TYLER WRIGHT IS YOUR NEW #1
Updated: Apr 11
It has certainly been a wild couple of weeks for the World Surf League but the Maui Pro and Pipeline Masters have finally come to an end with 2 deserving wins by Tyler Wright and John John Florence.
Two-time WSL champion Wright made history alongside of Carissa Moore, Tatiana Weston-Webb, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Sage Erickson as these women competed in the first-ever women's CT final's day at Banzai Pipeline. Tyler Wright is right back where she belongs after a long health battle for part of 2018 and 2019. The surfer developed influenza A in South Africa, forcing her to miss the J-Bay open in July of 2018. She proceeded to suffer from Post-Viral Syndrome, a form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which ruled her out for the rest of the 2018 season and most of the 2019 season. She returned to the tour for the final event of last season in Maui, finishing 2nd to Stephanie Gilmore. Now, after this historic win, the Australian may be unstoppable for the remainder of this season.
As for Florence, it is just fitting that the Hawaiian-born surfer would win his first Billabong Pipe Masters at the 50th edition. John John is also a two-time WSL champ but has always fallen short of a victory at Pipe even though he is widely considered the best pipe surfer of his generation. Florence had stated in an interview prior to the final, “I've grown up watching my heroes surf this event and win the world titles out there. Everyone who surfs pipe has their own little relationship with that wave, and so to be able to win a competition out there is a big feat. For me, it's one of my biggest goals."
So, how did we end up here? Over two weeks since the start of the Maui Pro and one competition location move later, the first stop on the women's tour is closed out to finish this crazy year of 2020.
The first 3 days of the event were called off due to unfavorable conditions but a 5-8 foot swell motioned the Maui Pro underway on December 7th. Only the 5 previously mentioned women remained for heat 4 of the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and the Maui Pro Final. Horribly, a local male adult surfer suffered a fatal shark attack at Honolua Bay the morning of December 8th. The event was then put on hold out of respect for the victim's family and for local authorities to take control of the situation. The event remained on hold for the next couple of days until a final decision was made to move the event to an alternate location.
Things only seemed to unravel from here as the WSL announced on the 11th that the Pipeline Masters would be suspended as a result of Covid-19 positive tests within the WSL staff, including CEO Erik Logan. There was not much other information released on the situation but the WSL did state they believed none of the athletes had been exposed.
Things were eerily quiet for the next week until the men's event resumed its 3rd day of competition on the 17th. Both the women's and men's events concluded on Sunday the 20th with amazing performances from some of the best.
Where did the women's event get relocated to, you ask? None other than Pipeline itself! The 5 women left had to suck down their nerves and anxiety and put their professional status to the test as they set out to conquer the first-ever women's CT final's day at Banzai Pipeline.
Weston-Webb defeated Erickson in the last Quarterfinals heat to join Moore, Fitzgibbons, and Wright. It was then Moore and Wright left to battle it out in the final, two complete powerhouses. Wright clinched her 14th CT win by only 1.11 points to four-time champ Moore, but phenomenally showcased her dedication to the sport throughout her performance at the Maui Pro.
Wright has worn the Progress Pride flag on her jerseys throughout the competition and will continue to wear an updated version of the jersey throughout the season. Wright has been an outspoken advocate for human rights issues and it is inspiring to see the athlete continue her advocacy within her craft. It sends a message that no community, sports-related or not, is too much of one thing to not be accepting and welcoming of all types of people. Wright said in relation, “As a proud bisexual woman of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as an Australian, I'm delighted to be able to represent both this year on my competition jersey. The Progress Pride flag represents a love that opened my eyes more to who I really am.”
You have got to hand it to the women of the CT for absolutely killing it, keeping their heads up, and rocking Pipeline despite a peculiar start to the 2020 season. These women are still paving the way of women's surfing and it is an honor to watch them move through their professional careers as humble surfers who also care so much about the future generations of women's surfing.
“I think we wouldn’t be here without the women that came before us to pave the way, and today we are really standing on the shoulders of giants, I feel incredibly privileged to be here in the position that I am in.” - Tyler Wright
It might have been one of the most bizarre starts to a WSL Champion Tour season ever, but we are looking forward to what excitement 2021 will bring. Next stop: Sunset Open.
*WmnSurfMag gives sincere condolences to the family, friends, and larger community of Robin Warren. Our thoughts are with you all in the wake of this tragic occurrence.