Just over a year ago, Owen Wright’s life changed drastically. With one wipeout, Wright suffered a severe brain injury and was forced to spend over a year in recovery. But he’s back–doctors gave him the go-ahead to compete again, and the WSL gave him a wildcard into the 2017 season.
You probably remember the wipeout: before the trials for the Billabong Pipe Masters, a very in-form Wright paddled out into unruly conditions. It was during a stretch of swell that would see multiple serious injuries; Bede Durbidge shattered his pelvis and Evan Geiselman nearly died.
Wright fell on a wave, hit his head, and endured a multiple wave hold down. Afterward, he decided that he wasn’t feeling all that great. He staggered up the beach to the Rip Curl house to take a nap–decidedly not a good thing to do when one has a concussion. Soon after, he was taken to the hospital, where the situation was revealed as much more serious than previously thought. Owen, with bleeding on the brain and swelling, was forced to pull out of the 2016 title race, and for the time being, surfing altogether.
Wright announced his intentions last month to return to competition when he entered a Qualifying Series event, the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro, in Newcastle, Australia. “The WSL is pleased to confirm that Owen Wright will return to competition at this year’s QS6000 Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro in Newcastle,” said WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow in a press release. “Since his injury in Hawaii in December of 2015, the WSL has worked closely with Wright, his physicians, and the sport’s medical committee to ensure that, if he were to return to competition, his health and well-being would take priority.”
Although it isn’t confirmed that Wright will accept the wildcard, it can be expected that we’ll see him back on tour in 2017. “Owen has passed his own physician’s medical review and has received the WSL medical committee’s approval to compete in Newcastle,” Perrow continued. “Following the Newcastle event, all parties will reconvene to discuss whether Owen wishes to accept the WSL wildcard to commence the 2017 CT season.”
Despite his head injury–of which the true severity was kept tightly under wraps–Wright had a huge year. He looked on as his younger sister, Tyler Wright, won her first world title, and celebrated the birth of his first child, a baby boy named Vali.
Wright will don the jersey again in just a few days when the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro kicks off, running Feb.20 – Feb. 26.