August 13, 2021

(Reuters) – Australia’s seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore booked a spot in next month’s World Surf League Finals after winning the Corona Open in pumping Mexican waves on Friday.

On the men’s side, Australian rookie Jack Robinson won his first World Championship Tour (WCT) event after top level surfing returned to Barra De La Cruz in Oaxaca state after a 15-year absence.

The 23-year-old Robinson stormed through the field with high risk aerial manoeuvres and scored one of the best tube rides of the event in the final against Brazil’s Deivid Silva.

“Wooooah! I did it, yeah,” Robinson said in a beach interview after his win. “Everyone else was surfing really good, but being able to rise and go above it, I felt like I could do that every heat. I was in a good spot.”

The stylish Gilmore, who honed her skills on similar pointbreak waves on Australia’s Gold Coast, overcame Hawaii’s reining world and Olympic champion Carissa Moore in their semi-final before taking down Malia Manuel of Hawaii in the final.

“Best feeling ever! I haven’t won a contest in a long time,” Gilmore said.

The final stop of the world tour, which had been scheduled for Tahiti later this month, was cancelled after French Polynesia imposed a state of emergency due to a resurgent COVID-19 outbreak.

Under a new format introduced this year, the men and women ranked in the top five after seven events qualified for a one-day WSL Finals at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California, next month.

Previously, world champions were determined by points accumulated over the entire season.

Moore finished the top women’s qualifier, followed by Australian veteran Sally Fitzgibbons, Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb, Gilmore, and France’s Johanne Defay.

Brazilian trio Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Filipe Toledo will be joined in the men’s final by California’s Conner Coffin and Australian rookie Morgan Cibilic.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)