Train Like a Pro: How World Surf League Champion Stephanie Gilmore Stays Connected to Her Body

Stephanie Gilmore is the best female surfer in the world. This is not an exaggeration—Gilmore won a record-breaking eighth World Surf League Championship late last year, an accomplishment born of 17 years on tour, a learned understanding of the ocean, and a fitness routine centered on connection, variety, and play. 

With the season two premiere of Apple TV+’s Make or Break, Gilmore’s journey to her 2022 WSL title is documented in detail, along with that of all of those partaking in the year’s World Surf Tour. “In 2022, they changed it to like a, a Super Bowl finish, where the world title goes down on the final event—it’s not like an accumulation of points throughout the entire year,” says Gilmore. “So that was a really big moment, and I’m just incredibly happy because I feel like I learned so much about myself and what’s possible when you really apply yourself […] It’s like this heroic moment—like, can you put all of that hard work that you’ve done throughout the year and perform right here in this moment and see if you can do it. Looking back now, I had never felt that before in competition.”

To stay in world-champion shape, Gilmore relies on bodyweight strength and resistance exercises, along with a diet that feels good, intuitively—for her, that’s largely organic protein, sweet potatoes, brown rice pasta, yogurt, and fruit—and ample emphasis on training to prevent injury and promote recovery. (Think ice baths, sauna sessions, massages, etc.)

Plus, of course, lots of surfing. 

“I can’t imagine many athletes that have their sport that they do all the time, and then when they go on holidays you know, they’re not out on the tennis court again, they’re trying to take a step back,” says Gilmore. “Whereas we’re like, ‘Oh, the contest is off, what are we gonna do? … Let’s go surfing.’”

We caught up with Gilmore to find out how she stays strong and in tune with her body and the ocean. 

Start Your Day Off Strong

I wake up and I go through a fifteen-minute activation routine to wake up my body. A little yoga mixed with some breathing, just kind of waking up so that I’m not just looking into my phone for an hour, trying to get the body to know it’s daytime and let’s go—and that’s before I’m eating anything. Then we’ll go surfing. It depends what the surf’s like, but the surfing will be a good hour and a half, at least where I’m paddling heaps, catching as many waves as I can, and it’s actually a great workout. I think that the best training for surfing is just to go surfing. 

Mix Things Up

I’ve done a little bit more boxing lately, and just like the cardio of boxing is insane, and the mix between Pilates and boxing is really great in terms of cardio and strength. I really enjoy just swimming, body surfing, walking, hiking. I think the most important thing is to mix it up, keep yourself interested and keep it fun when you’re trying to train […] Dancing, having fun, whatever it is I think it’s really important for everyone to do things that just keep your brain switch on and put yourself into something new and exciting and gets you our of your comfort zone a bit. I started six-a-side soccer when I was at home, and I was playing soccer with a team, which was so much fun. It’s like two twenty-minute halves, you get your heart rate up, you’re running around and just doing something new. Keeping it fresh is important. 

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