With the start of the Championship Tour set to kick off in Hawaii in December, we're taking a look at eight of the toughest competitors on Tour. To be the best you gotta beat the best, and these are the dreaded heat draws.
Tyler Wright has only surfed in one Championship Tour event in the last two and a half years. It's an incredible statistic that only scratches the surface of what the two-time World Champion has endured since 2018.
The Australian came down with influenza A in South Africa, forcing her to miss the J-Bay Open in July 2018. She then suffered Post-Viral Syndrome -- a form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- which ruled her out for the rest of the year and all of 2019.
"Essentially, you're symptomatic almost always with light and sound sensitivity, headaches, and brain fog," Wright told the WSL last year. "Stressful situations and little tasks become extremely difficult without your body working normally too.''
With fatigue, muscle pain, and memory issues, Wright could hardly get out of bed let alone surf. Yet having watched her brother Owen recover from a life-changing head injury and with her own deep well of inner strength, Wright was able to first get back in the water, and then rebuild her body.
Her surprise return to competition came last year at the lululemon Maui Pro. Surfing without any pressure, the Australian's return was emphatic. She competed with her customary power and timing to make the Final, taking out World Title contender Lakey Peterson in the early rounds. She was eventually defeated by Stephanie Gilmore, but the level of surfing showed that Wright was getting close to the levels that won her back-to-back World Titles.
In terms of a comeback location, Maui was perfectly suited to Wright. She had won the event here in 2016 and clinched her second World Title at Honolua Bay in 2017. With the powerful, roping walls and long barrels, it's a wave that allows her dynamic surfing and technique to shine. It is only Wright that has come close to upsetting the Maui dominant axis that Carissa Moore and Gilmore have at the famous wave.
Yet, if the 2019 version of Wright was almost unbeatable, the 2020 model could be unstoppable. The postponement of the Tour this year could be a blessing for Wright. She has spent the year furthering her recovery, as well as surfing and training with her brothers Owen and Mikey, the best sparring partners in the business.
She's also grown as a person. She's been open about dealing with her body issues and sexuality. She's posted online about how proud she will be to surf in Maui as an LGBTQ + woman. The combination of one of the world's best-ever surfers coming back as strong mentally and physically as at any stage in her career is incredibly exciting for fans. Tyler Wright is back, and the surf world is a better place for it.