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Tyler Wright considered putting world title campaign on hold after brother Owen Wright's brain injury.

Reigning surfing world champion Tyler Wright has revealed she nearly quit the championship tour after her brother Owen Wright was seriously injured during a warm-up surf at Pipeline in Hawaii.

“I was at crossroads a lot of the time because I could have easily said, ‘I’m pulling out of the 2016 season to look after Owen’, and I wouldn’t have had a problem with that, I would have done it,” she said.

Former world-number-three Owen suffered a traumatic brain injury and minor brain bleed after being pummelled by waves at Banzai Pipeline in December 2015, the day before the Pipeline Masters event began.

In his first major interview since the accident, Owen told Australian Story he asked Tyler to stay with him in Hawaii, because he had a feeling “something would happen”.

“I was like, ‘I feel like I’m going really good Tyler, something is gonna happen, I feel it. Don’t know what it is, you’ve got to stay’,” he said.

Three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning was out in the line-up with Owen that morning.

They both caught a couple of waves, and then sat on their boards waiting for the next set.

“When the next wave came he [Wright] was probably 10 feet in front of me and we both just duck-dived it, and I got rag-dolled and shaken around a fair bit,” Fanning said.

“I looked back and he was 20 feet behind me. And I didn’t really think anything of it, I just thought, ‘oh, maybe he just got stuck in the wrong spot’.”

They caught one more wave, then paddled in and walked back up to the house. Everything seemed fine.

Tyler made Owen breakfast, and then feeling exhausted after the morning session, he went to have a nap.

When he woke up he couldn’t move.

Mick said Owen was crying and going in and out of consciousness.

“When that happened I was like, ‘wow, this is really serious, this is actually a lot worse than what we really thought’.”

Tyler pushes surfing aside to care for Owen

Tyler said Owen looked “panicked” when he woke up in Hawaii.

“You could tell in his eyes. My brother never looks panicked. He’s always been very calm and collected under most situations. In his eyes, his eyes, it was like, the scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Tyler went with him to the hospital in Hawaii, and at 21, she instinctively moved into the role of primary carer.

“She was adamant that everything had to go through her,” Fanning said.

“She became nurse, mother, sister, and that’s a lot to take on for any person.”

Tyler slept on hospital floors. She listened to the doctors and made medical decisions on Owen’s behalf. And she credits her mum with allowing her to do it.

“Normally it would be a mum that would come in and do all that stuff,” she said.

“But I have an enormous amount of respect for her, that she actually let me learn these lessons in life, and how hard it must have been for her to let one of her younger kids take [that] on.

“I made a lot of mistakes. Also, I did OK because he didn’t die, so that was sweet,” she laughed.

Renowned for her carefree attitude on the world tour, just two months before her brother’s injury Tyler had shocked her competitors by declaring she was finally getting serious — she was going to win her maiden world title in 2016.

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But that declaration seemed a distant memory in the hospital in Hawaii.

“I’d even talked to my mum about retiring. I came to an incredible point of just, whichever decision I made I was comfortable with,” Tyler said.

But as the months passed and Tyler had not been near a beach, she began to realise that pulling out of the tour was not the right thing to do.

Owen loved life and embracing opportunities. He would not want her to quit.

“Owen would have told her to go out there and do her best, go and compete and have fun, rather than stick around and just stay by his side the whole time,” eldest Wright brother Tim said.

Owen confronts fears in return to professional surfing

Nine months later Owen was watching his sister on the webcast fulfilling her dream, claiming the 2016 women’s world title in France.

“Knowing how much Tyler had grown up on tour, it was a really proud moment for me. A lot of family love, a massive, massive moment for sure,” Owen said.

Owen is still recovering from his injury both emotionally and physically, and is not yet ready to talk publicly about the aftermath of the accident.

Despite this, he made an extraordinary return to competition earlier this month, at the World Surf League season opening event at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast.

“I think I cried for about 15 minutes after it was done. But yeah, big moment. A year can change a lot,” Tyler said.

Then, in a moment no-one predicted, Owen went on to win the event.

Afterwards he put his win down to “dad strength”, having become a father to a baby boy named Vali in December.

Tyler and youngest sibling Mikey Wright were knocked out in earlier rounds at the event, but they were right at the shoreline to chair their brother up the beach to celebrate his win.

“I had to confront every fear just to get back here,” Owen said.

“To get back to the sport that pretty much took me out, and could have taken me out forever.

“I’m just over the moon.”

Watch ‘All For The Family’ on Australian Story, 8:00pm on ABC TV.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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