Wright, Owen

Rangy, unflappable pro surfer from New South Wales, Australia; world-ranked #3 in 2011; “When it comes to competing he has balls like watermelons,” said surf blogger Steve Nug. “If he drew Jesus of Nazareth in a heat he’d probably shrug.”

Wright was born (1990) in Culburra, to a plumber father who was also a hardcore surfer, and began riding waves when he was seven. At age nine Wright took his first trip to Bali, and sampled the high-speed reef waves of Uluwatus. By 14, the elastic goofyfoot was making annual pilgrimages to the North Shore, and paddled out during big Second Reef days at Pipeline.

After a successful amateur career—in 2007 he was the under-18 Australian National Champion—Wright joined the elite world tour in 2010, where he placed seventh, easily winning rookie of the year honors. The following year Wright challenged eventual champion Kelly Slater for the world title race most of the year; he met Slater in three consecutive event finals, winning once at the Quiksilver Pro New York where he earned $300,000 for the victory, the biggest winner’s check in competitive surfing history.

Long-limbed (6’3”, 172 pounds) and wiry strong, Wright can outpaddle anybody in the sport, and uses his height to full advantage by torquing through deep-set turns, then coiling and unwinding for explosive aerial moves. (In 2009, he told Surfing magazine that he used creatine monohydrate muscle-builiding supplements, a banned substance for NCAA athletes, but not for the pro surfing tour.) A world title contender from the moment he hit the tour, Wright nonetheless was criticized in some quarters in for being overtrained and predictable.

Tyler Wright, Owen’s younger sister, competes in the women's division of the world tour, and was the 2011 Rookie of the Year; never before has a brother-sister team competed on the WCT at the same time.