The Fiji Pro belonged to one, tall man from Lennox Head: at this year’s event in paradise, Australia’s Owen Wright stepped into the spotlight, surfing his way into history first with one, then two perfect heats in which he scored a maximum 20 points in each and won the contest.
Five athletes in the history of pro surfing have logged perfect heats. Kelly Slater (USA) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) each own two.
But no one had two in a single contest. Wright changed all that when, after claiming a 20-point heat in Round 5, he reached perfection again in the Final against fellow Aussie Julian Wilson.
Starting the season ranked outside the Top 10, Wright has been taking two steps up the rankings and one step back, with quarterfinal finishes at Bells and Rio and 13th- and ninth-place finishes on the Gold Coast.
But with his definitive win in Fiji, he’ll head into second half of the season at No. 3 on the Jeep Leaderboard, and securely in the Title race.
In the round between Tweed Heads’ Joel Parkinson and Wright earlier on, Parko drew first blood with a string of smooth cutbacks and a small barrel section for a seven-pointer.
Wright answered back with a similar score, powering through the curtain for the completion. An excellent-range score for a similar but cleaner line allowed him to pull away. Parkinson, who has had two perfect heats in his career, needed one more big score to stay alive but the opportunity never arrived.
On the face of it, the final started out with both surfers, Wright vs Wilson, two wunderkinds-turned-seasoned chargers from Australia, on equal footing.
But within minutes, it was clear that Wright was unstoppable. His wave selection and timing were impeccable, while he was able to find cover and escape before the tube shut down, Wilson took the brunt of the closeouts again and again.
When Wright earned a 9.60 for a hollow barrel, his win seemed inevitable.
But before the final was over, Wright proved that he’d barely gotten started.
With five minutes left, he stood tall in a heavy barrel, weaving out of it perfectly to earn a perfect 10 that had the channel roaring.
With less than two minutes left, he did it again, scoring a perfect 10 for his second perfect heat in as many days. Wright not only triumphed in Fiji, but became a part of surfing history.
The next stop on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour is the J-Bay Open starting July 8.