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.
The Gold Coast, Australia
"I was born in King's Cliff, which is in Northern New South Wales, and the Gold Coast - well, Coolangatta actually - has some of the best waves in the world. And I got to grow up surfing these waves," Gilmore says, noting how spoiled Australians are when it comes to surfing locales. "Greenmount, Snapper Rocks, Byron Bay all have beautiful surf."
New South Wales offers more than just good breaks. Surf culture is woven into the Gold Coast’s fabric, making it an ideal destination for novices and experienced surfers both in and out of the water.
"Byron Bay is a must-go for tourists - for anyone traveling around the world anywhere, really - it's beautiful," she says, her national pride obvious. "Noosa Heads is also another beautiful town. It's about three hours north of Byron Bay. And both of those places actually have really good waves. The towns are incredibly fun - good food, just good hang out spots, good places to just go have a beer and watch the sunset. It's warm all year round pretty much, which is great."
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