Mikey Wright: The Competitor, The Mongrel, The Wildcard, The Interview
The wildest wildcard or the mildest try-hard?
We don’t know much about our professional surfing heroes (yep, heroes). We know the sterile post-heat interviews, the scripted personality that comes out of social media accounts and the occassional profile projects.
We’re presented an image of athletes that brands want to foist onto us, oftentimes an augmentation of one interesting aspect of the surfer’s identity—the kid’s got a mullet! Burnouts, Jack Daniels and middle fingers from here on out!
But we care about these gals and guys as we watch them in awe doing things we once aspired to, but that now only fill us with wistfulness. And we want to know!
We take the tidbits of their personality that are offer and make an amalgamation, a kind of personality profile Frankenstein’s monster and make grand assumptions about who the surfer really is.
Genuine fury or manufactured rage?
Mikey Wright must be one of the least-known/most assumed surfers on the planet. He’s media shy, but promoted heavily.
He’s young, but has been around seemingly forever. And he’s made a chameleon-esque transformation from wholesome Weet-Bix kid (Wheaties, but in brick form, for you Yankees; plain açai bowl for the Brazilians?) to Mad Dog Mike the Mulleted Mongrel, to…?
We’ve all got our assumptions about Mikey, and now that he’s gone from dropping the most face fucking edits once or twice a year to being a regular fixture on the World Tour, we thought it would be worth our while grabbing a hold of the young fella and just seeing what’s up.
We caught Mikey after a day of testing out sleds for South Africa. We know this because we creeped his Instagram.
(Note: Mikey, like all the Wrights, is from Culburra, which is regional, coastal Australia. There’s no mistaking his accent for anything but Australian, and he’s a man of few words. They prefer action, and slabs, in that part of the world. We’ve edited some of the conversation for brevity, but wanted to keep it relatively verbatim so you can that laconic Aussie drawl up in your head.)
Stab: Mikey, I see you’re picking up your boards for J-Bay
Mikey: Ahhhh nah, they’re just for Ballito [Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, the first QS 10,000 of the year]
So you’re not confirmed for J-Bay?
Nah, not too sure yet.
My main focus is the QS.
It’s weird, you’re sort of in a World Title race, but not on the CT. How does that work?
Yeah, I don’t know, it’s kinda pretty funny ay? I don’t know how, been lucky enough to have the opportunities, and there’s been a couple where I’ve done pretty well, you know. It’d be interesting to see how well I’d be going if I could surf the other spots at the other events. But yeah, hopefully, I’ll surf them all next year.
“Since I was a kid I’ve always done my own thing, like, kinda stirred the pot and caused trouble,” says Wright.
WSL/ Ed Sloane
J-Bay would be sick wouldn’t it?
Yeah, you know, I went there last year for my first time and I loved the wave, so it would be pretty exciting.
(Note: Since the interview, which was like fucken yesterday, the WSL have awarded Mikey a wildcard spot, and so yeah, we’ll be seeing him at Jeffrey’s Bay.)
Whose injuries are you relying on to get the call-ups, to the get the wildcards for the CT?
Well at the moment, I’m actually getting the wildcards through my rating on the QS. At the start of the year I got the Quiksilver wildcard for Snapper, but at the moment it’s actually the WSL who choose whether you’ve got the highest rating or the one who’s been doing the best. So in Brazil, both me and Alejo got the wildcard, but then in Indo I got the wildcard because I did well in Brazil, but I also had my ranking on the QS. I don’t know if it’s an injury replacement, I’m not too sure, but it definitely does help when there are people injured. There are more spots opened up, you know?
(Note: We reached out to the WSL for some clarification on how Mikey’s wildcards have been awarded and received this, “From Snapper on, his wildcards (Margaret River/Uluwatu, Rio and Keramas) have all been allocated by the WSL Commissioner’s Office based on CT performance (a 9th at Gold Coast) as well as QS performance (winning Newcastle, highest-rated Australian, etc.). Those subsequent wildcards have fed into further CT performances (13th at Rio, 3rd in Keramas – as well as the 3rd at Margies/Ulus) and he’s now firmly entrenched within the Top 10. As he has a legitimate chance at qualifying via the CT and his performances (low seed besting high seeds) have validated his place in these events, it’s possible that he’ll see more CT wildcards allocated by the Commissioner’s Office before the year’s out.”)
Steely-nerved stud or show pony?
STAB: Are the other surfers off you because you’re beating them, but you’re not actually on Tour?
MW: I don’t know. It’s interesting, it’s been really fun getting these opportunities and being, you know, who I am I just kind of rock up to events and turn some stones, and some people don’t… I ruffle some feathers, kind of thing. It’s been a really good opportunity and a great learning curve. Most of the time I have to surf against the best guys to get through heats, so it’s definitely been a learning curve, and even the ones I do lose it’s great to learn from them.
STAB: Who’s in your corner?
MW: It’s been good this year, I’ve been able to actually travel to events with Owen and Tyler and it’s been good to have them at every event. At home I’ve been working with Brooko [Troy Brooks, ex-CT surfer, Quiksilver executive] and my mate Wade, and we’ve been filming and surfing and having fun. At home I do surf coaching with Brooko, but at events I run my own show. At events I’m on my own two feet but still have Owen and Tyler there, they’ve been a great help this year.
STAB: You’ve said in the past that you want to surf as fast as possible. How does that approach compare to the surfing you do on the CT?
MW: Depends where you surf. If you’re surfing a fast wave, then I’m still going to surf fast and put all my effort into the wave. Nothing’s changed from back then, I just didn’t want to do comps back then because I didn’t feel like I was ready, I wasn’t experienced enough in surfing. I didn’t feel like my air game and my rail game was good enough. I didn’t want to do something I didn’t think I could succeed at.
I mean, I probably could have, but I feel like now’s the right time and I’ve changed a lot of things this year and I’m pretty happy to come back and start cracking away at it.
“I think [competitive surfing] definitely needs a bit more Hoy, that’s what I reckon—the new day-and-age Hoy.”
Seems like in your clips you were surfing for 12s, that must be different to surfing for 6s in QS heats.
I don’t actually tone it down to get a score, you know, I go out there and do. I actually learnt a bit about this from Brooko. I’ve been working with him for a couple of years now and this last year’s been a big learning curve. I feel like I didn’t have that small wave repetition of being able to do turn-turn instead of how I like to surf. And I still surf like that, but it does take a little while to go from surfing 100 miles an hour and putting all the effort into every turn to fitting three turns into that wave and still getting the same score. It’s been a bit of a change, it took a while. But, I still freesurf, I still do all that stuff, I just had to learn how to surf a heat and learn the basics of it.
(Note: When Mikey was attracting a bit of online attention around the Margaret River event many an internet commentator accused him of being a party animal, a big drinker or worse. That was conflicting with reports we’d been hearing about Mikey going teetotal to make the Tour.)
We hear you’ve quit drinking to have a crack, has that contributed to where you are now?
That was just me making a few bets with my sister about partying and stuff and quitting smoking, so I sort of stopped partying and quit smoking. Then after that I sort of didn’t want to drink anymore, but I’ll still have the occasional drink and now I’m getting into my whiskeys and stuff, but it’s definitely a little bit different from before, you know, I’ve got the taste for winning, not the taste for alcohol.
Who do you think would win in a Wright family arm wrestle?
Awwww I don’t know… we’d keep going until one of us hurt themselves that’s for sure. I’m not too sure, I want to say myself, but… in a heat, I can’t wait for that. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, surf against Owen in a heat.
Did Owen’s injury fire you up? How about Tyler’s World Title?
Not really to be honest. Owen’s injury was tough and Tyler’s World Title was pretty sick. But also in saying that, with Owen’s injury, looking at the little grom he’s got now, and his girl and all that…
But I don’t think that made me eager to do what I’m doing now, I flicked that switch myself.
Does comp surfing need more aggression, more attitude and more grit in the way people surf on Tour?
I think it’s heading that way, watching what Filipe and John and that are doing I think it’s going up another gear. I like to see power surfing and a lot of Tour surfers can do power surfing and I enjoy it myself. But nah, I think it’s pretty sick, I think it definitely needs a little bit of a stir up and I feel like a lot of people have changed to be a certain type of person, but they just need to be themselves. I think it definitely needs a bit more Hoy, that’s what I reckon, the new day-and-age Hoy.
Hell on wheels or hamming it up for the camera?
Are you going to bring the mongrel back?
Aww I dunno, I’ll try to. I’m just gunna be myself, I don’t wanna change for no one. I don’t want to be any different.
You’ve got a bit of a different profile to your famous siblings, they seem so clean cut, professional. But you got this Mikey the Mongrel persona. Where did that come from?
Probably my years when I wasn’t surfing? Yeah, that’s all I’m going to say, probably my years when I wasn’t surfing. Since I was a kid I’ve always done my own thing, like, kinda stirred the pot and caused trouble, but [the mongrel image] was definitely from my years when I wasn’t surfing, or when I wasn’t competing anyway.
Well, what were you expecting? Did you want Mikey to bite the head off a budgerigar mid-interview?
To tell me to get fucked?
Mikey’s not the sum of the public’s expectation, he’s just a young man from the sticks, born into a surfing dynasty of sorts, who now finds himself in a pretty extraordinary situation.
Mikey Wright might still be a bit of a mongrel, you may see him as a maddog, but for now, he’s just a fella with a couple of wildcards up his sleeve who’s taking things seriously.
And now he’s found himself a longshot in a World Title race, breaking top-seed hearts along the way, and enjoying a fine whiskey or two at the end of the day.
Maddog Mikey wright and his shaggy fan.
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