Seven-times world champion Layne Beachley on Friday annointed defending world champion Stephanie Gilmore as the new face of women’s surfing.
But the “Madonna of surfing” hinted she might still compete occasionally despite announcing her retirement.
A tearful Beachley confirmed she would retire at the end of the current season, but didn’t rule out contesting the odd competition next year.
“I’m still open to the possibility that I may compete in a few events next year, but my full time competitiveness is now over,” Beachley said.
She wanted to be remembered as “the girl who had the most fun”.
The record-setting surfer who regarded the ocean as her office, her bikini as her uniform and sunscreen as her make-up, said she also hoped to be remembered for her never-say-die attitude.
Beachley described her career as tumultuous and satisfying but recognised she had found it difficult to remain motivated as her commitments out of water grew.
The 36-year-old Sydneysider, who is running third on the current standings, said she had been contemplating retirement for a couple of years.
“I know it seems like a weird time to walk away while I’m at the top of my game,” Beachley said.
“I feel like I’m actually in the career-best form of my life, but there’s so many wonderful opportunities that surfing has created for me, but that is where my fashion and focus now lies.
“I’m an all-or-nothing person. I’m in it to win and if I feel I don’t have that kind of focus or commitment to win, I know it’s the right time to walk away.”
Beachley was lauded by people within surfing and from other sports today.
“She’s almost like the Madonna of surfing, because she’s evolved with the times and the level of surfing and she’s still up there in the world title race,” said world No.4-ranked Australian Samantha Cornish.
Wallabies Rugby World Cup-winning captain John Eales, who Beachley chose to MC her retirement press conference today, described the decorated surfer as an “undisputed champion of Australian sport”.
American legend Kelly Slater, who last week clinched his ninth men’s world title, on Friday described Beachley as the greatest female surfer of all time and would be missed in the surfing world.
“She has continued to blow minds and shatter records with her surfing style, technical ability and focus. She will be missed in the surfing world,” he said.
Slater’s latest title triumph finally convinced Beachley she would never catch up to him, though she claimed superiority in at least one area over the American.
“After Kelly won his ninth, I went ‘that’s it, now I’m very confident I’m going to retire’ because there’s no way I can keep up with him, I’ve won six in a row and he didn’t, so I will always maintain that I outdid him that way,” Beachley joked.
Seven-time world champion Beachley is confident 20-year-old Gilmore is ready to accept responsibility of being the new face of women’s surfing.
“I was talking to her about it before the heats and we both started crying,” Beachley said.
“It’s kind of like handing over the baton in a relay and I’m confident that she will do women’s surfing really proud.”
“My mind just goes 100 miles an hour when I think of what can actually be achieved and Layne has really paved the way for a lot of it,” Gilmore said.