There's a lot of reasons why I wanted to win this world title that I didn't mention to the public," an emotional Tyler Wright said minutes after winning her first world title. "The last year was a hectic one. I lost an uncle, and it was at this event that he last saw me surf. From that moment I promised I would win a world title and, well, I did."
The 22-year-old had reason to be emotional. Only months after she lost her uncle, her brother Owen suffered a severe head injury surfing Pipe. The Wright Clan, a tight-knit group of seven, and the entire community of Culburra where they grew up, rallied around the eldest sibling. However it was Tyler who spent the entire summer caring for the former World No. 2 who is both her big bro and biggest surfing influence. She was dealing with two forms of grief simultaneously.
The unexpected result was a fundamental shift in Tyler's perspective. Wright has been on tour now for five years, and while she has been involved in two world title fights, she has failed to capitalize on her immense talent. She had brought a new style of power and progression to the sport in those five years on tour, but had never won the prize.
Her freesurfing, inspired by her brothers Owen and Mikey, was next level, especially in waves of consequence. That was best evidenced by a single wave this year caught near her home town of Culburra that was called by many experts as one of the best tubes ever ridden.
However Tyler's spontaneous, open personality, non-stop smiles and bubbling emotions that were never far from the surface, didn't always lend itself to the hard nosed competitive sacrifice that a world title requires.
"For the first five years of her career she showed an extraordinary amount of talent but was quite inconsistent with her performances," seven time world champion Layne Beachley recently told ABC in Australia. "It really requires a more tenacious mindset for her to declare that she is really going to go after it and that's what she's done."
The loss of her uncle and her brother's injury seemed to crystalize Wright's mindset. She also took on a new coach Glen "Micro' Hall, a former WCT competitor who has been able to let Tyler's positive personality shine through, while adding some competitive steel and heat strategy. "I've been in world title races before, but this feels so different," she said after her quarterfinal win at the Roxy Pro. "I feel, comfortable, confident and I'm so happy. I've got so much love behind me."
The result of all that love was a maiden world title and the first woman, apart from Steph Gilmore and Carissa Moore in a decade, to be world champion. It was perhaps fitting that she paddled out in the final of today's Roxy Pro France against Moore wearing the number 3 jersey as opposed to her normal 13, the same as her brother Owen. In the first wave of the final she took off switch-foot, riding goofy like her brother. She pointed to the number, making sure everyone knew who she was surfing for. Tyler's world title was a result of focusing on herself and her immense talents but it was achieved by always putting the people she most loved first.
After her win in the Swatch Pro at Trestles Wright said, "You know Owen is coming into my mind right now. This is my fourth win but he doesn't know I've won three. So I said, ‘I will try to win another three for ya.'"
She might not have won the event today, but she won a world title. And there's no way anyone will ever forget it.