AN­I­MAL SPIRIT

Mikey Wright grabs the keys to the world tour and burns rub­ber.

Tracks - - Contents - MIKEY WRIGHT

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.

Photo: Bosko

Con­fronted by a vi­o­lent head-on col­li­sion Mikey Wright takes the up and over ap­proach.

Photo: Bosko Photo: Bosko

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.

Pho­tos: Bosko

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.

Photo: Bosko.

Mikey adopts the ‘steep and deep’ motto ev­ery year in Hawaii. In­set: Pro surf­ing’s most cel­e­brated mane is now trimmed by Mikey him­self.

Photo: Wade Car­roll

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

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