storm" in men's surfing.
Toledo, originally from Ubatuba near Sao Paulo, now lives close to the Finals venue of Lower Trestles, Southern California's premier cobblestone pointbreak.
Its long, sloping walls, seldom much above head-height, were ideally suited to Toledo's arsenal of searing carves and high-speed aerial punts.
"It's just the relief. All the hard work you know, nine years, sacrificing a lot, my family - you know how hard it is to leave your kid behind," Toledo said after embracing his family on the beach. "This is for Brazil, this is for my family, this is for you guys," he told his chanting supporters.
Toledo and Ferreira are leading figures in a tight-knit pack known as the "Brazilian Storm," who have between them won all but two of the men's world titles since 2014, as well as taking the first men's Olympic gold medal through Ferreira.
The live-wire Ferreira had to battle through a series of head-to-head matches for a chance at the best-of-three title decider, consistently taking to the air and stomping high-risk spins to beat Japan's Olympic silver medallist Kanoa Igarashi and Australians Ethan Ewing and Jack Robinson.
Gilmore, who qualified as the fifth and lowest seed in the Finals, also had to battle through the field to reach the title decider, showing great stamina to overcome Brisa Hennessy from Costa Rica, Brazil's Tatiana Weston-Webb and France's Johanne Defay.
The 34-year-old, who honed her surfing on the pointbreaks of Australia's Gold Coast, consistently racked up big scores on her forehand.
"To be honest, this was the best win I've had," Gilmore said in a podium interview. "To come all the way from fifth (seed) and just grind it out all the way to the final. I knew it was possible, I knew I could try and conserve some energy and make it work...I'm stoked I had a shot at it, and here we are - anything is possible."
Moore, the top seed after the 10-stop world tour, progressed directly to the final but the 2021 world champion and surfing's first Olympic gold medallist struggled to find the waves to unleash her powerful turns.
The one-day Finals format was introduced last year.
World champions were previously decided on points accumulated throughout the year, meaning the title was often decided before the final event.
The win confirmed Gilmore as the most successful women's professional surfer ever, breaking her tie with countrywoman Layne Beachley who won seven world titles in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
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