Owen Wright announces retirement as surfing world pays tribute to Aussie hero

The Aussie Olympic bronze medallist will compete in one final event at Bells Beach next month.

Owen Wright, pictured here in the World Surfing League.
Owen Wright has announced his retirement from professional surfing. Image: Getty

The surfing world is paying tribute to Owen Wright after the Aussie Olympic bronze medallist announced his professional retirement from the sport on Wednesday. The 33-year-old isn't competing on this year's World Surf League tour, but will use the upcoming Bells Beach classic as his final event.

Wright failed to qualify for this year's WSL tour after a format change introduced in 2022 meant the elite field is now cut in half midway through the season. He opted not to compete on the lower-tier Challenger series, which could have helped him regain entry into the top-level tour.

SAD CALL: Kelly Slater to retire from surfing after 2024 Olympics

INCREDIBLE: Fans erupt over John John Florence's 'magical' moment

The father of two, whose sister is two-time world champion Tyler Wright, finished joint-fifth at the Rip Curl Bells Beach last year. He was granted a wildcard for the 2023 edition as a result, allowing him to bow out with one final event. This year's edition will get underway at the famous Victorian break from Tuesday, April 4.

Owen Wright, pictured here with his bronze medal in surfing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Owen Wright (L) won a bronze medal in surfing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

Wright won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as surfing made its debut at the Olympics. The remarkable achievement capped off Wright's inspirational comeback to the sport after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a wipe-out at Hawaii's Pipeline in 2015.

He had to learn to walk and surf again, and eventually rejoined the top tour in 2017. He managed to win his first event back, on the Gold Coast, and also won in Tahiti in 2019.

In announcing his retirement, Wright said he was doing what he felt was right for his health. "After my traumatic brain injury in 2015, my desire to prove to myself and the world that I could still be great and overcome this life-threatening incident inspired my recovery," Wright said in a WSL statement on Wednesday.

Owen Wright, pictured here with wife Kita.
Owen Wright with wife Kita. Image: Getty

"Now eight years later, after challenges and accomplishments, I can look back happily, knowing I achieved that goal. Given my recent history with head injuries and concussions, competing at some of the heaviest waves on the planet is no longer in the best interest of my long-term health.

"I excelled in these conditions over my career, but the risks associated with this type of surfing are too significant for someone in my position, given my medical history. I will not retire from surfing altogether - just from surfing heavy waves. I hope to keep surfing for the rest of my life; I love surfing and thank the sport for everything I have."

Surfing world reacts to news about Owen Wright

Wright won four events on the WSL tour throughout his career after making his debut back in 2010. He became the first competitor to surf two perfect heats in one event, scoring 10.0 at the Fiji Pro at Cloudbreak in 2015.

Wright said he hoped to continue to use his platform to promote awareness about brain injury and concussion in athletes. Fans and commentators flocked to social media on Wednesday to pay tribute to the Aussie star and his career. Many were left saddened that they won't be seeing him on tour anymore.

with AAP

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.