Stephanie Gilmore is on the hunt for her eighth world title when the World Surf League Finals get underway in California this week – and the GOAT could be joined as a 2022 champion by another Aussie.
Ethan Ewing and Jack Robinson are in contention on the men’s side of the draw for the one-day contest at Lower Trestles.
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The winner-takes-all competition will run on the best day of waves between September 8 to 16 local time.
For the second year in a row, the finals event features a unique winner-moves-on concept where four surfers battle to face defending champions Carissa Moore and Felipe Toledo in the title match.
How to watch and live stream the WSL Finals
The WSL Finals will stream live and free on 7plus and will be available to catch up on demand.
The matches will start at 12.30am AEST on the day WSL officials determine the surf is good enough for competition.
Head to the 7plus surfing hub to catch up on all the recent WSL action, including mini and full replays of the Tahiti Pro.
Lower Trestles surf forecast
Friday and Saturday loom as possible run days, as nearby Hurricane Kay influences the quality of the surf.
Larger swells appear more likely on Saturday.
WSL Finals format
Ranking in brackets, Aussies in bold
Match 1: Brisa Hennessy (4) v Steph Gilmore (5)
Match 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (3) v winner of Match 1
Match 3: Johanne Defay (2) v winner of Match 2
Title Match, best of three: Carissa Moore (1) v winner of Match 3
Match 1: Italo Ferreira (4) v Kanoa Igarashi (5)
Match 2: Ethan Ewing (3) v winner of Match 1
Match 3: Jack Robinson (2) v winner of Match 2
Title Match, best of three: Filipe Toledo (1) v winner of Match 3
Aussies in the mix
Stephanie Gilmore says she is not thinking about ending her glittering career if she manages what looms as a remarkable victory in California.
The 34-year-old is up against it as the fifth-ranked surfer, needing to win three matches just to get to the title bout with Carissa Moore.
But winning an eighth title to break her deadlock with fellow Australian legend Layne Beachley is all the motivation she needs.
“The whole reason I am on the Tour is to win an eighth world title, I would love to do that and that’s truly where my heart is,” Gilmore told AAP.
“Somebody like Serena (Williams, tennis superstar) is a huge inspiration because she was like ‘I’m going to just dominate and maybe I want to have a child now and maybe I’ll get back on tour’.
“If you’re feeling healthy and fit and your mind is strong, there’s really no reason why you can be held back from achieving what you want but you have to adjust the way you approach things.
“You’re looking more at recovery rather than training – as your body ages you can’t be so gung-ho you’ve got to be a little more calculated.”
The dramatic rise of Ethan Ewing from a lowly 15th last season to title contender has taken plenty by surprise.
Starring on the surf stage is in his genes, however, with Ewing’s late mother Helen winning at Bells Beach in 1983.
He was just six years old when she died, and she remains in his thoughts as he enters the finals.
“She’s been a huge inspiration for me with what she did in her surfing career,” Ewing told AAP.
“I remember going to the beach and surfing with her. They are really good memories for sure.
“There were a few clips (of her competing) that I’ve been able to watch. Not many, but I’ve seen a few over the years.
“I look to my dad for inspiration as well, and also my brothers. They’ve all helped me a lot along the way.”
Jack Robinson is Australia’s best chance for a breakthrough men’s title, nine years after Mick Fanning’s last triumph.
Brazilians have won five of the last seven titles, with Hawaiian John John Florence breaking their dominance in 2016-17.
Success-starved Australia’s stocks may also suffer a blow in the near future, with Olympic medallist Owen Wright considering joining Julian Wilson in retirement after missing the mid-season cut.
“I think Australia’s been hoping for someone new,” Robinson told AAP.
“It’s been so long; even before I was on tour I thought, ‘I want to be the next Australian going for it’, so I’m stoked.
“The Brazilians have had their time, so it’s a good time for Australian surfing with a bunch of young guys coming through.
“I know there’s going to be lots of moments like this coming but this is the first one, so probably the most exciting.
“It’s your dream as a kid, growing up watching guys like Mick Fanning and all the best guys do it, so it’s incredible.”