Soul surfing takes Beachley to record seventh title

12/12/06

The Canberra Times

Phillip Henderson

Australian Layne Beachley says her seventh women's world surfing title is the most satisfying of her glittering career.

Beachley won a record seventh world crown in Hawaii yesterday when her only remaining title rival, defending champion Chelsea Georgeson, was beaten in the quarter-finals of the Billabong Pro at Honolua Bay on Maui.

It is the 34-year-old's first world title in three years after she won six straight ASP Tour championships between 1998 and 2003.

"This one is just the most satisfying, the most rewarding. I feel more grateful than anything after winning this one," Beachley said. "This one has just been a bit more of soulful journey for me simply because I haven't placed the type of expectation and pressure on myself as I have in previous years.

"I've won this one out of pure love for surfing and joy for competition. It's a wonderful day."

Fellow Sydneysider Jessi Miley-Dyer ensured a double celebration for Australians after winning her first WCT event.

Beachley's title comes only 12 months after she was on the verge of retirement nursing a neck injury.

"This time last year I was sitting at home watching this event on the internet with a herniated disc in my neck and looking down the barrel of retirement," she said.

"I was going to have to have surgery to get this thing healed, and then my neurosurgeon suggested I rest up and take some time out and do some soul searching and allow myself to heal myself. I did, and I just came back with an appreciation for what I have. Finally this year I've learnt how to surf with my heart and not with my head. And I think that's why I've been so consistent."

Beachley promised to return in 2007 for a tilt at an eighth title.

She is keen to keep up with men's champion Kelly Slater who won his eighth world title this year but at 34, admits if the American is gunning for 10 crowns, he can have that mark all to his own.

"That just sounds too hard to me, I don't want to be 37 and still competing for world titles," Beachley said.

"I'll keep going for as long as the passion is still there. Obviously this has reignited my passion and refuelled the fire to go for an eighth world title. I want to spend at least another year or two [on the tour]."

Beachley is bracing for her toughest title defence in 2007 on a constantly improving tour she believes will become stronger still with the full-time addition of rising Australian teenage star Stephanie Gilmour the youngest WCT event winner. "Every year it jumps a whole another notch, but I think it's going to jump two or three notches next year when we've got the likes of Stephanie Gilmour coming on tour.

"She's proven that she's got the ability to win events without even being on tour yet, so imagine what she's going to get up to when she does join us."

Miley-Dyer capped off a brilliant year with her inaugural tour victory after beating Hawaii's Keala Kennelly in the final 14.25 points to 10.

The 19-year-old world junior champion also claimed the 2006 world qualifying series and the ASP tour rookie of the year title.

Miley-Dyer finished fourth on the overall rankings, completing an Australian quadrella with Melanie Redman-Carr in second and Georgeson third. Georgeson, 23, was gracious in defeat after losing her quarter-final to fellow Australian Claire Bevilacqua.

"Layne has always been there and she's always been such a good role model for all of us girls," Georgeson said.

"What she's done for women's surfing running her own event, still competing on tour and then winning seven world titles it's pretty amazing.

"I give her a lot of credit. It takes a lot to just win one, but to be able to go back each year and win, its pretty awesome to see." - AAP

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