Risk of further concussion triggers star Australian surfer’s retirement

Australian surfer Owen Wright will pull the pin on his World Surf League career after next month’s Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach for fear of suffering another life-threatening concussion.

Wright suffered a traumatic brain injury when surfing in Hawaii in late 2015, and had to relearn how to walk, talk and surf again before making a remarkable return to the World Surf League.

His return included a win at the 2017 Quicksilver Pro on the Gold Coast, the 2019 Billabong Pro Teahupoo in Tahiti and a bronze medal in shortboard at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Surfer Owen Wright will hang up the surfboard after next month’s Rip Curl Pro.Credit:WSL

But the 33-year-old has decided to call it quits after next month’s marquee event at Bells Beach, near Torquay in Victoria, describing the risk of suffering another head injury as simply too great.

“Given my recent history with head injuries and concussions, competing at some of the heaviest waves on the planet is no longer in the best interest of my long-term health,” said Wright, who has been given a wildcard to compete at Bells.

“I excelled in these conditions over my career, but the risks associated with this type of surfing are too significant for someone in my position, given my medical history.

Surfer Owen Wright shows what it meant to him to snare a medal for Australia at the Tokyo Olympics.Credit:AP

“I will not retire from surfing altogether – just from surfing heavy waves. I hope to keep surfing for the rest of my life; I love surfing and thank the sport for everything I have.”

Wright, born in Culburra Beach in NSW, said he was proud of what he had achieved in his comeback to surfing.

“After my traumatic brain injury in 2015, my desire to prove to myself and the world that I could still be great and overcome this life-threatening incident inspired my recovery,” he said.

“Now eight years later, after challenges and accomplishments, I can look back happily, knowing I achieved that goal.

“My last event will be at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, where I look forward to celebrating my career and thanking my fans, friends, and family for all their support over the years.

“I hope that in this new chapter of my life, I can help be a voice for brain health and an advocate for athletes across all sports who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and concussions throughout their careers.”

World Surf League chief executive Erik Logan praised Wright for his achievements.

“Owen has been a true ambassador for the sport of surfing, making history at both the CT and Olympic levels; we will greatly miss his presence on the tour,” Logan said.

“We wish him all the best in his future pursuits and look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.”

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