June 9, 2023

Australian surf legend Owen Wright rings in retirement at Bells | Surfing

Owen Wright has made an emotional farewell to the World Surf League tour, moving into retirement after his exit at Bells Beach.

It was a changing of the guard at the famous surf break, with Australian rising star Ethan Ewing eliminating veteran Wright in their round of 32 meeting on Sunday.

Wright announced before the competition that after 12 years on tour Bells would be his last, forced into retirement after medical advice that another big head knock could cause major damage.

The 33-year-old suffered a traumatic brain injury in a wipe-out in Hawaii in 2015 but fought his way back to win Olympic bronze in Tokyo, while he also claimed four competition titles along the journey.

He was granted a wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro at Bells, which he first contested back in 2010 but has never won.

Wright led their heat until world No 10-ranked Ewing, whose mother Helen Lambert won Bells in 1983, pulled out one of the waves of the day.

His score of 8.00 gave him a combined total of 13.83 while Wright’s tally was 11.66.

Flanked by fans, Wright was chaired up the beach by two friends to be greeted by his wife, singer Kita Alexander and their two young children.

“It was a really special time out there and I had a great time in my heat,” Wright said. “It feels like home to me down here … I couldn’t think of a better way to finish this chapter.

“I’ve had a wild career and I’m extremely grateful for it – the tough times and the celebrations, the journey, to finish it here walking up the steps and high-fiving my buddies – I’m super grateful for this moment.”

Ewing, 24, paid tribute to Wright, who bagged two perfect 10-point rides to win the final in the 2015 Fiji Pro at Cloudbreak.

“It was really special – he’s had a great career,” Ewing said of the NSW veteran. “We’ve had a lot of heats together on tour – my first heat on tour he smashed me.

“It’s really special to have this last heat with him and I wish him a good retirement.”

Wright said he planned to spend the next few days watching the men’s competition unfold, while his sister, two-time world champion and 2022 Bells winner Tyler, remains alive in the women’s event.

He hoped to continue to use his platform to promote awareness about brain injury and concussion in athletes.