Happy Gilmore chases more Brazil WSL glory

Australia's Steph Gilmore is confident of a solid title defence at the Rio Pro in Brazil.
Australia's Steph Gilmore is confident of a solid title defence at the Rio Pro in Brazil.

It was the scene of a breakthrough win which helped propel her to last year's World Surf League title so it's no wonder Stephanie Gilmore is happy to be back in Brazil.

Gilmore won last year's Rio Pro for the first time in her illustrious career and said it was the confidence booster she needed to go on and win her record-equalling seventh world title.

"This event last year for me was the breaking point to give me that confidence to go for the world title for the rest of the year," Gilmore said.

"I'd lost in Bali and I had such a shocking event last year and then I just sort of, to find that confidence here, get that win, it helps me to push and be 'okay, you can do this, you can win these events in any type of conditions. You've just really got to knuckle down and make it happen'."

This year's Rio Pro window opens on Thursday with Gilmore coming in as the world's No.1 ranked surfer.

The Australian scored a perfect 10 to win in Bali last month before having her third elimination in the quarter-finals for the year at the Margaret River Pro.

Despite being unable to back up her Bali success in Western Australia, Gilmore said her confidence was still high heading into the Brazil event.

"I'm feeling good, feeling really good and the waves, the sandbank is really good, it looks like the swell is on the way," she said.

"It's gearing up to be a wonderful event. Hopefully for me and everyone else."

Lakey Petersen was beaten by Gilmore in last year's final in Brazil but is coming off the back of an event win in Margaret River while Sally Fitzgibbons, ranked fourth in the world, will be eager to add to her two event wins in South America.

In the men's competition, American John John Florence is the rankings leader after his win in WA while local favourite Filipe Toledo will be out to defend the event title he won last year.

Newcastle's Ryan Callinan is the highest-ranked Australian in the men's draw at No.7 following his quarter-final exit at Margaret River while last year's tour runner-up Julian Wilson is a lowly 13th on the rankings after his slow start to the year.

The first call for the 2019 Rio Pro will be made by organisers at 7am on Thursday (2000 AEST).

Australian Associated Press