Owen Wright won the Quik Pro Gold Coast yesterday. In a final against defending champion and good friend Matt Wilkinson, Wright shut the door on any remaining questions about his condition.
You know the story: in December of 2015, Owen Wright nearly died at Pipeline. After wiping out in conditions that almost killed both Bede Durbidge and Evan Geiselman, he stumbled up the beach and went to sleep. When he woke up, it was clear that something was very, very wrong. Soon after, a brief update said he had a concussion and would have to drop out of Pipe. Then, it was revealed that it was much more serious–bleeding on the brain, severe memory loss, and trouble speaking were a few of the supposed issues. He dropped out of the 2016 race and went quiet, concentrating on his recovery. The Rip Curl camp was oddly closed-lipped about it, and surf fans clamored for news.
Every now and then, though, Wright would post an update–a baby, his first surf back, etc. They were all uplifting, but hopes for an eventual return to the Owen of old waned with time. It was a tragic reality of severe head trauma.
“Remember, just a few short months ago, he was scoring perfect heats in maxed out conditions at the Fiji Pro,” wrote JP Currie a few months after Wright’s injury. “He was reported to be dominating at Pipe and widely touted as a potential winner of the Pipe Masters, not to mention a genuine World Title contender. Now he’s belly surfing a soft top to the beach in knee high waves.”
Even Wright seemed leery of setting the bar too high. While positive and self-reflective, there were a few times when Wright seemed to be coming to grips with the fact that he might not ever return to form. “… self improvement is necessary,” he wrote, “but to focus on camparison [sic] of what used to be, what others can do or why you’re not good enough is detrimental to the now; negative emotion in your self [sic] will hinder improvement and happiness. Simple statement… challenging to practice.”
His win at Snapper Rocks, however, is huge. After running through the earlier heats, he ended up beating Gabriel Medina, who was surfing on an injured knee, to make his way to the final. There, in lackluster waves, Wright and defending champion Matt Wilkinson faced off. For once the wave quality didn’t seem to matter all that much. Wright’s story took the forefront of the final, and when the hooter sounded, his ascension back to his old life was complete. This time, though, you can bet he’s got a whole new appreciation for it. It is one of surfing’s most inspirational comebacks, and Owen’s not done yet. He’s got a renewed confidence, and he’s champing at the bit to hit the ground running. “I had doubts and fears but I don’t anymore,’’ Wright told the Daily Telegraph. “Even halfway through February, I wasn’t sure I could do this. I have no doubts now.’’