There’s little doubt Tyler Wright is a winner. At the tender age of 23, the two-time surfing world champion is a veteran of the Women’s World Surfing League; a tour which has seen her compete for 10 months of the year since she was 16.
As the 2018 season kicked off its first leg at the Roxy Pro in Australia in March, the reigning world champ seemed well placed to hold that trophy over her head for a third time in her career. But, alas she exited the comp in the quarterfinals. Unperturbed by her loss, the Jeep Ambassador tells myBody+Soul, an innate drive to win isn’t necessarily what pushes her to compete.
“It sounds weird, because you’d think it comes with the territory of being in a competitive sport, but I don’t know if I’m actually that competitive,” Tyler says about her attitude toward her fruitful career. “I love the game. There’s rules and you have to be smart—you have to play better than another person—but I don’t mind if I lose the game because someone playing outsmarted me.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT A PB
For the Culburra native, surfing is just part of life’s “really cool path of mystery and evolution”, a journey she says keeps her “intrigued”. Under the guidance of her surf coach Glen ‘Micro’ Hall, she manages to cultivate an approach where a personal best performance is more fulfilling than an outright victory.
“Generally, I’m content with how I view [surfing] because it makes it a lot easier to not be so results based,” says Tyler. “I’ve had heats where I’ve made 17 mistakes and I’ve won. Technically I’ve got a victory and people are congratulating me, but all I see is the 17 mistakes I made. Then there’s heats where I’ve done everything sound and lost, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
BEING GRATEFUL FOR HER STRONG BODY
Butchange is something that Tyler has inevitably experienced since beginning her professional career as a teen. As a young surfer, while she was powerfully ripping through waves with an ease that challenged some of her male counterparts, the fact remained was she was a girl, growing up in a bikini under the watchful gaze of the sport’s media and spectators, unable to escape the familiar sting of self-consciousness that comes with puberty.
“It took me a long time to accept the type of body that I have because I would watch other people who I guess were skinny or lighter and I would think, ‘I’m not any of those things,’” says Tyler, who stands at 170 centimetres and 68 kilos of pure muscle. “But eventually I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? Like, the amount of times I should have broken my body is ridiculous!”
That refreshing gratitude means nowadays Tyler freely credits her “strong” frame with allowing her to have a career.
“My body means I can do things I shouldn’t be able to do because, realistically there are so many times where my bones should have broken or I should have torn but I never really have, apart from one or two injuries,” says Tyler, who overcame a niggling knee issue on the path to her 2017 victory. “I guess I changed from being self-conscious about not being like other people to appreciating that my body can get the shit kicked out of it and still be okay.”
Tyler reasons, “At the end of the day your body is what it is. You don’t really get a choice in it, it’s more important to be happy and healthy than anything else.”
MAKING FRIENDS WITH ENEMIES
In terms of being happy, Tyler says something that has kept her sane on the tour is her connections with other pro surfers.
While she has the blessing of having her family on tour – her brothers Owen and Mikey Wright also surf on the Men’s WSL tour – she says making friends out of her fellow female competitors is important for all those months on the road.
“It’s actually lovely to have friends on the tour because they’re some of the nicest and greatest humans,” says Wright. “Some of the girls I absolutely love as humans, and whatever happens in the water will never have a different effect on me, win or lose.”
“You can have a day of competition and have a drink after and catch up. Things like that make tour life a lot easier.”
LESSONS ON PERSPECTIVE
In the past few years challenges outside of surfing have presented themselves to Tyler a little too often. In 2015 her older brother Owen Wright suffered a traumatic brain injury after wiping out on a wave on Hawaii’s North Shore and Tyler took time out to help with his recovery. More recently her mum Fiona Wright has had her own health issues and for Tyler, these have only further fuelled her experiential attitude to life and competition.
“I’ve had too many things happen in life to give me perspective to really get bummed out about losing a heat,” says Tyler of the trials of the past few years. “There’s just so much more to life and you have to have a good balance.”
That balance is what motivates Tyler right now, who hopes to enjoy surfing, and likely winning, for years to come.
“My aim now is for a sustainable career over anything else and I find that through balance I’m getting better at knowing when to turn on and knowing when to switch off,” Wright says.
“I still haven’t figured out the right formula for me just because obviously my life has been constantly changing with Owen one year and mum the next, but now, this year it’s just me figuring out that delicate formula.”
WHAT TYLER’S GOT PLAYING WHEN YOU SEE HER GETTING PUMPED UP BEFORE A HEAT:
“It’s not really as hectic as what people think it is!” Tyler tells myBody+Soul. “It used to be hectic but the past eight months it’s really mellowed down to ultra-cruise.
“At the moment it’s like Alex the Astronaut, and obviously my brother’s girlfriend, Kita Alexander, and Jack River.”
Wright says she gravitates toward singer-songwriters because, “I think they are telling people’s stories and sharing a part of themselves.” Adding that expression “is something I will never do and, the whole sharing of an experience in a public way is something I respect enormously.”
**myBody+Soul travelled to the Gold Coast do this interview thanks to Jeep Australia, celebrating its launch of the all-new Jeep Compass.**
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