It’s been almost a week since the 2017 Women’s ‘CT concluded in idyllic Honolua conditions. In a Top-5 contender showdown, the defending World Champ Tyler Wright nudged out Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue in her heat against wildcard Brisa Hennessy to claim her second straight Title. Since hoisting up that polished trophy in front of fans, family and friends in Maui last week, Wright’s been on a press tour back in Australia, talking (so graciously and professionally) to everyone trying to get a soundbite from her. We chatted with Tyler a few days ago before she jetted back to Hawaii.
How perfect was it to get your second Title in those perfect conditions at Honolua?
You know, looking at the forecast for that event, we had two opportunities [to run the event]--we had that northeaster and the northwest swell. We first had the northeast one, which wasn't the best direction, but there were still waves. The women's commish [Jessi Miley-Dyer] did a good job in sticking to her guns and waiting it out for the better direction, and we did. It was a touch slower, but the perfection of the waves was incredible.
Not many World Champs have claimed back-to-back Title wins right off the bat. Was it your goal at the beginning of this year to take another one?
I think when I committed back in 2016, [winning titles] just became a part of my job now. As for focusing specifically on back-to-back wins, I don't think I had too much time to do that. I acknowledged that it was something that we hoped to be in the position for in every year. But I think my focus went into what I needed to do this season. I think this year was easier than last year, just in its own way. I think last year was so hectic and so much happened that I needed time---it took me 6 months to really get through it all. After 6 months, I was really getting into my own kind of rhythm.
Last year, you said that Owen was your primary motivation during your Title run. Do you feel like going after the Title this year felt different than going after it last year?
I do, actually. It felt very different last year, because I said I'd dedicate it [the Title] to him and the family. It was my way of being able to focus on something that I knew how to deal with in that time. This year was more about me and making sure I stuck to what I know to be true and worked so hard for. It did have a different feel to it. People say that last year was a really tough year for me, but this year had its own challenges. I've just acknowledged that every year is going to have its own feel.
You tore your MCL before Portugal, and there was speculation that you were going to be out of the Title race. What was going through your head that at that point in time?
Pretty much everything. When I first did it, I knew it was bad. I had all my MRIs and everything, so before my heat in Portugal, I knew what I had done. I also knew that surfing on it was going to be painful. I started having long conversations with Glenn and my brother, Owen. They let me do a lot of the talking because they knew the decision to surf had to come from me. There was no push to do either. Owen knows me the best, just because of us growing up together, and was just like, ‘Well? How are you actually feeling?’ I told him, ‘I don't feel injured. I know that I'm hurt. I know that I've done something and I know that it's bad, but I don't feel like it’s bad.’ Then he'd write me long messages about knowing who I am and what I'm capable of. It was an interesting time, but I wasn't like ‘Ahh, this sucks.’ I learned so much from it. It pushed me to a certain point where I knew I wanted to be in the water instead.
How has Micro played a role in this whole process?
He's helped open up a whole new world for me. I think pre-Micro days, I had a lot of raw talent, and I spent my time and energy in places that weren’t necessarily developing my surfing craft. The way we view things are on the same level, which has helped our relationship grow and build. We were lucky to build such a strong foundation last year, so that every year, it just feels like we're building on that. He's able to figure out when to push me and when to let me work--which I think is a sign of a great coach.
The Title came down to basically the last few heats of Honolua. Do you get stressed when it gets that close to the end?
I actually liked it. Because I won last year with one event to go, I thought it was sick that it came down to Honolua this year. You could feel the anticipation. We had five title contenders coming down to the wire. Plus, entertainment-wise, it was exciting.
Your mom was really emotional while you were up on the podium getting the trophy. Is it important having your family there during those moments?
Yeah. Last year, I technically had no blood relations on the beach in France when I won. I wanted everyone there, but too many people were sick. Mom wasn't able to come because she was sick, and it was just better if they all stayed at home together. This year, my mom and my auntie and uncle booked their trip to Maui back in January. They're all people who played major roles in my life. It was really important to have them there and to know that they were actually enjoying it, too.
When we spoke to you after your first World Title, you said: "I feel like I’ve done it my own way, in my own time. I haven’t rushed anything, and as much shit as I got for not wanting a World Title when I was second in the world and a heat away from winning one, when I was in two of those World Title races where I didn’t want it, I don’t have a single regret. I got a lot of crap for that, but at the time I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to be World Champ.” Do you feel like your mindset has changed toward competitive surfing since that time where you didn't really want the Title?
I think the wanting of the World Title and the way I view competitive surfing have both changed. That statement is so true. Back then, I was so young and unprepared, mentally, and it just wasn't something I was ready for. I didn't want to commit to anything when I didn't know who I was. In 2016, when I came out and said I'm going for a World Title, that's when I was ready. Everyone who knows me has seen the changes I’ve made from that time. That's when I brought in Glenn, and everything changed. I never viewed competitive surfing as something I actually liked---it was just something I turned out to be good at a young age. Now I think I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of my job, and the whole journey of it all.
On both the Men's and Women's Tours, competition has tightened, and now it feels like the Title is anyone's game. Do you feel like it's harder to clinch a World Title now than it was four or five years ago?
100%. It's harder every year to get the Title. This year, we had a bunch of different winners--Silvana Lima won Lowers, Nikki Van Dijk won an event, Sage Erickson won an event, and I felt like that was all incredible. You hear people saying that it’s always the same five women dominating, but now it's the whole Top 17 who are dominating. I think it's sick that it's harder now to get a World Title, because that means the sport is evolving, and we're still on that track of progress.