Tyler Wright dedicates world surfing title to late uncle

Champion: Tyler Wright has secured her first world championship title. Photo: Poullenot/Aquashot
Champion: Tyler Wright has secured her first world championship title. Photo: Poullenot/Aquashot

Tyler Wright's thoughts instantly turned to her late uncle after winning the world surfing title, fulfilling the promise she'd made to him in the aftermath of his unexpected death.

Wright, who grew up in Culburra Beach, capped an emotional 12 months in France on Thursday, winning her maiden world crown at the venue her uncle last watched her compete. 

Upon his death, Wright vowed to win the title for him, and early this year before the championship tour began, she declared her intention publicly at the Australian Boardriders Battle in Cronulla.

"I promised my uncle, even though he'd already passed away, that I'd win it this year," Wright said.

"And it's the last event he ever saw me surf, that was the most important thing. 

"So it was in his honour and my whole family and the community that I come from. This is my gift for you guys, because I don't know how to give anything else back."

Wright's public declaration that she intended to win this year's world title sent ripples around the surfing world and piqued the interest of Australian legend Layne Beachley.

Beachley had known for eight years that Wright was capable of becoming the best in the world, ever since she won the Layne Beachley Classic against an elite international field as a 14-year-old.

"Being a little country girl of 14 coming up against the world's best, no sense of intimidation or self-doubt, she just rose to the occasion and took us all down," Beachley said.

"This girl's good and tenacious and competitive and driven and she made it look so effortless.

"I've always rated her as world championship material and it was great to see her have the courage to declare such an audacious goal because once you make it public, you're held accountable to achieve it.

"Her actions spoke volumes. Every day she stepped into that. She started the year with a win. As she gained more confidence in her ability, she became even more unstoppable and then she just became like a tsunami."

Family has always been the foundation pillar for Wright, as demonstrated by the No.3 she had on her back during the title-clinching French leg of the tour.

That was a tribute to her brother Owen, a fellow surfer who is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered in Hawaii in December.

Wright spent long hours by his side in the first six months of his recovery. He's now back on the board, but how far off he is from returning to the sport competitively remains to be seen.

"I'm so incredibly proud of you and grateful that you are my sister. You make a better No.3 than I ever could. Big love T," Owen posted on Twitter moments after his younger sister won the world title.

Tyler and Owen are two of five siblings who grew up on a surfboard. Tim, Mikey and Kirby are also surfers.

Parents Rob, a passionate surfer, and Fiona used to drive the whole family around Australia following the amateur scene.

Owen was the original star pupil, but Tyler earned her first major sponsorship at 10 years and the Layne Beachley Classic confirmed what many in the surfing world had already suspected – that she was the real deal.

Wright's title win was set up in the first four tour events this year, where she won the season opener on the Gold Coast, before claiming the Margaret River Pro and the Rio Women's Pro.

But at Fiji in round five she was knocked out in the second round by Bethany Hamilton, and her championship credentials were questioned.

"That wobble, that bobble in Fiji against Bethany, it was great just to see how she framed it," Beachley said.

"How you frame a situation determines how you respond to it. She framed it as just a bobble, there was nothing serious or concerning about it. It was just, 'yep this happened and I've let it go, I've learned from it and I'm moving on'. It was so mature and so professional and such tremendous insight into how she was thinking.

"Your thoughts determine your actions and your actions determine the results you want to produce in your life. If you want to have consistent results and a consistent performance, it all starts with a consistent mindset."