Welcome to the second circle of hell.
Olympic bronze medalist Owen Wright is nothing if not prolific in retirement. The 33-year-old Australian has built a “staggering” real estate portfolio and become an author. His book, Against the Water, an instant classic detailing his heroic journey from duck dive-induced brain trauma at the Banzai Pipeline to the third highest step on Tokyo 2020’s stage.
Wright, described as “model-handsome with long blond hair,” sat down with The Guardian, recently, to add flavor to his story, something he was not allowed as a child.
For starters, the Pipeline incident was not the first bonk on the head for Wright. Far from it, in fact, as he shares that he probably had somewhere between twenty to thirty concussions while surfing.
And also more details of his hothouse upbringing.
Rob Wright believed there was no shortage of great surfers, but very few great competitors. And he set about drilling his children: they had no TV and no toys; mornings would start with a family kung-fu session, sometimes at 4.30am. They ate plain vegetarian food, served with no sauce or seasoning, and travelled to surf competitions around Australia on a school minibus. That last detail reminded me of Richard Williams, the rambunctious father of Venus and Serena, whose eccentricities were showcased in the film King Richard, starring Will Smith. Wright laughs, “Watching that Williams sisters movie was kind of triggering.”
Wright says he was his father’s clear favorite, something that didn’t necessarily bother his siblings. “The attention was never that great,” he said. “I was also the one who got up at the crack of dawn and trained and all the rest of it. They were more than happy to pass on that!”
Unlike his sister Tyler, Wright doesn’t seem to wholly blame father Rob, crediting him, in fact, with the life he now lives. “My dad did so many things that clearly got great results,” he confesses. “That relationship was the reason I surfed, it was the reason I pushed, it was the reason I rebelled, it was the reason I pushed again. It’s part of the reason I’ve retired. And it’s part of the reason I made it back out of the head injury.”
Today, he is caring for his father while parenting his own two children, slightly worried that his eldest son might follow in his footsteps. The six-year-old surfed in his first competition. The waves were big though the child was brave. Later, though, he came and told Wright they were, in fact, too big.
“What have I done?” he wondered. While also recognizing “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”