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.
Salina Cruz, Mexico
The state of Oaxaca in Mexico, though a popular surf destination in its own right, is still seen by many as one of the last frontiers of world-class surfing. Despite the good waves and warm water, big crowds are a rarity (for now, that's changing a little, to the chagrin of some), making it an ideal destination for experienced surfers looking to get off the beaten path for a bit.
"Mainland Mexico, Salina Cruz in particular, is one of my favorite stops," Gilmore says.
Less renowned than nearby Barra de la Cruz - and therefore less crowded - Salina offers world-class breaks, combined with a near-perfect climate, leaving little to complain about for anyone willing to make the trek out to the remote coastal town.
Those that have been down that way, Gilmore included, talk about an abundance of remote, and mostly unsurfed, hollow right-hand points. It’s no frills surfing, but if you’re looking to shred wave after wave without distraction, Salina Cruz and the Pacific coast of Mexico is a good place to go.
Credit: Voegtlin / A-Frame