Australian 2x World Champ Tyler Wright is no stranger to overcoming challenges. In 2017, she continued to compete despite a knee injury sustained in Europe and clinched her second World Title in Maui the following month. This victory placed her squarely in the pantheon of fellow World Champs Stephanie Gilmore (6x), Lisa Andersen (4x), Layne Beachley (7x), Frieda Zamba (4x) and Carissa Moore (3x).
However, less than seven months later, Wright withdrew from the Corona Open J-Bay - Women's citing an illness that struck in South Africa prior to the event kicking off. After four event absences over the ensuing months, Wright has officially withdrawn from the upcoming Beachwaver Maui Pro, closing out a challenging season in her competitive career.
Below, Wright discusses the setback and her outlook on the 2018 season.
WSL: You've officially pulled out of the final event of the season - the Beachwaver Maui Pro - and we haven't seen you in a jersey since Uluwatu. Can you explain what went down this year?
Tyler Wright: I actually got sick in July, during the J-Bay event. I had gone to Africa early to go surf and prepare. I love J-Bay and had gone the year before just to surf, plus I thought I could get some waves before the crew got there. So I was happy to get a few surfs in.
I first started feeling ill when I went on an overnight safari. My head was on fire and so was my body. I'd never felt like that before and I actually called Mikey [Tyler's Brother] who said he thought I needed to go to the doctor. I didn't want to believe him so I called Jessi [WSL Deputy Commissioner] and told her how I felt and she was like, 'please drive to the hospital'. Mikey got the medical team organized and then we went from there. I had to go to Port Elizabeth where I was admitted through Emergency.
The official diagnosis in J-Bay at the hospital was Influenza A. I spent time in the hospital and then came back to J-Bay where I was treated and I stayed close to the medical team. I couldn't travel until my fever broke for 48 hours and I stayed in bed for probably ten days. AIl up I lost 8 kg and at one stage we thought I had Pneumonia as well. I don't reckon I ate for a week. It's the sickest I have ever been in my life.
So now, I haven't been able to shake it and I have been diagnosed with Post-Viral Syndrome from getting influenza A. Now, I am pretty much battling chronic fatigue which is a real challenge. People think it's just about being tired, and although that has a lot to do with it, there's more to it than that.
Have you tried to compete since?
I actually was going to try and compete at the Surf Ranch Pro because I thought of all the events on the calendar that was the one that I could manage myself the best at, with the set schedule, set number of waves, etc. I even flew to California for it, that's how convinced I was.
I came early with the idea that I would go and see Mark Kozuki [California based Physical Therapist] because he has always fixed me, and then go up to Lemoore for the training days prior. I went and saw Kozuki the day I landed and then I literally changed my flight for the next day and flew home. I spent one night in California.
Can you describe what your recovery regime has consisted of?
I've been seeing a bunch of different doctors, including a specialist in Sydney. It's hard because Chronic Fatigue is so difficult to treat. I've been resting a lot, eating right, taking herbs and reading Harry Potter, which is my new favorite thing. And I try and go for a small swim every day, that's a highlight for me.
What was your headspace like as you've watched the remainder of this season's Tour unfold? Anyone you're rooting for heading into Maui?
It's been interesting to watch the Tour from here, when I feel good and I can. I've never been out of events ... I've been injured before but never actually taken time off so this is new for me, to actually be sick and realize that I can't just push through it. Last year, I had no business surfing on my knee but I just decided that I would so I did. It's different this time.
I've always looked up to Steph, so I'm cheering for her and I hope that she wins. Lakey has had a great year though and I'm proud of her for stepping up.
When can we expect to see you back in the water competing and what will it take to make that happen?
Well, now that I have spent so much time out of the water and because I can't surf in Maui either, I have to ask for the 2019 wildcard. So hopefully the WSL decides that I am a good candidate and I'm back next year.
Watch the Beachwaver Maui Pro live November 25-December 5 on Facebook Live and Worldsurfleague.com (no Facebook login required for desktop viewing).