Owen Wright Wins The Quiksilver Pro
The story behind possibly the greatest comeback ever.
Owen Wright cemented the greatest comeback in surfing history at the Quiksilver Pro moments ago. He did it with trademark composure, a methodical, laser-guided backside attack and a surprising lack of emotion. Though the tears did come once he reached the beach and was chaired to the podium by his sister and brother, Tyler and Mikey Wright.
“Being chaired up by Mikey and Tyler was a very special moment, lots of tears. Seeing pit boss Ryan Fletcher there, we were sitting in a doctors office a couple months ago with questions marks. Yeah, it was really emotional. I was crying the whole way up,” he said.
Kelly Slater described the win as “unbelievable,” adding, “I never saw the state he got to at his worse…I did hear from people that he literally could not stand up on a surfboard and almost couldn’t walk at times. So it sounds like coming back from almost learning how to walk again. It’s pretty crazy,” he said.
With the final done, we got our first insight into just how long and arduous the road to recovery has been. Since suffering what some reports suggested was a near fatal head injury suffered at Pipeline in November of 2015, the WSL along with Owen’s support crew have maintained a strict ‘no-questions’ policy on the specifics of the injury. Today was no different, (I was reprimanded for my line of questioning) though Owen did shed some light on the extent of the damage.
“With head injuries a lot of your coordination and things struggles. I went through all those struggles and basically it all came together and I had the same really great doctor who was confirming with me the whole time, ‘you will make it back, you will have that back, it will be 12 months,’ and he assured me the whole time,” he said, adding, “I was placed in some really good hands with the help of the WSL guys leading me towards the best doctors in the world. I was really lucky.”
His opponent in the final was defending Quik Pro champion and countrymen, Matt Wilkinson, a surfer he first lined up against in a final as a ten year-old in an Avoca Pines junior contest on the Central Coast. Seventeen years later the pair are best friends, travel partners, Rip Curl teammates and Quiksilver Pro finalists.
“I’m so familiar with those guys and we have so much backstory that every time I paddled out I had this sense of, ‘oh, it’s just one of my friends,’” he said referring to heat wins against Mick Fanning, Gabriel Medina and Wilko on his way to the title.
The event win is just Owen’s third on Tour and his first on the Gold Coast. He defeated four world titles worth of experience to get there in Mick Fanning (3) and Gabriel Medina (1) and now finds himself firmly in World Title calculations.
“I’m surfing the best I’ve surfed now,” he said.
There are challenges ahead, most notably returning to the heaving, hollow reef breaks of Tahiti and Hawaii, which nearly ended his career, if not his life, 16 months ago.
“I’ve still got that to go through. I haven’t gone and challenged that yet but that’s another barrier I’ve gotta push through,” he said.
“Just competing at this event was another barrier I had to push through. Returning to competition, stretching myself back out, three heats a day for two days, they’re all challenges I gotta process and go through and getting back into solid waves is one of them.”