Stab Magazine | An Ode To Stephanie Gilmore

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An Ode To Stephanie Gilmore

Let me tell you ’bout my best friend. 

style // Aug 6, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

I met Stephanie Gilmore when I was 13 and I’ve looked up to her ever since. 

It was actually my first trip ever. I got a passport and I got to go with Rochelle Ballard and Megan Abubo to the Gold Coast. Megan and Rochelle were on tour then and I remember my dad being like, “Oh, yeah you can go if they take you. And they said they would. And I was like, “What? This is so weird, but okay,” haha.

Rochelle and Megan kind of shared custody of me. They were staying in different places, so one night I’d be with Rochelle, then Megan, then Rochelle and so on. Megan and Rochelle were trying to find me people my age to hang out with. I met Steph, she was 16 then and had just won the trials. And I was just so psyched because Steph seemed to like hanging out with me and she ripped so hard and I would just watch her. She actually ended up winning the event that year.

But we bonded right away. She was so relaxed and normal. 

What I love about Steph, and what I think makes her so appealing is that she’s never trying too hard. She is easy going, but has a really strong, cool opinion on a lot of things and that’s definitely what attracts me to her the most. And she’s just crazy talented. She’s a great musician, obviously an amazing surfer and competitor, she’s a great friend. She’s also really good at Ping Pong. 

She somehow balances being really fiery and really competitive out with a soft demeanor. Like she’s not so competitive where you can’t hang out with her, it’s more like she’s so mellow and easy going; then the competitiveness comes out, and it’s a ball of fire. It’s hard to explain. 

Being from Hawaii, I love to be able to just cruise and be mellow. Like she can hang, or surf all day, or play ten games of ping pong in a row and win every time. 

I’ve been hanging and traveling with her for the past 15 years, and maybe it’s because we’re getting older but there are certain things about her that stick out that I admire. But the biggest thing for me is her realness. If you look at her Instagram, she literally won’t post anything that’s not true to her, weird as that is, it’s a really cool thing in this day and age. She doesn’t have to fake anything, and I really love and appreciate that about her. 

This year, the WSL has started doing their Rising Tides program. It’s basically where the World Tour girls go surfing with local girls in each region. And, a lot of the girls will use it as a time to go free surf and get waves without the boys. 

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“She somehow balances being really fiery and really competitive out with a soft demeanor. Like she’s not so competitive where you can’t hang out with her, it’s more like she’s so mellow and easy going; then the competitiveness comes out, and it’s a ball of fire.”

So when they’re going on, there will be a few girls who are just kind of out in the water practicing. Then there’s Steph, not once will she even try and catch a wave. She’s just pushing these little girls into waves and getting to know them and being a part of all it. She shows up to every one of them, they’re always the day before the comp, and is just so genuine. 

There’s such selflessness to her which I’ve noticed more and more lately, and probably will forever. Getting older, I’m starting to be able to see through some people’s motives. Then there’s Steph pushing the girls into waves and seeing how excited they are to have her there makes me so happy. It’s one of those things where good things come to good people. Like all these amazing things that have happened to her is being she’s so good and pure. She really does deserve them. Steph has no bitterness of envy or ulterior motives to her. 

I remember this one heat we had against each other. At the time I just wasn’t really into it. I was going through a tough time and didn’t want to be competing. I didn’t even want to be there. And Steph saw, and she saw that I was deflated and she paddled over to me at the very start of the heat. She looked at me and just said, “Coco, try.” 

I was like, “Whoa, what?” I don’t know, she was just encouraging me, even in a heat that she needed to win to win the World Title. She was in the water coaching me. That just showed her character. Usually, when you see that weakness in your competitor, you’re psyched. But she was just so encouraging. 

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“I’ve been hanging and traveling with her for the past 15 years, and maybe it’s because we’re getting older but there are certain things about her that stick out that I admire. But the biggest thing for me is her realness.”

And when I recently got hurt, everyone was consoling me. And Steph just bluntly said, “Coco, you needed this.” It’s funny. It was just so plain, simple and true. She knows how long I’ve been competing on tour, and that taking a step back and some time off, even if forced by a knee injury, would be good for me in the long run. 

Hearing her take on me during the interview they ran in the Volcom Documentary about me was really moving. She talked about how when surfing, in competitions, I can get really down on myself when I lose a heat, and that’s because contests aren’t life or death situations for me; that sometimes I needed more fire. Which I thought was pretty cool. We were talking about it later, and she was like, “I went way gnarlier and deeper,” but they obviously didn’t use all of the interview. But in that, was some of the best career advice she’s ever given me. Which was basically just being more competitive when I can, and utilizing my talent to the fullest. 

Steph is just the best, best surfer, best friend, good shoulder to cry on, super funny, real, and true to herself. 

She’s one of my best friends, and I’ll always look up to and admire the way she handles herself and lives her life. 

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“I was going through a tough time and didn’t want to be competing. I didn’t even want to be there. And Steph saw, and she saw that I was deflated and she paddled over to me at the very start of the heat. She looked at me and just said, ‘Coco, try.’”

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