Bursting onto the scene in 2010 and immediately cementing his position on the World Tour with a Rookie of The Year title, Owen Wright then went on to contend the world title against Kelly the very next year. Three back-to-back finals against Kelly, including a maiden WCT victory at the Quik Pro New York, witnessed the most exciting rivalry the tour’s seen in recent years. Unfortunately this year’s not been such a positive one for the tall Australian. Suffering a serious back injury at Bells Beach last April, he’s officially just pulled out of the tour for this year so that he can focus on being 100 percent ready for 2014.
Here the ASP caught up with Owen to find out more about his injury, decision to withdraw and road to recovery.
Explain your injury.
It is a disk injury in my lower back. It happened at Bells on the first wave in my heat against Dusty (Payne). I got this wave all the way to the inside bowl, I lost control when I went into a floater and landed in an awkward layback. Pain shot down my leg really quick. I went back out, but I couldn’t score over a two for the rest of the heat. When I came out of the water I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even get my wetsuit off. My girl was there and she had to help me get dressed.
Why has the recovery process taken so long?
After a few months of going nowhere I got an MRI and I realised why it wasn’t going anywhere, because it was much worse than I was originally told. It was hard to take. Then I thought this was serious, and I need to treat this thing properly. Since then I’ve been doing a lot of work with Jeremy Sheppard at the High Performance Centre and it’s starting to improve.
At Bells, the doctors said it’d be okay in a couple weeks, but I should have gone straight to hospital. I was in a constant pain, walking, sitting, lying down for about three months. Compared to then, I’m feeling amazing now, but that’s only because it was so bad for so long. I feel like I could surf, but that’s only because the pain is gone. The doctors keep telling me I’ve got to take it easy and listen to the professionals. Just because I’m not in pain, doesn’t mean I’m okay.
How hard had the process been?
I was planning on coming out this year and competing for a World Title. My body felt good, I had great boards, I won the Breaka Burleigh Pro in February and I was excited about the year to come and then the injury happened and it’s dragged on for a long time. It sounds weird and cliché but it’s been a blessing in disguise. I read an interview with Kolohe (Andino) from when he was injured and he said the same thing. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn to appreciate all that you have. I’m trying to learn and grow and get to know myself better. It adds fuel to the fire to get back and give it your all. It’s probably been the best journey of my life in learning and growing.
Have you been watching the WCT?
I’ve been busy with four to five days a week of doctors and physio, but I always try to make time to watch the events. It was a killer watching Teahupoo, Fiji and Keramas and it’s like a kick in the guts missing out. It’s also been a good experience to watch from the other side also, being at all the events you often don’t know how they look from the other side and I’ve found it really interesting and entertaining to watch.
What does your timeline look like for getting back in the water and being 100%?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is not to put a date on anything. We thought I’d be ok by Fiji, then Tahiti, then Trestles and here I am pulling out for the rest of the year. My goal is to be 100% back by the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast next year. I’d like to be back in the water end of October. To be back at 100% by March next year, I will need as much time in the water as possible. Over the last few months, I’ve been given a lot of dates and I’ve stopped asking. It’s impossible to know for 100%, but it’s also good to have goals and something to work towards.
How has it been watching your sister Tyler’s ASP World Title campaign?
It’s been amazing, that has been one of my biggest inspirations this year seeing her giving her all and getting the results she deserves and giving the World Title a run in her third year on tour. I look at her and Mick (Fanning) and Parko (Joel Parkinson) and anyone who’s had an injury and it’s inspiring to see them get back to their best. Tyler is my biggest inspiration of them all. I knew it was only a matter of time before she gave the girls at the top a run and I rate her chances of getting the title this year highly!
Who’s your tip to win the Hurley Pro Trestles next week?
Kelly (Slater) wins everything, but for some reason I never tip him. He’s going to be up there no doubt, but I think Jordy (Smith) is fired up and surfing really well, so he’s my tip.