The Quiksilver Pro marks the beginning of the pro surfing calendar, but on Sunday at Snapper Rocks emotions ran to heights you might expect from a season decider. There was barely a dry eye on the beach as Owen Wright, competing in his first elite tour event since sustaining a brain injury late in 2015, was chaired from the ocean by his siblings Tyler and Mikey having claimed a famous victory at the 2017 Champions Tour opener.
Wright defeated his good friend Matt Wilkinson in the final, 14.66 points to 13.50 for the record, to win his third WSL title but there was so much more to this story. As recently as last month, Wright was still unsure whether he would return to the highest level of surfing after a fall at Pipeline in Hawaii at the 2015 season-ender left him in hosiptal with severe concussion and bleeding on the brain.
Wright’s recovery has been long and arduous but, with the support of friends, family and the wider surfing community – and no shortage of grit and determination on his behalf – he has not only been able to get back on his surfboard, but win the year’s first event and install himself as the early frontrunner in the world title race.
“I think it was the start of February – I was sitting in the doctor’s office and there were question marks on the year,” he said after his victory. “So to be sitting here right now, we just pushed hard and went hard and confronted every fear of getting back into it. There were a lot of questions of getting back into the sport and back into pretty much what took me out and could have taken me out forever. I just kept going and kept doing it.”
Here is a portrait of Owen Wright shot by fine art photographer Larry Beard.
Larry stated "This is one of my favorite portraits and favorite humans. Owen is a warrior and proved it in this amazing victory at Snapper. Love this guy...".