The Status Quo, with Owen Wright
Owen Wright, from Lennox Head on Australia’s North Coast, is unassuming, wholesome, and genuine. He don’t party like other 21-year-olds, and it shows – his rig is scarily-toned. Like a tiger on its hind legs, Owen stood powerful above the Chopes coral. He snagged what was, perhaps not the deepest, but the most perfect wave […]
Owen Wright, from Lennox Head on Australia’s North Coast, is unassuming, wholesome, and genuine. He don’t party like other 21-year-olds, and it shows – his rig is scarily-toned. Like a tiger on its hind legs, Owen stood powerful above the Chopes coral. He snagged what was, perhaps not the deepest, but the most perfect wave of the event (pictured above). A dreamy campaign (including some heat totals like 19.50 and 19.77) saw the kid in the final against Kell Slater, but he ended up falling just short by 1.33 points. Still in Tahiti, packing for New York, the zipper of Owen’s suitcase could be heard over the phone line as he spoke to Stab.
Stab: Was this the best WT event you’ve surfed in, wave-wise?
Owen Wright: The only time I’ve seen it that good for a WT event was in Mexico for the Search event there. But, I liked this one better ’cause it was a left.
Tell me about competing on a good left in a WT event – there hasn’t been much chance for that in your WT career so far. On the ‘QS there’s a lot of lefts and beachbreaks and stuff like that, but on the WT there’s just a lot of right-hand beachbreaks. It was pretty sick to actually get out there and get a sick swell. And just get barrelled. Even if this contest wasn’t on, I’d pay to come here and surf this swell anyway. It just so happened that we were here for it anyway, and we were in a contest.
Did you feel like you had more a chance to show what y’got? Well, I definitely feel more comfortable in waves like the ones we had over the last coupla days. It’s definitely a stronger point of mine. But comps are all the same, you never know what’s gonna happen in them. Like, the Hobgoods – this is one of their strongest contests, and they didn’t go that well. You just never know. I’m pretty rapt to get a result, either way.
Who surprised and impressed you? Jeremy (Flores). He didn’t so much surprise me… but he definitely took things to a new level. I knew he was an excellent barrel rider from seeing him in the Chile Search event – I was watching him there and he was insane – but, I reckon guys that stepped up were (Chris) Davo, Matty Wilko, Jadson Andre, Brett Simpson… those guys really, really impressed me. And Trav Logie, as well! A lot of the guys just went really hard this event. We had some pretty heavy waves that one day, and pretty much every set was ridden. Even if guys were too deep, they were just going, having a crack.
We were saying that, sometimes when he’d kick out, Trav looked really shaky, but then he’d be on the next set. That’s the thing. Man, I watched Wilko get absolutely annihilated, just smoked, and he still went back out and threw himself over the falls on the next 10 foot set. The boys were going so hard, it was good to see.
This felt more like a WT contest, huh. Yeah, I think the tour needed this event right now, with the way the waves have been going. So for everything to align for this event, with this massive swell, it’s what people wanna see. Pretty epic, I think.
Now that you’ve made a WT final, does it feel like a light’s switched on? Like you’ve gotten closer to cracking the code? Yeah, I’ve definitely taken another step, I think. It’s always a learning curve on this WT, but I definitely do feel more and more comfortable, each event that I go in. I’m definitely happy with the result here, and definitely closer to the formula.
Surfing a final with Slater. You certainly didn’t surf like a rattled man (like, say, Yades Nicol kinda did at Huntington). It didn’t cross my mind that much, but when I came in, I remember doing an interview and GT was like, “That was your first final, Owen, and that was Kelly Slater’s 67th.” I was like, wow. When you put it like that it makes you go, alright, shit, there’s a bit of a difference there in experience. But I didn’t feel too rattled at all during it, I played my game and he played his game, and did what Kelly Slater does.
Before the heat, did you think you were in with a pretty good chance? Yeah! (Laughs).
You kinda have to, right?For sure. At Teahupoo, in prefect barrelling lefts, and it was probably four to six feet yesterday… having Kelly in there wasn’t really putting me off at all. I wasn’t thinking about not winning.
The final buzzer. Photo: ASP/Kirstin
We ran a shot of you yesterday – Kelly has his hands up and you’re looking down, not exactly happy. It seems like people kinda smile and say, “Oh, Kelly got me again.” But you don’t look like that. I’d just had that wave and got pretty smoked. I guess losing is not always… y’know. It’s safe to say that I was pretty upset right then. Losing’s not a smiling matter, I don’t think. I still had a great time, and the whole experience of this event has been amazing. I’m definitely not disappointed, I just was disappointed in that moment when the final hooter went and I was like, alright, it’s really over. I wasn’t upset, but… pissed. I don’t really know why people would be smiling about losing to Kelly Slater, someone who’s dominated the sport for however many years.
Maybe I have a different perception from the outside. Yeah, it might seem like I was pretty happy just to lose to him, but… no. No way. No one’s happy losing I don’t think. Everyone’s there to win. But at the end of the day, I’ll definitely take this result.
And does this feel more like the tour’s future? For sure. This is what the Dream Tour is about, waves like this. J-Bay, Snapper, Bells, all waves that are high-quality waves. You gotta have a bit of variety in there, you gotta have your beachbreaks, but I guess… I dunno, this event’s gonna be remembered for a while, ’cause of how good the waves were.
What do you think about events like Rio? (Laughs). Rio in itself, for me, was a learning experience. But, it’s just like anywhere. If you get a bank and you get a swell, then you’re on, but we had no banks, and the swell we got was closing out. It was just weird waves there. It just wasn’t that good. But, it ran, they got good results out of it, and everyone was happy.
If every tour event was run in waves like the ones at Chopes, who’d be the champ? I think it would be pretty similar. The guys at the top now, know how to surf every single condition. I think it’d be pretty much the same. I reckon the guys that’re there at the moment have their formula and they know how to win. Whether it’s two foot or 10 foot.
So, you gonna win the $300k in NY? I think everyone wants to do that.
Will that purse push everyone harder? I dunno? It’s gonna be interesting, and a really cool event. I’m really excited. It’s definitely gonna push me. It’s a big carrot dangling. – Elliot Struck
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