Good news for fans of high performance surfing this morning with the welcome news that Mick Fanning is returning to fray, after a year scoring epic free surfs, and Owen Wright has accepted the injury wildcard to return after the long recovery from his head injury.
Full releases below. The Quik Pro on the Goldie will see them both don the jersey from March 14…
Mick Fanning (AUS), 3x World Surf League (WSL) Champion, today announced his return to full-time competition on the elite WSL Championship Tour.
“I’ve decided to come back to competition full time and do the Tour this season,” Fanning said. “It was nice to have 2016 off somewhat and decompress, but I’m excited to put the singlet on again.”
The iconic Australian stepped back from full-time competition last year following a 2015 season that witnessed the world-famous shark attack at the J-Bay Open, the loss of his older brother Peter and an emotional Runner-Up finish to the title race.
“2015 was a tough year,” Fanning said. “A lot happened to me on camera and in my personal life. I just felt exhausted by the end of it. Fortunately, I was in a position to step away from the Tour and have some time to myself. I ended up doing a few events and qualifying which was great because I didn’t want to take the wildcard off of Bede (Durbidge) or Owen (Wright). I’m coming into 2017 seeded 18th which will be a change for me.”
The decision to return to the tour in 2017 wasn’t one that Fanning took lightly, but the caliber of of surfers taking part on the Championship Tour this season proved motivation enough.
“Even with the 2017 season looming, I wasn’t sure I was motivated enough to take part,” Fanning said. “However, like everyone else I’m getting super excited about this year’s line-up of surfers – it might be the best field from the top seed to number 34 we’ve ever had. I also think it’s the biggest group of legit title contenders we’ve ever seen on the tour ever and I want to be part of the race.”
With 22 elite CT wins to his name and three WSL Titles, Fanning is one of the most accomplished surfers to ever grace the sport, but the lightning-fast natural-footer believes he has more to accomplish.
“The most important thing to me is to me is making sure my surfing keeps evolving and the tour, now more than ever, is the best place to do that.” Fanning said. “In recent years I managed to find good balance between competitive focus and having fun. Getting switched on for events this year will be the key for me. I don’t think it will be a problem. It’s not in my nature to be half-hearted so now that I’m committed I’ll be doing everything I can to get a win.”
Kelly Slater (USA), 11x WSL Champion, has already confirmed his own commitment to chasing an unprecedented 12th Title in 2017 and considers Fanning a major threat.
“If Mick (Fanning) is in 100% I’d put him right at the top of the heap,” Slater said. “You’d be silly to not think Mick is Top 3 in the world right now. All things considered. Having won at so many different breaks and being so dominant at places like Bells and Jeffreys Bay, there’s no way he’s not a contender.”
Owen Wright (AUS) has confirmed that he will accept the wildcard for the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), following a year-long absence from competition after suffering a serious head injury whilst surfing Pipeline, on Oahu’s North Shore, in December 2015.
“I’m so thankful for the support of my friends and family, my sponsors, the WSL and all the people in the community who sent positive thoughts to me throughout my recovery,” Wright said. “I’m feeling stronger every day and I’m very much looking forward to returning to the Tour and further honing my fitness and surfing throughout the 2017 season.”
Wright, who finished the 2015 CT season at No. 5 on the Jeep Leaderboard, made his return to competitive surfing last month at the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro QS 6,000 and will rejoin the world’s best at the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast, which gets underway on March 14th, 2017. Wright will face Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Ethan Ewing (AUS) in Round 1 of competition.
“Owen Wright is one of the most electric and powerful surfers to ever grace the tour,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. “Following his injury in December of 2015, the WSL’s priority was Owen’s well-being and, if he were to return to competition, a healthy return to the sport. After assessing his performance and health after a QS event earlier in the season, Owen has accepted the WSL Wildcard for the 2017 season. We’re happy to have him back.”
Wright’s younger sister, Tyler Wright (AUS), enters the 2017 season as the reigning WSL Women’s Champion and Wright’s younger brother Mikey Wright (AUS) has been awarded a wildcard into the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast for the second year running.
The remaining men’s wildcard and the women’s wildcard will be decided by a trials event on Monday, March 13th.
This season’s Championship Tour lineup sees an unprecedented number of men’s and women’s WSL Champions in the competitive field: Kelly Slater (USA), Mick Fanning (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and John John Florence (HAW) on the men’s side and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW) and Tyler Wright (AUS) on the women’s side.