No one wants to draw Tyler Wright in a heat, and for good reason. After qualifying for the Women'sWorld Tour in 2011 at 16 years old, she's never finished outside the top five, and she's come in second for the title the last two years. But for someone who looks so serious on paper, Wright isn't taking competition too seriously. "I've had some really fun heats to start the year--until I hit a pool!" laughs Wright. "I'm such a peanut sometimes."
The rock pool in question fronts the break at Cronulla in New South Wales, and Wright got to know it intimately after getting caught inside and slammed into it repeatedly during her heat at the Australian Boardriders Battle. Many people would be emotionally (and physically) scarred by this experience, but Wright laughs it off. She grew up with three brothers who have helped shape her no-holds-barred approach to surfing, and she's learned to embrace risks and not take
herself too seriously.
That mentality has allowed Wright to shine in everything from square P-Pass barrels to Huntington Beach wind chop. "It makes for super-exciting clashes when we come up in heats together," says Sally Fitzgibbons. "You can't pin
her to one game plan. She is always in tune with the conditions, which allows her to adapt to any type of wave and have great variety in her performances."
Like John Florence or Kelly Slater, Wright's unpredictability is what makes her so fun to watch. When you see her stomping frontside airs, slob grabs, and laybacks with ease, it makes you wonder where she will take her surfing next. "Backflips," jokes Wright. "Do you have John John's number?" (At least I think she's joking.)
Potential backflips aside, what else can we expect to see in 2015 from the best 20-year-old female surfer in the world? Improved competitive savvy? More trips to the podium? A world title? "I came in second twice; I'd like to win," Wright explains. "But people put a lot of pressure on you to think about winning a world title. The perception is that if you want to win one, you have to focus on it and base everything you do around it. But that theory doesn't really fly with me. As long as I'm having fun and enjoying my surfing, then whatever happens, happens."
That attitude could explain why even her fellow world-title contenders like having her around. "She's really good at balancing being competitive in the water and letting it all go and being an awesome person on the beach," says
two-time world champ Carissa Moore.
We've come to expect world champions to be hyper-focused, steely competitors in the vein of Slater and Fanning. But in Wright's mind, it doesn't have to be that way. They say the best surfer is the one having the most fun, and by that standard Wright wants to be the best. But she still wants a world title, just to make it official. --Ashtyn Douglas