LOS ANGELES - Stephanie Gilmore said it was "freaking cool" after the Australian won an eighth world title to become the most successful woman surfer in history on Thursday.
The 34-year-old had been tied with Layne Beachley on seven but against the odds beat 2019 and 2021 champion Carissa Moore in California to eclipse her compatriot's haul.
"There really are not many words that can describe this feeling right now," said Gilmore, after clinching the one-day winner-takes-all finals of the World Surf League at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.
"That's why I now really love this format. It puts the pressure on you, it puts you under the pump - can you do it? - it's truly incredible."
Gilmore finished fifth at the end of the regular season to make the finals and won heats against Costa Rica's Brisa Hennessy, Brazilian Tatiana Weston-Webb and France's Johanne Defay.
That set up a title match with reigning champion Moore.
"I'm really proud that I was able to make it past Brisa, Tatiana, Johanne, all of the most incredible female surfers in the world," said Gilmore, 34, who honed her surfing on the point breaks of Australia's Gold Coast.
"And then to be able to make it all the way to the final against Carissa, who in my mind, she's the real world champ this year.
"I was out there thinking, if this happens, this is freaking cool because I'm out here against Carissa - the greatest of all time in my opinion."
Gilmore claimed her first title in 2007 as a rookie, taking over directly at the end of Beachley's era, and won four in a row.
She won again in 2012, 2014 and 2018, with Moore the champion five times in between.
Moore, the top seed after the 10-stop world tour, progressed directly to the final but surfing's first Olympic gold medallist struggled to find the waves to unleash her powerful turns.
"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."
On the men's side, Filipe Toledo won a maiden world title, beating fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira to cement his reputation as the world's best small-wave surfer.
The 27-year-old Toledo, the top seed after the 10-stop world tour extended 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 point break.
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.
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. AFP, REUTERS