Mikey Wright grabs the keys to the world tour and burns rubber.
He stands tall upon the earth, lean and mulleted, like a Viking preparing to do battle and drink Christian blood. Surfs like a wild man– all power and projection and brute force. He reminds Australian surfers of our heritage – all those madly competitive alphas who ushered in the shortboard and DIYed the world tour. They didn’t flow with the wave; they attacked it like wild animals and embraced what Derek Hynd called a “bastard desire” to win. And win they did. Repeatedly. Australia became the most dominant force in competitive surfing and stayed that way for some forty years. Recently that remarkable legacy has faltered and questions are being asked. About title prospects. About national pride. About the size and duration of the Brazilian storm.
When will we feel the hot sun of Aussie domination again? Mikey Wright, like his older siblings, gives us reason to keep buying sun block and Aussie flags. With the year half done he’s slotted in the top ten, an astonishing feat for someone who isn’t even on tour and is scrapping against the big dogs from a wild card slot. Mikey’s known for his dynamic freesurfing and while he hasn’t exactly toned it down he’s been surfing smart too. Considered recklessness you might call it. It’s taken him past John John, Julian, Gabriel (twice), Kolohe Andino and Ace Buchan as well as star rookies Griffin Colapinto and Willian Cardoso. You know what happened in Bali: two semi-final berths and a trail of high end destruction. Tracks caught up with Mikey not long after his return to home soil…
You were saying you hadn’t been back to Uluwatu for a long time. Did the Balinese recognize you under all that mullet? We’ve been going to Ulus since I was eight so I know the locals out there pretty well. I hadn’t been there for six or more years, so it was good to catch up with everyone and, yeah, they knew me. It would usually take a conversation and then they’d work it out and go: oh, you’ve changed a lot. We used to stay at a place called Jackos, which is on the monkey temple side of the bridge. There’s been big changes along the cliff but the old warung that we used to hang out at is still there. Sooty cooks some good food and always looked after us when we were younger so I hung there during the comp. I only went up to the event site to get my rashie, otherwise I was hanging at the warung.
Do you believe in karma? Um, yeah, I believe in karma. I’m not really a spiritual person but Bali is a very spiritual place and I think good things happen to good people. But you know in a contest situation it doesn’t really come into it. You’re out there and you’ve got to make it happen yourself. You’re on your own two feet.
We’re almost at the World Tour’s halfway mark and you’re ranked seventh in the world. Do you know how many wild cards you’ll be offered in the back half?
Not really, nah. They only seem to decide a week out from the start of the event. At the moment I’m relying on the WQS to hopefully qualify. I’ll go to South Africa soon for the Balito Pro, which is a 10,000-point event. So that’s my main focus. If I get another wildcard along the way I’ll be wrapped and I’ll try to benefit from it.
Which events would you most like to get a wild card into?
All of ’em, haha. Every wave on tour is a pretty good wave really. Chopes would be sick but I’m not counting on anything happening. I’m happy either way.
What about Kelly’s Surf Ranch and wave pools in general? Massive changes for the sport.
I’ve heard they’ve made an air section at the end of Kelly’s pool so that sounds sick. I think pools can take surfing to a new level because they allow repetition – you can try the same air over and over on the same exact section. I think there was some issues at the Founders Cup where surfers were faulting on waves and still getting big scores. But it was the first pool event so it’s hard to say. I haven’t surfed in it yet but it looks really fun – especially now there’s a ramp at the end. I think pools are good for surfing because it’ll bring more money into the industry. There should be a wave pool for the Olympics too if they want to pull a big audience.
Will you be surfing for Australia in Tokyo?
I’m keen. I think any Australian would be pretty stoked to represent their country. I’ve been selected for the squad so we’ll see what happens.
You’ve beaten a stack of big names this year – what’s been the most satisfying win?
To be honest probably losing. I’ve had some close losses and I learnt a lot from them. There’s been some losses from small mistakes and I’ve been able to capitalise on that situation when it happens again.
It must be a boost having Owen and Tyler in your corner: Who gives the most advice?
Owen is a library. Tyler is so fun to go surfing with – I try and push her to do some crazy stuff. But they are both unreal to have for advice for sure. They’ve both been competing for so long and they ’re both like a library of information. It’s been great travelling with them to a few events this year and getting feedback and help.
Who was the most competitive among the Wright clan growing up?
Well, there were five of us kids and we were all pretty competitive. It depends what we were doing. Like with food we were all competitive. In the water Owen and Timmy would always burn because they were the older brothers. In saying that Timmy would let me get waves, he’d burn other people and then let me go. I’ve never surfed a heat against Owen except the Boost Mobile event and he burnt me. That was ages ago. It seems like your entire family has been on a rollercoaster ride these last few years with Owen’s injury and remarkable recovery and Tyler’s world titles, among other things.
What it’s been like for you to watch all that unfold?
Yeah, it’s been crazy. Owen’s injury and recovery and baby, Tyler’s titles. There’s been other stuff too. Timmy became a lawyer, which was a pretty big career change. He went from being a fully qualified and licensed plumber to studying law and becoming a lawyer and a really good one too. He’s already been head-hunted by a good company. And my other sister Kirby she had a head injury herself as well. She’s ok now – she got married last year. So yeah, it’s been a fun few years. But it’s always been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for our family. There are five kids so someone’s always doing well or hurting themselves.
You’ve been making plenty of headlines yourself lately. How comfortable are you with the increased attention?
I don’t like the media making a big deal of my results. I just want to put my head down and keep doing what I’m doing and try not to get a big head. I’m no longer with a manger so I’m doing all that side of things
by myself this year. I’d rather take it on myself so if something happens it’s on me. I want to be my own person and that feels like one way of doing it.
You’ve released some jaw-dropping clips and clearly have the skills to be a successful freesurfer. Why do contests at all?
I’ve always liked competing. When I was younger – like 15 to 17 – I was planning on going straight on to the WQS because there weren’t many junior events. Owen and Tyler advised against that, said there’s no rush. I listened to their advice and went off to have fun and be a teenager, go on surf trips, make clips. I was always planning to come back to comps, it was just a matter of when. I gave myself a few years off and stopped competing around 17. I was going to come back when I was 19 but I did my ankle twice and was out of the water a lot. So last year was my first year back to competition.
Dane Reynolds has been a big influence. He was famously unwilling to tone down his surfing to win heats and eventually ditched comps altogether. Can you relate to that mindset?
I can see where it comes from. I now know you can’t throw everything at a section every time if you want to win your heat. But in saying that this year I was trying not to hold back and don’t feel I’ve needed to. I didn’t feel like I needed to do airs to win so I haven’t. I feel like you’ve got to find the right medium where you still go big and don’t hold back. I don’t hold back through any of my turns or for any of my surfing at all really but maybe I’m trying to surf a bit smarter.
Can you give us a brief history of the Mikey Mullet?
The first one I had done was around 2014 I think. We used to do it every now and again after we’d had a few beers just for laughs but now I do it myself in the mirror. I just shave the side bits. Other people get involved. My best mate Wade will do it or my brother Timmy will if he’s around. I had it done professionally once at a barber in America
and I didn’t really like how they did it so I’ll probably never get it done professionally again. No need to pay 50 bucks for it if you can do it at home yourself.
You’re into all kinds of cars. What have you’ve owned so far? My first vehicle was actually a motorbike, a Honda CBR 250. I bought it off one of my best mates when I was 16 and nine months. When I got my Ps I bought a Holden Commodore wagon, an SV6. Then my next car was my Landcruiser and I’ve been doing it up for a while now. It’s gone from being stock to jacked up with big wheels and raised axles. It’s getting fixed at the moment because I snapped the rear axle. I’ve also got an S-13 Nissan Silvia with a S15 body kit on it. I bought that just for drifting. I haven’t had much time to get out on the racetrack but that’s the plan. I want to modify it and put a cage and some proper race harnesses in it so it’s a proper drift car.
Unreal. What’s drifting again?
It’s when you drift or go sideways around a race track. There’s proper drift events, which I wouldn’t mind getting into but I haven’t had a chance to get it out to the track yet. There’s one right here on the Goldie but it’s hard to find the time with my current schedule.
You’re living on the Gold Coast now after a stint at Lennox but grew up in Culburra and the WSL say you’re from Ballina. Where do you feel most at home?
Culburra for sure. It was funny at Snapper this year, one of the commentators was saying I was from Ballina or wherever and I went straight to Brooko [Mikey’s coach] and said can we get that changed to Culburra. I’m Culburra. I used to live in Lennox but I’m from Culburra. It’s where I grew up and spent the first 12 years of my life and it just feels like home. I’ve got good mates in Lennox and everywhere but my Culburra mates I’ve known since I was a kid. It’s home for me. It’s where I want to live when I retire.
Well, thanks for talking to Tracks and good luck for the rest of the year.
No worries – thanks. I’m home for a few days now and my girl’s on her way up from Coffs right now with my dog so I’m pretty stoked.
Confronted by a violent head-on collision Mikey Wright takes the up and over approach.
Mikey launching like a bat out of hell. Inset: While the image may imply reckless abandon, Mikey’s 2018 contest performances have been calculated and focused.
There is a raw quality to Mikey’s surfing that ensures fans tune in every time he surfs. Inset: Backside hanger that borrows more than a little from his good mate, Matt Hoy.
Mikey adopts the ‘steep and deep’ motto every year in Hawaii. Inset: Pro surfing’s most celebrated mane is now trimmed by Mikey himself.
Collectively the Wrights have worked out how to drag each other to new heights on the world stage and bounce back from heavy scenarios. Above: Tyler and Mikey. Below: Owen and Mikey.
Featuring unique execution and V8 grunt, Mikey’s grab rail carve is a wonder of modern surfing. Photo: Bosko