The loss of her nipper board and the willingness of Surfers Paradise Club to provide her with a new one resulted in a change of clubs.
Surprisingly Gilbert won in her first attempt at a professional ironwoman event - which just happened to be the first ever professional ironwoman race in Australia in 1990. Surprisingly, because she was just 15 year of age competing against older more experienced and established ironwomen like champion Samantha O'Brien.
It soon became apparent that she would be a star in the senior ranks of Surf Lifesaving when in 1992 she won 3 gold medals at the World Titles in Japan and took out the Queensland and placed second in the Australian Ironwoman Championships.
This was the start of a 10 year dominance in the sport which saw Karla win 'back to back' World Ironwoman Championships (2000-2002), amass 7 consecutive ironwoman series wins (3 Kellogg's, 3 Meadow Lea, 1 Devondale), 15 Australian Championships (inc 3 Open Ironwoman titles & 3 Competitor of Carnival Titles), 8 Queensland Ironwoman titles and numerous state and Australian nipper titles.
Coaches Pat O'Keeffe and Denis Cotterell were a big part of her many highlights. Winning four Uncle Toby's races in a row and beating the great Trevor Hendy's record of 17 race victories rank highly.
But the defining moment in an outstanding career spanning 21 years was when Karla crossed the line in her very last race - the final round of the 2003 Kelloggs series doubling as the Australian Ironwoman Championships. Victory was not garunteed - in fact Karla had not won an Australian Ironwoman Championships since 1994. Faced with the most important race of her life, she approached it like any other - with a will to win and undying determination. Trailing after the board, Karla went on to claim her most significant victory and ensuring she left the sport in the best possible way.
In 2007 Karla and husband Andrew become parents to beautiful daughter Ella, which she claims to be her proudest moment to date. August 2010 was the arrival of no.2, princess Summer
In 2009 Karla was awarded a OAM for her work towards surflifesaving and charity support. Karla has gained her qualifications as a Personal Trainer in the hope to inspire and motivate others to get fit and healthy and share her passion for exercise. She also has a blog Ironmum Karla where she talks health, fitness and lifestyle.