Stephanie Gilmore is the best women's surfer in the world. That's not hyperbole - if not for a broken foot, she'd be closing in on her sixth ASP World Title in seven years. Since qualifying for the World Tour at 19 and winning the world title in her rookie year, the frequency with which Gilmore has reached the podium has been unparalleled in the sport - in any sport, really - and her utter dominance on the tour makes her the closest thing there is to a "Queen of Surfing." More than that though, Gilmore is easy going, drop-dead gorgeous, and disarmingly funny - her down-to-earth vibe stifling any hint of ego. It's that, not all the accolades, that makes her the ideal ambassador for the sport at large. And this was the role that she graciously played when she stopped by the Men's Journal offices during a rare hiatus from chasing waves.
"I think [everyone] should try surfing because it's a challenge, and the reward is unlike any other," she says after gently ribbing some editors about shark-related fears. "If I could have everybody in the world experience something, it would be to get barreled. Because I just feel like it would change the world."
She laughs after saying this, seemingly kicking herself for being so philosophical, but she also seems to mean it. No small wonder. Surfing has taken Gilmore to the farthest corners of the globe and her charmed life now consists almost entirely of World Tour events, photo shoots, and training - a constant cycle of jetsetting from one world-renowned surf destination to another. If there's a good break somewhere, chances are she's surfed it. And if there's a good surf town, she's probably done more than a little hell raising there.
We asked the five-time world champ about the world's best surf spots. Here are her favorites.
North Eleuthera, Bahamas
Like Biarritz, the Bahamas are a good destination for those looking to have a good time in the sun and catch some waves on the side. In particular, Gilmore recommends North Eleuthera, a tiny island in the western Bahamas known for its pink sand beaches and laid-back culture.
The waves in North Eleuthera are eminently surfable, if not world-class like the others on her list. From early Spring through sometime around March, reef breaks just off the island shoreline provide nice, long, tapered walls, with no traffic whatsoever in the lineup.
The true allure of the island, though, is in the overall environment it provides the intrepid surfers who pass through. "There's surf - it's not the greatest surf - but it's just such a cute little town, very simple, just real authentic Bahamanian food, and the people are lovely," she says. "It's a great stop for anyone looking for a (surf destination)."
And if it does the trick as a surfing locale for Stephanie Gilmore, chances are it'll do for just about anyone.
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