Tyler (left) and Owen Wright, dreaming of spice. Photo: WSL
Tyler (left) and Owen Wright, dreaming of spice. Photo: WSL

Surf Olympian Owen Wright details horror childhood hothouse from pre-dawn family kung-fu sessions to flavorless vegetable dinners!

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.

Per the piece:

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.”

Buy Against the Water here.

Surfer-hero “Gordo the Great” reunites with Ukrainian nurse he saved from wild seas, “I just said ‘jump on’ and we paddled like gladiators!”

“She was in the most dangerous spot imaginable. I looked around and the only person who’s going to save her is me."

The larger-than-life surf cinematographer John “Gordo the Great” Gordon has been reunited with the Ukrainian nurse whose life he saved in a wild battle of “underwater jiujitsu” six months ago.

Gordo, sixty-one but presenting with excellent T levels and smelling like a locker room, filmed the world surfing tour for twenty years before being dumped by the World Surf League, inexplicably and without warning last year.

Gordo’s filmic career is marked by awards, acclaim etc. He worked for the Seven News network in Queensland for two decades, in between gigs with Jack McCoy and his series of iconic Billabong films, before shifting into surf full-time.

So when a Gold Coast-based Ukrainian nurse jumped into the water at Fingal up there on the NSW side of the border with the Gold Coast and Gordo saw her being washed around the headland, he wasn’t going to stand by and wait for Superman.

A day to blow or get blown!

“She was in the most dangerous spot imaginable. I looked around and the only person who’s going to save her is me,” said Gordo, who described trying to rescue the gal as like “underwater jiujitsu.”

The nurse, Liv Titor said:“I couldn’t believe it. I stepped into nothing and it got me straight away. Johnny jumped in with his surfboard, told me to hang on and said we’ll get through it together. And that’s what we did.”

Six months on, both of ‘em still have flashbacks about the event, Gordo haunted by what might’ve happened if he wasn’t there and Liv, nightmares about being back in the water and having her legs pulled out from under her by a ferocious current.

“I only took two steps into the water and I just felt this pull in my legs and it just took me around the rocks and out,” she told Channel Nine.

Now, Gordo plans on getting Liv back in the water before she’s sunk by fear of the ocean.

“We’re going to get back out there ’cause the ocean has got so much to offer, it’s so great but you’ve got to respect her.”

Ultra-positive New Jersey blogger Ben Gravy takes dark turn, signals intent to maim and disfigure his most ardent fans!

End further nigh.

Movie star handsome Ben Gravy is, without doubt, one of the most famous surfers on earth. Without need or use of the “global home of surfing,” also knows as the World Surf League, the 35-year-old New Jersey native has built a massive following based upon his positivity and an everyman vibe that translates from Burlington to Beaverton to Bakersfield.

Ardent fans have made his vlog the most popular surf channel of all, eclipsing the hard-charging likes of Nathan Florence and Koa Smith. His “pineapple wearing shades” logo is regularly seen out in the wild, adorning button-down shirts, soda coozies and beach towels, but to name a few products.

Safe at every speed.

Though it appears the lantern-jaw’d looker is taking a dark turn. For today, I attended the Boardroom Show in Del Mar. It is the only fun convention I’ve ever been to that didn’t feature Ashton Goggans, a feast of sights, sounds, conversations. Jamie Brisick ate a falafel hamburger. Devon Howard had me feel the rails of a 9-foot + longboard.

And Ben Gravy has begun selling hard boards.

Hard as in concussion-giving glass n foam, artery-slashing fins, poked-out eyeballs.

Sliding death.

Gravy had much success, maybe most success, in the soft-top market previously. Boards so fun and playful that they could only bring a smile to face while never busting out teeth.

Glass n foam though?

In his most ardent fans’ hands?

Body bags already being ordered and shipped to Upper Trestles.

David Lee Scales and I talked about the Boardroom Show, anyhow, during our weekly chat, and it really does live up to its billing. It runs again tomorrow and if you are anywhere near Del Mar, where the surf meets the turf, or maybe vice versa, swing by.

Get inspired and listen here.

Vulnerable adult learner fingers forecasting giant Surfline as main force behind “surfers selling out to the man!”

"Should you be optimizing your job around your surfing or should you do the opposite way around?"

Any surfer who has wandered the radio dial, whilst stuck in traffic, and stumbled upon the National Public Radio program Marketplace has, certainly, been entranced. Its host, Kai Ryssdal, spent eight years in the Navy then more in the U.S. Foreign Service, became a reporter and finally host of the business-centric, beloved show.

Ryssdal’s broad knowledge, professionalism and keen understanding soothes nerves otherwise frayed by bad drivers, though, one of his recent guests left the aforementioned wave sliders distraught.

Caroline Mimbs Nyce, who covers technology for The Atlantic, has just begun to surf, a classic vulnerable adult learner, and fallen in disturbing love with the forecasting giant Surfline.

Ryssdal, who proudly states he does not surf nor cares to learn (smart), begins the conversation with “Anyway, so you’re a beginning surfer, and …”

Before Mimbs Nyce takes over and declares, “A beginner surfer and I had just been fascinated about how quickly my life started to revolve around this website called Surfline. And my weekends, and all of my schedule basically, is me planning to go out and surf based on when this website tells me that it’s ideal to.”

Ryssdal wants to know what this “Surfline” is, how it works.

Mimbs Nyce shares, “So Surfline is, at its core, a wave-forecasting website. They have a thousand cameras, millions of people use it to plan where and when to go out. So just before we started talking, I looked up Malibu. Looks like it’s a cruddy couple of days in Malibu. In addition to doing these forecasts, they partner with the World Surf League in order to decide when professional contests are held. They blog about upcoming swells and recent good waves that people have caught. So it’s sort of a full-scale media company and I found that surfers have a love-hate relationship with it.”

Ryssdal wants to get into the “love-hate thing” and Mimbs Nyce obliges, saying, “Pretty much since Surfline has existed, it’s been polarizing. I think that this really gets at a question of the spirit of the sport. Is surfing about everyone being able to get out in the water? Is this a cheat code to only go when it’s really ideal? A lot of surfing used to be related to counterculture, as well. Should you be optimizing your job around your surfing or should you do the opposite way around?”

Ryssdal, getting to the very heart of the matter, wonders, “Has surfing sold out to the man?”

Mimbs Nyce stalls but Ryssdal presses because she is a surfer. She decides she likes all the new people, like her, in the water and the commercialization and the colored bits of Surfline, yellow for ok, green for good etc. In the end, optimizing surfing around job.

There we have it.

The gorgeous Haydenshapes surfboard factory in Sydney, destroyed by fire.

Thirty firefighters fail to save “world’s most beautiful” surfboard shaper’s iconic Sydney factory

Haydenshapes' spectacular Mona Vale factory destroyed by fire…

A couple of weeks back your ol pal DR spent a delightful hour or so shooting the breeze with the shaper Hayden Cox and his biz partner, marketing whiz wife Dani at their factory in Mona Vale, Sydney.

It ain’t hard to admire this pair. There’s Hayden, the sunny faced forty-one-year-old with a boyish face and his rock star chic gal Dani who still own a biz that could’ve fallen into investors’ paws years back, pouring their hearts into a conga-line of new ventures. For these kids, it’s all sweat equity.

And the factory is spectacular, what you might call a paradoxical minimalist grandeur. The pair proudly showed me through the place, their baby, with its concrete floors, the soaring ceilings and its acres of glass.

I wasn’t surprised. The couple has collabed with Audi, Alexander Wang, IWC watches, Dion Lee, Mr Porter (for their eponymous surfwear brand) as well as making resin furniture for high-end Australian brand SP01.

So it’s a little heartbreaking to hear the joint went up in flames earlier today, thirty firefighters and hazmat crews “racing to control a fire belching enormous billows of smoke…but the well-known surfboard factory the fire sparked within was destroyed.”

The Haydenshapes factory at Tengah Crescent lit up in the late afternoon, although a cause has yet to be determined. One staff member was treated for burns.

Hayden started Haydenshapes in 1997 when he was twenty-two, and who wrote a best-selling book seven years ago called New Wave Vision about his climb to the top.

I described it back then as “a wonderful story of a driven kid who shucks the expectations of his family (accountancy!) to learn to shape, build a surfboard company, create a unique method of surfboard construction and, eventually, be feted by icons as diverse as Audi and Alexander Wang. A tough biz-man, sure, and…oowee… a little sensitive to the inconsequential yapping of critics, but his advice, his thoughts, are compelling… as a window into a young shaper’s rise, fall and rise, of the challenges of the surfboard game, of defiance in the face of unsupportive parents, of making your way in the world on your own terms, it works.”