Though she's only 21, Tyler Wright has been on the cusp of winning a World Title more times than most pro surfers will in their entire careers. Her success started early: At age 14, she became the youngest person ever to win a major WSL contest. Since joining the Championship Tour (CT) three years later, and has since finished both runner-up and in fourth place twice.
In 2015, she finished as World No. 5 -- her lowest yet -- after a year of ups and downs. But that roller coaster might be the reality check she needed to get her competitive mojo going.
Anna Dimond: You've been talking about a renewed competitive fire and a change in your attitude. What is that going to mean for your surfing?
Tyler Wright: I'm paying more attention to the little things, things I never really focused on before. I never really viewed myself as a competitor. Surfing to me is an art form, it's the way I feel and the way I express myself. So that's the way I've always looked at it.
AD: What was it that changed your outlook?
TW: It's been a progression since the start of the year. I was doing what I usually do in previous years, except I wasn't performing as well and was so confused what was going on. The US Open in August was one of the worst events I've had in my career, followed by a series of bad results. I started to question everything, and the conclusion I came to was that I do care about it [results].
I don't know how I've done what I've done without a plan.
AD: So are you focused on granular things like technique and heat strategy, or retooling your whole mental approach?
TW: It's anything -- like wave direction or new equipment that I'm on, choosing the right boards. How the little details affect the overall outcome -- you start to pay attention to what you're doing in a heat as opposed to doing it subconsciously. Coming so close to two World Titles, being in the Top 5 so often, but never winning one really made me think about this as well. Honestly, I don't know how I've done what I've done without a previous strategic plan. Especially having pretty much no approach of any sorts throughout my career until now.
AD: If you say you want to win, you have to take responsibility and in a way you're taking a real risk. Because now you have something to lose.
TW: Yeah, and that's the thing. I've never wanted anything because it would be to my own detriment. So I stopped wanting things. Everyone said I wanted a World Title, but I honestly didn't. And people got mad at that or wouldn't understand it. But for me, to want something can cause a lot of pain -- so I would rather not. But I realized that and looked at where that came from and now I can want things [and it] won't hurt me.
AD: It sounds like you're wiling to risk disappointment for something you really want.
TW: It's something that I certainly want now. The change is in my new perspective.
AD: You're in the unique position of having a sibling on the Championship Tour, World No. 5 Owen Wright. You and Owen have been on a similar level and similar positions on Tour, do you ever commiserate about that?
TW: I don't think we really do. A lot of times we're just mucking. He was there when I got second last year, and he said something like, "I have never seen you compete like that just until now." Other than that he was there when I celebrated, but we never really talked about it because there are certain things we just don't need to talk about. A lot of stuff we talk about is more like about general life and how we're doing on a day-to-day basis -- in between all the s-t-talking of course. It's so normal to us but when we talk to other people it seems a little odd.
AD: What will you be doing differently in 2016?
TW: To be honest, I don't know. And that's kind of beautiful in itself, is that I don't know. I'm happy that I'm able to realize it. I'm leaving all the doors open, the options are endless in terms of who I want to work with.
AD: Is that scary, or do you trust the process?
TW: Sometimes, I'm like "Oh s-t." But other times -- I know who I am enough to know that whatever happens, if I trust how I feel it will be the right way for me. It's not complicated.
Watch Wright take her new mindset to the water when the 2016 Championship Tour season kicks off March 10.