Six-time world champion Steph Gilmore has made a colossal call in labelling Buderim's Dimity Stoyle as a "dark horse" to take out this year's WCT crown.
Gilmore was at Sunshine Coast Grammar School yesterday and spoke glowingly about her good mate Stoyle, who is embarking on her second year on the world tour.
Gilmore has witnessed Stoyle's rise through the female surfing ranks and said she believes the 23-year-old is set for some big wins in 2015.
"Yeah, she is (a dark horse) because she's sort of under the radar and she has a great style. So in the waves that we have on tour, I think they really suit her style, and I'm sure she'll be winning events in no time," Gilmore said.
"She is (one to beat). I actually surfed with Dimity yesterday up here at her home break and she's a great little surfer. She's very talented."
The 2014 champion gets to the Coast as often as possible and said she regarded the area as a strong nursery for developing talent.
"From the Sunshine Coast down to the Gold Coast and all the way south on the east coast of Australia, we have the perfect training ground for world champions," she said.
"As we've seen, there's been so much good talent come out of this part of Australia. The Sunshine Coast has world-class waves and so does the Gold Coast, so I'm always, when I get the chance, I'm always at home surfing around here and it definitely breeds some incredible surfers."
Gilmore has enjoyed a strong start to her championship defence after claiming runner-up honours at the Roxy Pro last week when second to Carissa Moore.
The 27-year-old said she was determined to ring the bell with a win at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, which starts on April 1.
"I'm sure Bells Beach will be a really good event and I'd like to one-up that second place (at Gold Coast) and get a win down there," she said.
Gilmore has been at the forefront of the advancement of female surfing over the past decade and encouraged parents to get their kids into the healthy and financially viable sport.
"I know when I was young, to chase after the dream of being a pro surfer maybe wasn't so enticing for parents but now it's an incredibly financial sport and I think that obviously, with the help of sponsorship, you can go a long way," she said.
"Professional surfing is now a professional sport and we really are as legitimate as any other professional sport, so yeah, it's definitely a great career pathway for many young kids to look at.
"I think the women have seen the most incredible changes already for the better and I'm so proud to be a part of the WSL."
Gilmore was on the Coast to promote the Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon at Kawana Aquatic and Leisure Centre and Sunshine Coast Stadium on May 24.
Courtesy of Anthony Brand of Sunshine Coast Daily