'A Beautiful Thing': Tyler Wright On The Surf Family Who Raised A Champion

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Updated June 27, 2016 17:12:26

Tyler Wright wins Rio Pro.jpg>> Photo: Strong season ... Tyler Wright celebrates winning the Rio Pro in May. (Supplied: WSL/Kelly Cestari)

>Map: Culburra Beach 2540

They say blood is thicker than water, but for Tyler Wright the saying certainly takes a different meaning.

Her self-proclaimed journey to be the 2016 World Surf League (WSL) champion began with an emotional start back at Snapper Rocks in March.

In December, her brother, Australian professional surfer Owen Wright, suffered a serious brain injury from a fall at Hawaii's Banzai Pipeline.

And, despite being extremely ill, he snuck down to Coolangatta to watch her win the first tour event of the year.

Based in Culburra on the New South Wales's South Coast, the tight-knit Wright family of seven are all surfers in their own right.

The clan have had to band strong, rocked by Owen's injury and his struggle to get back in the water.

"It's been a crazy injury and a hard one as a family to deal with," Tyler told the ABC.

"It's surprising. Not a lot of people know what it involves and how to really take care of someone in that position."

His ongoing recovery, among a few other hardships, have seen her make her first clear challenge for the crown in the six years she has been on tour.

"For years I've been in world title races, but the whole time I've said I didn't care and it was 100 per cent true," she said.

"I've been on tour since I was 16. Eventually you just grow up, and you know what? I had to grow up as well. I had bigger responsibilities."

A great deal of time spent with Owen during the first six months of his injury, simplified her role in the water and made choices regarding her career appear easy by comparison.

"When it comes to surfing and making decisions in heats, it's just a simple 'get that wave, surf that wave well'," she said.

"It made me realise I really do want to do that — I find it enjoyable, it makes me happy and I love it."

Family support pushing Wright 'over the ledge'

Ranked fifth in the world at the end of last season, Tyler has won three of the five 2016 WSL opening tournaments.

Ranked second with five events to go, her newfound confidence stems from a change in mindset, a new coach and having siblings who simply will not accept no for an answer.

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External Link: Interview: Tyler Wright

"Mickey, my younger brother, he's incredible. He doesn't believe I can't do anything he can do," she said.

"Anytime we're in the bigger waves, and it's always the bigger stuff that challenges me, he's out there with us. There will be sets coming through that I don't want anything to do with and he'll say 'no, you're going'.

"Getting over the ledge the first few times is always pretty hard and it's encouraging to have them there, just off to the side, sometimes even pushing me into the waves."

Wright's rivalries start and finish in the water

The sport's culture is known for its relaxed vibe, but interestingly that vibe remains present during competition.

Tyler counts some of her competitors as her biggest idols and friends, including Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm in a shark attack in 2003. Hamilton eliminated Wright in round two of the Fiji Women's Pro.

"We all compete and we're all meant to be in rivalries, but no one's like that. As soon as you step out of the water, it's finished," she said.

Bethany Hamilton charging in Fiji>> Photo: Bethany Hamilton eliminated Tyler Wright in this year's Fiji Pro. (WSL: Sloane)

"I'm always stoked whoever wins, even when I lost to Bethany Hamilton, it was not that bad. She's an incredible role model and a beautiful mum — pretty much family and life goals right there."

Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore and wildcard non-surfer Ronda Rousey also make the list.

She admires their strength and authenticity, as people who are not afraid to own their personality.

"I went down and watched the fight [Rousey] lost in Melbourne and I still have such respect for her, what she did and who she is as a person," she said.

"People like that who are truly themselves and don't hide it, you either like it or you don't — I really like that."

The next challenge beckoning Wright from our shores is the US Open in California at the end of July.

France's Johanne Defay, the event's defending champion, won the Fiji leg of the tour at the start of this month.

Despite the pressure, Wright was demure about her promising chance.

"I've been a bit busy for my liking so now I've kind of got that time I'll get back in the water and start training again," she said.

"I'm excited for the year ahead."

Topics: surfing, sport, culburra-beach-2540, nsw, australia, united-states

First posted June 27, 2016 17:11:14

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Source : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-27/family-concerns-put-tyler-back-on-the-wright-track/7547976

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