Tyler Wright, from an earlier 60 Minutes story. | Photo: 60 Minutes

JP Currie on Tyler Wright’s “bombshell” ESPN interview: “It’s deeply unfair to characterise her father Rob as not only the cruel and uncompromising patriarch, but almost as a symbol of the patriarchy itself. And to use THAT picture in the article, yet snuff out his voice?”

Does a man’s pursuit of passion, even if vicariously through his children, constitute success or failure?

A scene, a snapshot, a perspective…

Praia da Consolação, Portugal, October 2010. The southern end of the stretch of sand that hosts Supertubos.

A young man sits in a rental car, a silver Opel Corsa with passenger seat tilted all the way back and surfboard wedged into the footwell.

He’s been watching the marginal, scattered windswell, unconvinced it’s worth getting in, despite the approaching midday heat. The pleasant waft of lunchtime barbequed sardines drifts through cobblestone streets behind the breakwater and makes him think there might be more value in appeasing his girlfriend by going back to the apartment for some lunch.

His swithering is interrupted by the rear end of another rental car, a Renault Kangoo, swinging abruptly into the spot in front of him. The rear brake lights have barely stopped glowing when all doors erupt simultaneously in a flurry of neoprene and joy.

A tall, sinewy man with skin like fine leather strides round to the rear of the Kangoo to release the boot and the jumble of surfboards within.

It’s a family race to the water. Girls and boys, a cacophony of stoke exploding towards the beach.

Arms and shoulders swing in ad hoc stretches as they hurry to the water’s edge. There are some brief lunges, combined with strapping on leashes.

The younger boy, darker than his brother, sprints and throws his board down like a skimboard, gliding for a second before popping a 180 off the incoming wash.

It’s all whoops and smiles. The enthusiasm is palpable.

The young man in the rental car looks on in admiration. He is witnessing the Wright family. He recognises Owen, here to compete in the WCT event and on his way to a seventh overall finish and Rookie of The Year honours by season end.

He admires the sheer physicality of the family, with their deeply earned tans and their lithe power.

He admires their joy as they swarm over the windswell, hooting each other in and throwing flyaway airs into the whitewash.

Children and parents united by a clear passion for surfing.

He is thinking: there’s a thing to aspire to. A family working and playing together. A family of supreme health and fitness, revelling in nature, culture and international travel.

Together. Happy. Surfing.

Still nearly a decade away from children of his own, the young man knows that he has seen the ideal. Later he will tell his girlfriend about it and they will dream about the future.

Fast forward eleven years.

The Wright family has faced challenges. But weigh this against world titles, big contracts, experience, travel, objective successes…

Would it be unreasonable to perceive that the joy observed in this earlier snapshot had led to some happiness and accomplishment?

Apparently so.

The title of the recent ESPN profile piece “How world champion Tyler Wright came back from a crippling virus to change surfing forever” is not only a little unwieldy, but emphasises a clear narrative.

Because don’t we just love a hero’s journey?

Every hero needs a villain. The villains of the piece are pro surfing and Tyler’s father, Rob Wright.

In summary…

Tyler is presented as a lost soul, forced to surf, railroaded into a career as a professional surfer by a cruel father and lacking the voice, even the “language”, to speak out against it.

She’d rather be in school.

She’s angry, but not allowed to show it.

All the men on Tour demean and degrade women.

She’s “sexualised and scrutinised by fans, sponsors and the sport’s leaders”.

We are presented, once again, with the “women-forced-to-surf-like-men” trope. (No mention of Stephanie Gilmore’s seven world titles or universally celebrated style). This is backed up by Sal Masekela, so that makes it unequivocal.

One villain is vanquished when she tells her dad she doesn’t want his help anymore.

Her uncle dies, Owen has his accident at Pipe, her mum gets brain tumours, yet she wins back-to-back world titles in a toxic sport that she hates.

She did it, but she didn’t enjoy it.

She meets her girlfriend, finds her voice, wants to confront the “homophobic, racist and extremely sexist” culture of the surfing community.

Then she gets sick with a mystery illness for a year (identified in the piece ambiguously as “post viral syndrome” and sounding very much like a euphemism for “depression and anxiety”).

She gets better, reads some feminist literature and re-emerges with her old world champ form but an armoury of social justice missiles behind her.

“We can’t talk about sexism without talking about racism. They’re not separate issues.” It’s all the same to her.

She’s angry again, but now she has language.

I’m not questioning Tyler’s experience. As Longtom said in his piece: how the hell do we know otherwise? And her goals and objectives seem admirable. Far be it from me to criticise anyone standing up for social justice.

But I might tilt the lens a little.

And I might suggest that discovering language is one thing, knowing its power quite another.

Voices don’t appear overnight.

There are many, many books.

I might also speak up for what’s missing from the ESPN piece.

No other pro surfers (of any gender) are consulted. Key family members are absent. No WSL authorities are questioned, unless you count Jesse Miley-Dyer (close personal friend of Tyler Wright).

Revisionist history?

Let me imagine an alternative writerly perspective.

One might equally present this arc as belonging to someone with a quality desirable to all – the quality of resilience.

This resilience was cultivated as part of a family unit where gender was secondary to effort and performance.

(If, instead of what actually happened, young Tyler had been sent to school while the boys played in the waves, how would we view that?)

Learning came, as all good learning does, from discomfort.

A father dedicated his life to ensuring his children lived in pursuit of health and happiness, with minds broadened by travel and bank accounts furnished by companies willing to pay them for elite performance in a sport idealistic to millions but rewarding very few.

Three out of five children top-ranked professional athletes.

Does a man’s pursuit of passion, even if vicariously through his children, constitute success or failure?

One might suggest that the determination and focus fostered from a young age in a hard-knock, cut-throat sport and family dynamic was the defining factor that allowed both Tyler and Owen to emerge victorious from debilitating injuries that would have ended most athletes.

The Wright children are pro athletes forged in iron. They lead lives that need no filters to be the epitome of Insta envy.

You could say that the reason Tyler Wright is so damn good at surfing, the best in the world, no less, and the reason she has a platform and a voice, is precisely because of her upbringing.


And where is Rob Wright’s voice anyway?

The writer of the ESPN piece excuses the omission of Rob’s voice with an addendum to a sentence stating that he’s been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

No point in talking to him then, eh.

It’s deeply unfair to characterise him as not only the cruel and uncompromising patriarch, but almost as a symbol of the patriarchy itself.

And to use THAT picture in the article, yet snuff out his voice?

I’ve got no skin in this game, but I feel for the poor fucker.

And what about Owen’s voice?

Or Mikey’s?

One might presume that in a profile piece about a professional surfer citing a toxic family environment as reason for her struggle and unhappiness, it might be privy to obtain the views of two of her siblings who have followed the same career path.

As for Longtom, dear Steve with his Tolstoy and his Lennox lore and his goat’s balls. If you’re that close to the situation (given that they live(d) in Lennox and you clearly know them) then what about some insight beyond bunging Rob in a ute and dropping him off again? That ghost shell image is about as useless as Alyssa Roenigk’s half-sentence brush off.

Don’t just allude to things unseen. Don’t you leave meat on the bone, too.

With the ESPN piece the writer has leaned hard into the issues du jour, just as Tyler has, but it’s a well-worn narrative, and it misses enough to cast doubt on the perspective.

There’s a lot more to say about the Wright family, I’m sure.

Many perspectives.

This once-young man would like to hear the other voices.

Howie D (pictured) somewhere.
Howie D (pictured) somewhere.

Just in: Backstreet Boy Howie D makes real-estate fool of co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff, breaks ground on $35m condo in Kelly Slater’s Cocoa Beach!

Baby buy, buy, buy.

If co-Waterperson of the Year, owner of professional surfing, Dirk Ziff’s face was not red this morning when it was revealed that he took a $100m bath on a slice of South Florida where everybody, literally everybody, is making money then it will certainly grow crimson when he discovers that Backstreet Boy Howie D stands to make a fortune on a condominium complex in Kelly Slater’s Cocoa Beach.

Per Click Orlando:

With his Backstreet Boys touring schedule postponed by the pandemic, Howie D addressed a small crowd during the groundbreaking of his $35 million Cocoa Beach condominium complex, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

“This is actually the first time I’ve been in front of an audience in a year,” Howie D said, speaking to about 35 people standing on a sidewalk Monday morning at the future site of The Surf.

“This is not my normal gig,” he said, generating laughter.

The Surf will feature 25 luxury condominiums ranging from $975,000 to $2.5 million and a second-floor swimming pool, spa and fire pit atop ground-level retail space with a target opening date in the first or second quarter 2023.

Guaranteed to make much money because of both its name and likely association with the 11x World Champion.

Howie D will start recording the Backstreet Boys Christmas album next week, basking in his coming real-estate riches. “I’m actually catching up with the guys for the first time in a year next week. We’re going to catch up somewhere in the winter wonderland — somewhere wherever there’s some snow — to get into the Christmas spirit,” he told the outlet.

“We’re going to go in and do some pre-production on it, getting to see who’s going to sound right on which song. And then we’ll probably all record the rest of it individually.”

Very cool though equally unlikely that Dirk Ziff will buy or listen as he is known for extreme jealousy.

The story probably as developed as it will ever be.

Co-Waterperson of the Year, owner of professional surfing, Dirk Ziff takes bath on ultra-luxury South Florida property: “Daddy would be pretty bummed right now!”


First, co-Waterperson of the Year, owner of professional surfing, Dirk Ziff had to charter an airplane from Los Angeles to Newcastle, Australia filled with the world’s best, or best-adjacent, professional surfers. Then he had to secure a large room block at the local Ibis Budget, to sleep all of them for two weeks, also arranging enough Mrs Macs meat pies from the nearby Metro Petroleum station to feed them during that time.

And all while taking an over $100m bath on a South Florida ultra-luxury property.

It has NOT been a good few months.

The “15-acre ocean-to-lake compound” sold earlier this week for a reported $94m which would be very fine except it was listed 6-years ago for $200m.

According to The Real Deal, “The more than 30-bedroom estate connects via tunnels, including a furnished tunnel underneath South Ocean Boulevard that features a 15-foot-wide gallery. The property has a 12-bedroom main house, two four-bedroom beachside cottages, a seven-bedroom Mango House, a staff house and recreational amenities, including a swimming pool, golf area, tennis court and half-basketball court.”

No Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch likely depressing the value.

It was owned by Ziff and his brothers Robert and Daniel, who inherited their fortune from their publishing magnate father. Daniel was listed as the manager on the entity that sold the property.

No Kelly Slater likely depressing the value.

Even though the ultra-luxury home market has been strong in South Florida with the arrival of Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, the Ziffs could not capitalize.

Much like not being able to host naturally-socially distant surfing competitions in the time of Covid when they would have been the only live sporting events on television.


Breaking: Haleiwa residents allowed to return back to the first jewel of the Triple Crown as threat of “catastrophic flooding, general apocalyptic hoo-ha” subsides!

Feat. Jack Johnson.

Oahu’s North Shore felt the brunt of a very mean Pacific storm, yesterday, and many Haleiwa residents were forced to evacuate as officials feared “catastrophic flooding.”

While not as mean as the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater, the storm system dumped much water on the island, destroying roads and swelling rivers.

The National Weather Service described the usually tranquil Opaeula Stream, flowing through town, as “particularly dangerous” with levels rising from 4 to 16 feet Hawaiian.

Locals described the terror they felt as the sky opened up and poured down its savagery upon them.

“It was kind of dry and then all of a sudden!” One couple said. “… We thought we were gonna be OK and the next minute it was on our stoop and another few minutes it was going to be in the house.”

While not as savage as the 11-time world champion, it still sounds scary.

The storm system also soaked Maui, Kauai and the Big Island and Oahu’s south shore where a gushing river washed an unsuspecting man away.

The song and bath time fun man Jack Johnson was videoed saving lives earlier.

Extremely brave.

Not the hero we deserve but have nonetheless.

Thoughts etc.

Opinion: “Tyler Wright’s rage is a cleansing fire for the cutesy-wutesy but diabolically dysfunctional charade of women’s pro surfing!”

Wright recalls her relationship with her Father as a source of great stress and mentions his early-onset dementia. I found her Dad Rob in a zombie-like state, dragging a half dead dog through a car-park at my local surf spot.

How nuts has women’s surfing exploded into mainstream consciousness in the last little while. It’s been on a slow burn but the thing went supernova after the release of Girls Can’t Surf, then International Women’s Day and now the release of Tyler Wright’s bombshell confessional in ESPN.

It’s a crazy case of cometh the hour, cometh the gal.

I feel so ecstatic about all this I can’t hardly breathe.

Pumped to see my pal Pauls get some long overdue reco and money in the bank. Pumped that Tyler has come out with no adverse reactions. Pumped she retro-fitted herself from a millionaire pro-surfer at 16 to a frustrated academic : “I don’t fucking dream of this shit. I want to read books. I want to go to school”.

That’s just too good.

What do you want? A million-dollar contract and a life travelling the world going surfing or sitting in that hot classroom trying to get your head around The Tempest? If she had her time again she’d take the sweaty classroom and the Shakespeare.

Great. If that is what she believes it’s OK by me.

I really mean that.

She says she suffers from PTSD. How the hell do we know otherwise?

Your subjective experience is your own. Ain’t no-one can tell you how it is for you and you alone when the thoughts are racing around the fringes of the mind at three am. I’m pumped that some of the demons and the strangeness of the Wright family have now been put into the public domain.

It’s a very singular family dynamic.

” I found her Dad Rob in a zombie-like state, dragging a half dead dog through a car-park at my local surf spot. We got him into a ute, drove him home and I got some help from his mate. That caused me great distress and some trauma. If Tyler claims her upbringing caused her distress and trauma then who are we to question it?”

To quote Tolstoy’s famous Anna Karenina principle: “Happy families are all alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.

Wright recalls her relationship with her Father as a source of great stress and mentions his early-onset dementia. I found her Dad Rob in a zombie-like state, dragging a half dead dog through a car-park at my local surf spot. We got him into a ute, drove him home and I got some help from his mate. That caused me great distress and some trauma. If Tyler claims her upbringing caused her distress and trauma then who are we to question it?

On the surface it might seem ridiculous and absurd. A multi-millionaire young athlete with two world titles to her name- more set-up than most of the poor schmucks busting their asses trying to make payments – playing what seems like a classic woke victim card.

A woman with all the earthly riches and fame that eluded earlier generations of women pro surfers claiming to be oppressed in an existential fashion, to the point of life and death, by the very thing that has elevated her into the sporting pantheon?

This is incredible stuff. Tolstoy could not compress this into a novel a thousand pages long.

I do not disrespect this untameable zebra of an athlete for a second.

I hope you all radically revise your position vis a vis Tyler Wright as I have done. More than anything I’m pumped that this anger, this rage she references will be a cleansing fire for the cutesy-wutesy but diabolically dysfunctional charade of women’s pro surfing.

All the body image pressure, the self loathing, the home-schooled pathway, homophobia, racism the psycho Dads etc etc – it’s all fair game now.

All thrown on the pyre of Tyler’s righteous fury. What a wonderful development.

Who will be the next to flame on?

I predict Carissa. Steph may follow suit.

Which opens up the delicious possibility of the three women surfers at the top of the tree rampaging gloriously through this garden of truth, all with “honest eyes” and unencumbered by the need to appease an organisation or sponsors. I don’t think the implications of what Tyler has done are fully appreciated.

Walking this path of woke may not be the easiest path for Tyler, long term. She has rebranded herself as an ally, claimed to be a beneficiary of white supremacist structures and that these structures need to be dismantled.

Fair enough.

British academic and author Kehinde Andrews in a recent book claims “rebranding a racist product is not a step in the right direction. It is a kick in the teeth to all those who suffer the impacts of white supremacy”.

See what I mean? Very tricky path to tread.

You could get called out and cancelled in a heartbeat if the walk doesn’t match the talk.

We don’t have to agree with Tyler to dig this new frisson added to the impenetrable bland of normal WSL programming. I thought I would never get back the brain cells I lost listening to the young Tyler’s pressers.

Now I know she is studying, reading books. Reading fugging books! What lies ahead. Big words, maybe some interesting thoughts. Big statements.

Anything will be a vast improvement on the “it’s all good #blessed” talk of recent times.

Surf fan wise, I’m a Gilmore gal.

I like the flow and the style, the double-hand layback cutbacks. Tyler is a little too predictable on the heavy backfoot for me.

Irrevelant though.

Women’s surfing just got more interesting than it has for years. Finally some personalities let off the leash.

Can we find some common ground and enjoyment at least on that?