IN the space of one wave, Lennox Head surfer Owen Wright went from being top of the world to not knowing which way was up or down.
Wright is still recovering from a massive wipe-out that ruined his very real chance of taking out last month’s Rip Curl Pro Search event in Portugal.
The 19-year-old perforated his eardrum, which caused much of his initial disorientation, but that turned out to be the least of his problems.
Back in Australia, he’s still doing the rounds of medical appointments and scans for a neck problem and a knee injury which may require surgery to fix.
The best case for a ‘speedy’ recovery is about two-and-a-half-weeks before he can compete again.
But a longer lay-off looms as Wright wants to make sure that he’s ready for an all-out assault on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) world tour next year.
Wright showed he was more than up to the task in Portugal, riding his confidence and natural talent to his second heat victory over nine-time world champion Kelly Slater this year.
He made it all the way through to the quarter-finals, where he was pitted against American Damien Hobgood.
Incredibly, Wright won, scoring a perfect 10, but was forced to leave the water 13 minutes early after getting barrelled by a two-metre wave.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is a really good wave’ and I was excited about getting on it, but I was too far in and I was late to take off and I went straight down,” Wright said.
“I remember dropping and that’s it, the next thing I was on the shore.
“I was actually getting washed around in the whitewash and lot of the guys on shore told me that I was under the water a long time.
“I was trying to get up but I was just spinning. I couldn’t tell which way was up.
“When I was underwater my ear was filled with water and it was messing with my equilibrium and I had no sense of direction
“Once I was back on land everything came back pretty quickly but if I shut my eyes I would just fall straight over.
“I wanted to go back out there but they put fingers in my ears and there was blood in there so they said, ‘You’re done’.”
Wright would have met fellow Australian Mick Fanning in the semi-finals but he wasn’t allowed back in the water.
“I had a great event,” Wright said.
“I had some really tough heats against Kelly and Dane Reynolds and then Damien Hobgood and then went from getting a 10 on the best wave I’ve ever had in a heat to getting smashed in the next couple of minutes.
“It was definitely an up and down event and I would have loved to have contested the rest of it.
“It would have been great to compete against Mick Fanning but I didn’t get to be there.
“But at least I know that I’ll be there next year.
“When I was young I watched the world tour and I thought it was amazing and I thought it would be so cool to surf on the world tour.
“The dream has definitely happened a lot quicker than I thought.”