Steph Gilmore has eyes on a seventh world title. Picture: Supplied.
Steph Gilmore has eyes on a seventh world title. Picture: Supplied.

Gilmore leads Aussie charge as title race heats up

AUSSIE surfers have flexed their muscles at the US Open at Huntington Beach and will feature in three of the four quarter-finals after impressive round three performances.

Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Nikki Van Dijk all surfed into the final eight and will compete in separate match-ups

World No.1 Gilmore is set to take on French surfer Johanne Defay with Van Dijk pitted against three-time world champion Carissa Moore of the US and Sally Fitzgibbons against American teen star Caroline Marks.

Also in the quarters is Gilmore's main foe for the world title this year - Lakey Peterson. She will face fellow American Courtney Conlogue.

While the race is tight between the pair, six-time world champion Gilmore says she is in familiar waters and enjoying the close competition.

"We're trying to make statements to each other, or at least I am, because it's important in a rivalry to do that," said Gilmore after an early surf at the event.

"This is new territory for Lakey. She hasn't been in a title race like this, and I think she's probably trying to make sure she's just keeping to herself and doing her thing.

"I'm pretty comfortable in these situations. I feel like with women's surfing, we're all so nice, we could have a little more bite…so yeah, I'm trying to keep it fun and interesting."

Gilmore has won three world tour events this year to Peterson's two.