Gilmore said she felt she was in excellent form after standing atop the dais with the trophy at last week's Bells Beach competition and will even be surfing the exact same board tomorrow that gave her victory there.
"I feel I am really on top of my surfing at the moment. Things are going really well for me," said Gilmore, who is currently number two in the women's ratings behind 2004 Peruvian world champ Sofia Mulanovich.
"My father was brought up in Newcastle so it's terrific for me to get down this way as the world tour keeps me from visiting relatives usually."
Gilmore undertook some free surfing alone at Newcastle beach before meeting with an eager press contingent today.
In today's morning round of 48 of the Midori Pro, Hawaiian surfer Alana Blanchard racked up the highest score of a 14.5 in small waves fanned by a nor-easterly.
Another female surfer to get through her heat with a victory was Lee Ann Curren, daughter of three time world champion Tom Curren (USA), who, coincidentally, was the very first winner of the very first Surfest in 1985.
Curren's recent biggest win of her professional surfing career was at the Kustom Jetty Surf Pro Junior at Bells Beach in January.
Asked about walking in the footsteps of her father, whose 33 pro surfing victories was a record he held for 16 years until it was eclipsed by Kelly Slater at Bells Beach in 2006, the young natural foot said she was not trying to get too far in front of herself.
"I'd definitely like to win here like him but I don't think about it because I have to make it to the next round and that's the hardest thing to do.
"I am just trying to do my best," she said.
"I was a bit nervous at first because I fell off my first wave but then I got some good ones and the confidence returned," Curren said.
In the round of 160 in the MR Pro, local Jesse Adam progressed while mate Rhys Smith was eliminated.
The inconsistency of the surf proved a bother for some, with Australian Michael O'Rafferty failing to catch a single wave in his heat.
This afternoon's round of 128 in the MR Pro saw another local, Travis Lynch, also eliminated from the competition after scoring 10.77 but being defeated by Luke Campbell (Western Australia) and Khy Vaughan (Ulladulla).
Hopes to break the drought of a local ever winning the trophy at Newcastle now lie with Merewether's Jesse Adam, who will surf again tomorrow in the remaining heats in the round of 128, set down for 7:30am.
Also in tomorrow's surfing action, the biggest female names from across the globe including Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Jacqueline Silva (BRA), current number two WQS surfer Bethany Hamilton (HAW), Megan Abubo (HAW) and Serena Brook (AUS) will hit the water for the round of 48 in the Midori Pro, starting at 10:55am.
Michael Bradley Photography
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