Nothing was going to stop Tyler Wright from making history at Pipeline.
The Aussie surfer revealed she battled through two “traumatic” weeks before she took out the Maui Pro and became the first woman to win a World Surfing League (WSL) tour event at Hawaii’s iconic north shore break.
Wright witnessed a serious motor vehicle accident just hours before a local surfer was fatally attacked by a shark in Honolua Bay.
“It’s been a hugely traumatic week, not only for myself but the other women on tour and the WSL. I was first on the scene of a car accident, then within the hour, the gentleman was killed by a shark, then we came here (Pipeline),” Wright said.
“We had good friends get COVID … it’s been a big week and the WSL’s leadership through all the curve balls they’ve been thrown has been remarkable.”
“Through times like this, I also have really great psychological support … this week has been really messy, really traumatic, and I need help at a time like this. I lean on my friends and family for that.
WSL officials moved the competition from Honolua Bay to the Banzai Pipeline after the tragic shark attack.
For the first time, the top female surfers competed (professionally) at the world’s most famous surf break – a feat not lost on new world no.1 Wright.
“It’s really special and I don‘t take it for granted, the position that I’m in and the opportunity I’ve been presented with,” Wright said.
“The women who have come before me paved the way, that’s not me, I backed off from that for a few years, I’m immensely grateful for them and the WSL’s leadership through this time,
“They gave us an opportunity that we would never even hope for, it’s (Pipeline) never been an option, it’s quite remarkable.”
Wright eliminated Sally Fitzgibbons in the semi-finals before edging four-time world champion Carissa Moore in the final on Monday to win her first WSL title since 2017.
What makes the victory even more remarkable is that the two-time world champion was bedridden for 14 months with a post-viral syndrome she developed after contracting a bout of influenza A in 2018.
“It was a nightmare really, it was rough, it wasn’t a good time. I was a very sick kid for a long time,” Wright said.
“I had severe headaches, light and sound sensitivity, cognitive inability, and a whole list of things. I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t cook. I was on 24-hour care physically and emotionally for one and a half years.
“When it comes to viruses, people don’t quite understand what it does to your body. The extent of the damage it had on everything, from my brain to my heart and lungs to my digestive system.
Wright praised her family, friends and her medical team for supporting her through the debilitating illness.
“I’ve had really good support, a really good medical team to get me out of that. It came with a lot of trauma, that’s something that’s still there, it doesn’t go over night” Wright said.
The opportunity to use her platform to promote equality and inclusivity has also inspired the Rip Curl surfer’s incredible comeback.
Wright, a proud bisexual woman, became the first professional surfer to compete with a Pride flag on her jersey throughout the Maui Pro.
“It’s incredibly important, it’s part of the reason why I’ve come back. I completely understand the position I’m in, the privilege I have with that,” Wright said.
“I probably used to run from it because it used to give me a lot of anxiety. It still gives me the same amount of anxiety … but now I’m more understanding of why representation is important, why these conversations are important, what a platform means beyond just surfing,
“I love surfing, I love being out in mother nature and connecting. I feel like surfing is for everyone, but we’re also not exempt from any of society’s great issues.”