Lakey melts, Stephanie's aura glows…
Surprising nobody, given Lakey Peterson had to win the final event to force a surf off, Stephanie Gilmore has just claimed her seventh world title.
The title equals Layne Beachley’s seven (let’s not count the Masters contest, oui?) and makes her four off Kelly’s eleven. Stephanie won the title in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and, now, 2018.
Gilmore, who is thirty and lives in an adorable bungalow in Malibu (I presume it ain’t ash), was recently profiled in The Weekend Australian Magazine by the writer Will Swanton.
It’s a harrowing read and pivots on the 2010 attack when a homeless schizophrenic junkie beat hell out of Stephanie with a crowbar. (He was jailed for four years.)
Let’s step inside the pages.
Blue jeans. White T-shirt. Big hair. Ocean-coloured eyes with small brown specks that resemble grains of sand she does not wish to rinse away. She taps her right foot on the stool when she talks about the incident. Throughout our hour-long conversation, Stephanie Gilmore declines to call it what it is. A bashing. An assault. An attack that could have killed her. She furrows her brow and squints as if she’s still trying to make sense of it all. “Yeah,” she says quietly. “There was the incident.”
It was early evening, just getting dark, when Gilmore pulled into her Tweed Heads unit block. “And I see this guy. Strange guy. He’s not wearing any shoes. He’s pottering around in the garage area, right at the front of my apartment,” she remembers. “He’s tinkering with a piece of wood, something like that. I remember thinking, ‘That’s a bit weird.’ Human intuition is an incredible thing, eh? I know it’s bad as soon as I see him. I can feel it.”
She talked to herself as she edged towards the stairwell to her second-floor apartment. Look straight ahead. Don’t make eye contact. Keep moving to the door. “I walk about 15 to 20 metres in front of him. I look up the stairs and I’m thinking, ‘How fast can I run up there?’ You have a split-second to make decisions, I guess. But it still feels like there’s all this time to ask yourself questions.” Do I have time to get my key in the door? Will I be able to get inside? “I know he’s going to come after me before he even does it. I feel sick. It’s so bad. It took me years to be able to talk about all this without wanting to cry. I can see my front door. It’s right there and I just keep staring at it. He’s following me. He’s coming up behind me.”
Don’t turn around. “I can’t help it. I turn around,” she says. “A glance back, to see where he is. And he’s sprinting. He has a crowbar in his hand and he’s running at me. I can’t run up the stairs. I definitely don’t have time to unlock the door. I can’t get away — there’s nowhere to go. He’ll chase me and catch me, whatever I do. He has that look in his eyes. It’s terrifying. I know I can’t talk to him. He’s going to get me. I freeze, and he starts hitting me over the head with a crowbar. I remember exactly what I was thinking: Why are you doing this to me?”
He hit her four times. He didn’t rob her. Didn’t sexually assault her. “He just keeps hitting me with a crowbar.” There was blood everywhere. He ran to a BMX bike in the corner of the garage and took off, leaving Gilmore on the ground screaming. “I have my handbag. I have my phone in my hand. It’s bent in half. Caved in. It’s protected me a bit. When I’ve put my hands over my head to protect myself, he’s hit the phone a couple of times. He rides off really fast and I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’m still alive. There’s a good thing.’ More than anything, I want to know why it’s happened. Do I know him? Have I done something to him that I’ve forgotten about? Have I looked at him the wrong way? Have I deserved this? Is it my fault?”
Anyway, eight years later, she’s got seven titles and is, I’m imagining, filled with a slow wave of silky electrical currents.