Today, both Owen Wright and 3x World Champion Mick Fanning have announced that they are returning to full-time competition on the elite WSL Championship Tour in 2017.
This comes after a year sabbatical for both Owen and Mick.
In 2016, Owen took the year off due to a serious head injury he suffered at Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore in December of 2015. Mick’s time off followed a dramatic 2015, in which he lost his older brother Peter, survived a world-famous shark encounter at the JBay Open, and finished runner-up in an emotional title race.
"2015 was a tough year,” Mick said in his announcement. “A lot happened to me on camera and in my personal life. I just felt exhausted by the end of it. Fortunately, I was in a position to step away from the Tour and have some time to myself. I ended up doing a few events and qualifying, which was great because I didn’t want to take the wildcard off of Bede Durbidge or my Rip Curl teammate Owen Wright. But now I’m coming into 2017 seeded 18th, which will be a change for me.
“For a while there I wasn’t sure I was motivated enough to take part in the 2017 season. But, like everyone else, I’ve slowly but surely gotten super excited about the line-up of surfers this year –it might be the best field from the top seed to number 34 that we’ve ever had. I also think it’s the biggest group of legit title contenders we’ve ever seen on the tour, and I want to be part of the race. It’s not in my nature to be half-hearted, so now that I’m committed I’ll be doing everything I can to get a win."
Owen is also thrilled to return to tour in 2017 alongside him teammate Mick.
“I’m so thankful for the support of my friends and family, my sponsors, the WSL and all the people in the community who sent positive thoughts to me throughout my recovery,”Owen said. “I’m feeling stronger every day and I’m very much looking forward to returning to the Tour and further honing my fitness and surfing throughout the 2017 season.”
Neil Ridgway, Rip Curl’s Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, commented on how proud the company is to see him return to full-time competition.
“It’s been an interesting road to recovery for Owen,” he said. “He’s gone through many different phases since the accident at Pipeline in 2015.
“Sometimes none of us knew what would happen with him, but we kept the faith in the hope that he would return to elite WSL competition as soon as possible. He had terrific support from Dr. Paul McCrory and Dr. Drew Slimmon throughout and we are indebted to them for the advice and care they gave Owen.
“It was quite a happy emotional day in February to sit with Owen and hear Dr. McCrory say ‘Owen, you are a guy who had a brain injury, but that is now all behind you.’You could not have wiped the smile off our faces with a cricket bat.
“Surf more, think less and everything you achieve in 2017 is a result. That is the message to Owen from Rip Curl this season. We have high hopes but no expectations, and we’re right behind him.”
Watch Mick Fanning and Owen Wright come back to the world surfing stage in full force on March 14th at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast.
Good luck boys! We can’t wait to see what you can do.
Mick Fanning and Owen Wright Return to the World Tour in 2017