Five moments that defined Tyler Wright's world title defence

Tyler Wright. Photo: WSL/DAMIEN POULLENOT
Tyler Wright. Photo: WSL/DAMIEN POULLENOT

CULBURRA Beach’s Tyler Wright's second world title may not have come with the emotional strain and high drama of her first, but it still had more than its fair share of giddy heights and painful lows.

Here we take a look at the five key moments that shaped her successful defence.

From her brother's efforts at Snapper Rocks to overcoming a potential year-ending knee injury, it was 12 months that brought Wright more success and a whole lot more respect as she set about becoming one of the greats.

Spectator sport at Snapper

It might be a strange thing to say, but Wright was a spectator for one of the most pivotal moments in her campaign.

"If ever anything ever provided closure, Owen winning at Snapper Rocks closed the chapter on his brain injury," wrote Sean Doherty recently in Surfing World, "and Tyler could go back to whatever life was before."

The impact of Owen's injury on the Wright family has been well documented and his win on the Gold Coast was crucial in putting a difficult year behind them.

The year prior, Tyler had won her first world title with Owen's future in the balance.

After the Gold Coast contest, she could compete with it assured.

She may have only scored a fifth place in the Roxy Pro there, but she was suddenly in a far better place.

Defending the defensible in Rio

A final at Margaret River and a semi-final at Bells Beach completed a solid Australian leg for Wright, but unlike her three main rivals – Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue, a win had eluded her.

In Brazil she fought extremely hard for her first win of 2017, surfing in every heat of the event as she slowly built up a head of steam, raising her heat totals as she progressed to a huge win in the final.

With that victory, which would turn out be the only one of her year, she moved up to equal first in the rankings.

The defence was truly back on track.

Beating Bethany at Cloudbreak

In Fiji, Wright again didn't have everything go her way. For starters, a poor forecast meant Cloudbreak was in no way showing its teeth.

The smaller swell bunched the field in the early rounds and negated Wright's obvious strength over her opponents when the surf gets serious.

She then had to overcome Bethany Hamilton in round four.

Hamilton had taken Wright down there in 2016 on the way to a runner-up finish and in Fiji, she's one of the sport's most dangerous wildcards.

However, with a dominant performance in their quarter-final, Tyler gained some revenge over her good friend.

She couldn't get past the Semi-final, and at the time was disappointed with that, but she had capitalised and took possession of the yellow jersey.

Bracing Beachbreaks

Looking back, it was in France that Wright really won her world title, showing her immense fighting spirit and incredible mental strength.

It was also an event in which she had no rights to be surfing in at all.

In a free surf just before the event that preceded it, the Cascais Women's Pro, Wright had injured her knee.

"Tyler has a grade two-plus tear, of the medial collateral ligament, the MCL," WSL physiotherapist Chris Prosser said at the time.

"It attaches to the tibia.

“So there's 60 percent that's not connected there anymore.

“It's tender to touch, and tender and painful to swim – but if she avoids most movements that stretch the knee it's okay.

“Unfortunately that what is always happening for a natural-footer where the back leg is loaded up with weight."

Despite the pain, restricted movement and scaffolding-like knee brace, Tyler fought on in France eventually reached the semi-finals.

From looking like withdrawing from the race entirely to fighting form, Wright had battled back into contention.

Mature in Maui

"I was happy before I won, and I'm just as happy now," Tyler Wright said from the Honolua Bay channel moments after capturing her second world title on the spin.

The maturity and contentment was evident as, win or lose, Wright had carved out a space on tour that she is now entirely comfortable with.

In a WSL profile before the Maui Women's Pro, Wright had said that it was only now, after six years on tour, that she was finally surfing at the level of which she is capable.

As her main opponents Fitzgibbons and Conlogue visibly failed to handle the pressure, Wright's new perspective gained over two highly emotional, often difficult but ultimately successful years, was the difference.

And as she said afterwards, she's nowhere done yet.