Crippled And Qualified: The Untold Story Of Mikey Wright’s 2018 Season
“Some days, I fucking didn't want to get up. There were days where I didn't want to do anything, because I was just in a heap of pain.”
“I stopped dead on the fucking reef. I didn’t slide. Just went dunk and got pushed into it."
In February 2018 at the Volcom Pipe Pro, Mikey Wright swung late on an unmakable one during his heat. His fins slid and the wave sent him plunging to the bottom. He removed himself from the event... this you may know.
What you might not know is that that wave destroyed the youngest Wright. The result: a crippling concussion, pain in his elbow and pelvis so bad he couldn’t leave the couch or bed at some points. The injuries lingered throughout the remainder of 2018 – the same year he qualified for the big show through wildcard bids.
“When I first hit the bottom [at Pipe], I was almost knocked out. It was just all blur, I couldn't really see,” Mikey tells Stab. “I wanted to freak out because I was fucking underwater and I had no breath. But I just tried to keep calm.
“I was kind of just full on adrenaline and I just didn't think anything when I popped up. I was like, ‘I’m fine,’ and I just grabbed my board and started paddling. My elbow, my whole right side and my hip were killing me.
“After the event was finished, I was trying to go out and surf but I couldn’t get off the couch. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I was like, ‘Fuck, I’m going to at least try to surf.’ I got in the water and couldn’t do anything. I thought, ‘I'm not supposed to be out here.’”
“I wanted to freak out because I was fucking underwater and I had no breath. But I just tried to keep calm."
A combination of raw Hawaiian power, raw Hawaiian reef, and raw Australian charging (they type that’s won over so many hearts for the youngest Wright) led Mikey to a quietly injury-plagued 2018 season.
“Some days, I fucking didn't want to get up. There were days where I didn't want to do anything, because I was just in a heap of pain," he says. "In J-Bay, my girlfriend was actually putting on my shoes and socks for me, and helping me dress, because I couldn't actually touch my feet, or even get anywhere near them. During Ballito, I was getting up and going surfing before anyone was awake just because I didn’t want anyone to see me. That was when it was the worst.”
As a spectator, you never would have known that Mikey was hurt. It was his most successful competitive run to date, and by all quantifiable metrics his surfing was remarkable.
For a long time, Mikey was the “freesurfer” of the Wright lineage – not quite a black sheep, but also not the competitive weapon of his older siblings (the talent, however, obviously present). While Owen and Tyler have had serious competitive success (followed by season- and, for both Tyler and Owen, potentially-career-crippling ailments), Mikey’s eight wildcard slots of 2018 (and eight solid finishes) garnered him a place on the CT roster for 2019.
His 2018 debut, a World Champ assassin.
At the Quik Pro, in Rounds Two and Three, Mikey left the returning World Champ, John Florence, and 2018 World Champ, Gabs Medina in a trail of blood, taking his divine railwork straight to their throats.
“Right before the Quiky Pro, I got back being able to move. I could touch a bit further than my kneecaps when trying to touch my toes. I was still dealing with post-concussion from when I hit the bottom. Like I was maybe getting an hour of sleep a night, and waking up in sweats. But I was back to being able to move and stuff. After the Quiky pro, I couldn’t train. Pretty much from then on, I was in constant pain.”
“Some days, I fucking didn't want to get up. There were days where I didn't want to do anything, because I was just in a heap of pain."
At some point, Mikey stopped surfing out of the singlet. It hurt too much. While he was having a hell of a wildcard run, causing many of the top gents to complain about his perma-wildcard status. Outside of the jersey, he was hurting. Unless it was a comp, he wasn’t in the water. And for each of his solid finishes, he was going in cold.
“I couldn’t surf the way I wanted to,” he says. “I think that’s why in France [where Mikey knew he could qualify for the CT] I just went, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to have fun again.’ It’s the end of the year and I’m going to be taking the rest of the year off to get better. I was actually surfing hard, and going for airs again. That’s why I was going for them against Julian in the Quarterfinals [he lost by less than a point].
“That was the last heat I surfed and the last time I surfed until about three weeks ago,” Mikey continues. “Now I just want to start bringing back the airs, back to the 100 percent side of things, instead of surfing at like 80 to 70 percent...”
Having to hold back and surf 'safe’ turned Mikey into a competitive ace, however. The gent who's known for rushing each section with like a bull who saw red and tossing himself over the ledge on the latest, most mutant of shelves, suddenly found himself forced to use his rail.
“Last year was a good warm up,” he says. “I got my surfing down to where I could go turn-to-turn. The way I surfed before would be to wait for the section. If there was a good section at the end of the wave, I’d wait the whole time and get as much speed as possible and hit it. I was just learning. Learning new ways of surfing.
“Last year was almost good that I was injured. I was focusing on things that I needed to be, focusing on making heats and putting a line together rather than going extreme.”
“Last year was a good warmup.”