Surfer on miracle recovery knocks Fanning out of home event
GOLD Coast local and everyone's surfer Mick Fanning has been knocked out of his home event by the only man in the sport who may have a better story than him.
Just over 12 months before he hit the water in perfect, barreling waves at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast this morning, Owen Wright could barely surf.
From about age 14 the tall, slightly lanky blonde kid from the south coast of New South Wales would have been listening to people tell him he was one of the sport's great world champion prospects.
And Wright's record speaks for itself - in 2006 he won the ISA Junior World TItle, in 2009 he beat Kelly Slater in a heat at Bells Beach in Victoria, in 2011 he won the Quiksilver Pro in New York and in 2015 the goofy footer took out the Fiji Pro in solid barreling waves at Cloudbreak.
Indeed during 2015 Wright began showing the kind of form sponsors had been investing in for years - especially in heavy, hollow left hand surf.
And with surfing's most prestigious event - the Pipe Masters - just days away footage emerged of Wright making impossible waves at the infamous left hand reef break.
At that point he was a remote, mostly mathematical chance of winning the world title, but footage of him pushing through impossible Hawaiian caverns made many wonder if an upset wasn't afoot.
"He got a nug, then a big wide set came and he got three or four on the head," fellow world tour surfer Matt Wilkinson told Stab Magazine after watching the session play out.
"Mick (Fanning) got one of them and dove off next to him, they both got smashed together for two or three more, and Owen just let himself get washed in 'cause he was flogged."
Hours later Wright would be lying in hospital and would not only be ruled out of the Pipe Masters but possibly out surfing itself.
The full extent of his injuries became public in heartbreaking fashion when the star took to Instagram, months later, sharing a picture of himself walking towards the water carrying a beginner's soft board.
"Sharing my journey - I went for my first surf a couple days ago," he posted.
"It was the funnest thing in the world. Funny thing is... i couldn't get to my feet."
Suddenly the surfing world was swirling with questions, would the story end there? How bad was the injury? Would he ever surf competitively again?
Sharing my journey - I went for my first surf a couple days ago. It was the funnest thing in the world. Funny thing is... i couldn't get to my feet. So I just layed there. It was about knee high and the drop was.. well there was none but it felt like I was dropping into 10ft teahupoo. I finished the wave and I was so stoked I let out a hoot and claimed it and high fived kita. 5 mins later I was on the beach and started to think about what I actually did and started comparing it to what I used to be like or what everybody else was doing out there... and started to question why cant i....this I found started to ruin my experience and change how I really felt. It made me realise that ......self improvement is necessary but to focus on camparison of what used to be, what others can do or why you're not good enough is detrimental to the now; negative emotion in your self will hinder improvement and happiness. Simple statement .... challenging to practice
That was just one week short of a year ago and the journey to this point has been nothing short of remarkable.
First he let fans know he was back to riding a shortboard - then he posted what was perhaps even bigger personal news saying he and partner Kita Alexander had a baby.
Today the story reached a crescendo with the pair facing off in the third round in dream like waves.
But there could only be one winner and in a result which would perhaps have proven controversial in other circumstances Wright's backhand attack bested the three time world champion - who's had his own share of recent difficulties - with the scoreline 15.0 to 15.1.
Watch the full heat below.