Fear, fresh WSL faces driving Wright

Murray Wenzel |

Two-time world champion Tyler Wright remains on edge despite her confident passage to the third round of the World Surf League’s historic women’s Billabong Pro Pipeline season opener.

The Australian paired 5.33-point and 6.50-point efforts on Monday (AEDT) in smaller swell than what greeted the men in Sunday’s high-octane start on Hawaii’s North Shore.

The wave was still well overhead though and took its toll on the field, Wright’s 11.83-point total the best on a day world title fancies Caroline Marks and Courtney Conlogue were eliminated.

Compatriot Stephanie Gilmore’s season has also taken a hit, the seven-time world champion scratched from the opening event after being locked in a COVID-19 quarantine until at least Tuesday.

Competitors can scratch one event from their results across the season, leaving less room for error now as the 34-year-old chases her first title since 2018.

Swell is forecast to decrease before surging again later in the event window, which closes on February 10.

Wright won the Maui Pro when it was sensationally shifted to the Banzai Pipeline mid-event last year and has spent almost a month at the shallow break acclimatising.

But, after brother and active men’s hope Owen Wright’s head injury there in 2015, Wright knows not to get complacent as the women’s Championship Tour surfs there alongside the men from round one for the first time.

“Honestly not really,” Wright said when asked if she was excited for the swell to pick up later in the week.

“I’m scared as, but I’m here for it, I love it. I really want to be as calculated as I can be.

“This is like a marathon event. You’re going to get hit at some point, it’s about taking those impacts and bouncing back.”

Wright had a disrupted CT return last season after more than two years battling illness but the 27-year-old says now she’s fitter than she has been for a decade.

The arrival of five rookies, including impressive Australians Molly Picklum and India Robinson, also have Wright’s attention after they all progressed to the third round.

“It’s amazing to be healthy and happy,” she said.

“It’s been a few years since I’ve really been back in the game … and it’s been a long time since we’ve had such fresh faces on the tour.

“It makes me emotional just seeing how they’re coming in and making the most of it … it’s incredible to be a part of this sport and to be a woman in sport right now.”