Australian surfing queen Stephanie Gilmore has edged closer to a seventh world title crown despite faltering in the final of the US Open.
The six-time world champion was beaten by local hope Courtney Conlogue, with the Californian prevailing 13.83 to 11.86 in the final of the World Surf League event on Monday morning (AEST).
Gilmore missed a chance to capture US Open of Surfing honours for the first time since her maiden triumph in 2007.
But the Australian world No.1 was upbeat after banking 7800 invaluable points to push her advantage over main title challenger Lakey Peterson to 5200.
“A final’s a final. Everyone starts with zero,” Gilmore told worldsurfleague.com.
“You have to be spicy to beat these girls. That local knowledge makes a big difference.”
The women’s finalists embraced in the water and shared a high five as the American world no.15 claimed an emotional comeback win after recently returning from a broken foot.
“This one has its own special meaning for me,” Conlogue said on winning the event for the second time.
“Coming back from injury, it’s the first event I’ve felt 100 per cent.”
The 25-year-old American was also chuffed to carry out the giant-killing display – knocking off Gilmore, Caroline Marks and Peterson on the final day – in front of her home fans at Huntington Beach.
For Gilmore, the runner-up finish continues her consistent form of placing no lower than fifth this season.
With three rounds remaining, the world championship battle appears to be a two-woman race between Gilmore and Peterson after Brazilian Tatiana Weston-Webb’s shock third-round exit left her 15,045 points adrift of top spot.
Gilmore snuck past Hawaiian Carissa Moore 11.77 to 11.36 in the semi-finals to further punish Peterson for her last-eight slip-up against Conlogue.
She was the only Australian to progress to the final four after countrywomen Nikki Van Dijk and Sally Fitzgibbons lost their quarter-final match-ups.
Fitzgibbons and Marks couldn’t be split with their clash finishing 14.60 apiece but the American went through on a superior individual wave score.
Van Dijk couldn’t overcome Moore in their last-eight heat, falling 12.70 to 10.93.