Wright at home in WSL Pipeline opener
Murray Wenzel |
Tyler Wright has spent nearly a month in Hawaii preparing for a historic World Surf League season launch at the famous Pipeline break usually reserved for the men.
“It’s been pretty big and it’s going to still be pretty big,” Wright warily told AAP ahead of Sunday’s (AEDT) likely Billabong Pro Pipeline start.
“I’m a little anxious, but it’ll be good. You prepare as much as you can but nothing’s quite like catching waves out there.”
Wright won last year’s Maui Pro in her return to the tour after more than two years floored by Influenza A and post viral syndrome.
That dramatic event was shifted from Honolua Bay to Pipeline midway through proceedings when a recreational surfer was attacked and killed by a shark in nearby waters.
The women have returned in the first full-length Championship Tour event this year, two-time world champion Wright thrilled with how she feels ahead of one of surfing’s great physical tests.
“I’ve put a lot of work in to get my body and mind back to being a high performing athlete,” the 27-year-old said.
“There’s a difference between just functioning and being a high performance athlete.
“I’m always really conscious of expectations, but I haven’t started a year this healthy or moving this pain-free in a decade … I feel good, really good.”
A “well overhead swell” is predicted to begin the event and larger conditions are tipped for later in the window, testing Tour veterans like Wright and the record five rookies set to debut.
“It’ll just be a calculated decision the day, you can’t pre-empt those things,” Wright said of how she plans to tackle Pipeline.
“It’s a gnarly wave and hard to get clean practice; a lot of the girls will be learning to surf it in heats, purely because it’s been so crowded.”
Her victory there in 2021 was a momentous time for women’s surfing and apt given Wright’s commitment to levelling the playing field in the sport.
“I was in the moment, understanding of what it meant and how important it was to be there,” she said.
“It meant a lot for the sport and was a good leg up into this year in the sense that ‘well we now have a full event here’.
“In so many ways it’s gone in the direction we’d like.”
Australian rookies Molly Picklum and India Robinson will join Isabella Nichols, Sally Fitzgibbons and Steph Gilmore as fresh Tour faces this year, while Tyler’s brother Owen headlines an eight-strong Australian men’s field.
“It goes to show what hard work and determination, especially for India, has done,” Wright said of Robinson, who will surf against her and Gilmore in the first round.
“She’s not had any hype and yet she’s just made the World Tour … I expect more from the industry because you’ve still got young girls coming on with no (sponsors) stickers.
“But it’s a cool time to be a woman in sport and I get so stoked to see the next generation come through and I hope they have more tools and resources than we did.”AAP