Owen Wright completed a fairytale win at the Quiksilver Pro when he defeated Byron Bay’s Matt Wilkinson in the final of the first WSL event for 2017.
Just over one year ago Wright had a violent rag-doll wipeout at Pipeline and it was believed that his brain had rattled violently against his skull, resulting in everything from amnesia to such a severe loss of co-ordination that he couldn’t walk and had difficulty communicating.
Just a few weeks ago he was cleared by his medical team to return to competition, and what a comeback it was.
Wilkinson expressed his respect for his close friend and Rip Curl stablemate during his presentation speech. ‘To be in another final here is a dream,’ said Wilkinson. ‘I obviously wanted to win but Owen has made me cry about five times this week. To see him last year was one of the toughest things I’ve ever seen and for Owen to be in the this event is one of the most amazing things, but to go and win is incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to beat me. He’s inspired me so much and to come back and do this is unreal.’
Defending event winner Wilkinson dispatched world champions Joel Parkinson and John John Florence en route to his second consecutive Gold Coast Final.
‘Coming into the event this year I did have a sneaky bit of confidence but you do think about all the work that the others have put in on the off season,’ Wilkinson said. ‘Now I guess I feel a lot more confident and I feel like my surfing is the best it’s ever been so I’m really excited to go for the World Title.’
Lennox Head’s Stuart Kennedy had a dream run last year at Snapper with his semifinal finish and looked in good form in earlier rounds especially when he defeated Ethan Ewing in round two with an excellent 9.1 from the judges but was unable to fire in his round 3 match-up against former world champion Adriano De Souza.
Kennedy finished in equal 13th place to start off his second year on the Championship Tour.
To complete a great day for the Aussies, six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore claimed her sixth Roxy Pro title defeating USA’s Lakey Peterson in the final. The win marks Gilmore’s 25th elite tour victory.
‘I can’t believe it, I’ve been visualising holding that trophy so much,’ Gilmore said. ‘It was so hard against Lakey. I’m so happy to have all the support from everyone here and there’s nothing better than winning at home. It’s so far from here but I’d love to win another world title.
‘It’s the greatest feeling in the world to win here, in the greatest place on Earth in my eyes,’ Gilmore said.
DSA calls for volunteers
The Disabled Surfers Association is holding its last gathering for the season at Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay this Saturday, March 25 from 9am.
They require a lot of volunteers, surfers and water people. Sign on 8.30am.