Australian Owen Wright claims fairytale comeback Quiksilver Pro victory
Matt Wilkinson said it best.
He was competing against more than the ocean in the all-Australian final of the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper Rocks on Sunday.
His opponent and close friend Owen Wright had ridden a wave of emotion all the way to the decider in his first elite-level event since suffering a serious brain injury in 2015 while competing for the overall world title at the Pipeline in Hawaii.
As recently as February, Wright had still not received the all-clear from his doctors to return to the World Surf League tour.
But he's returned and in the best possible style - claiming a 14.66 points to 13.50 triumph over fellow goofy-footer Wilkinson, the defending Quiksilver Pro champion.
"I'm just so stoked," said Wright, whose younger sister, reigning women's world champ Tyler Wright, helped chair him up the beach on Sunday.
"To be in that final with Wilko, he's one of my best mates.
"We just had a great time. It went back and forth and turned out my way but I'm sure there's another one down the track that will turn out his way."
Wright gave thanks to everyone in the surfing community who had supported him during his recovery.
"I think it was the start of February - I was sitting in the doctor's office and there were question marks on the year," he said.
"So to be sitting here right now, we just pushed hard and went hard and confronted every fear of getting back into it.
"There were a lot of questions of getting back into the sport and back into pretty much what took me out and could have taken me out forever.
"I just kept going and kept doing it."
Wright and Wilkinson are regular practice partners and they joked in recent weeks about the prospect of squaring off in the final on the Gold Coast.
"For him to be in this event was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen," Wilkinson said.
"And to win it, I couldn't have asked for a better person to beat me.
"I obviously wanted to win but he has inspired so much over the last few months and last year, watching him go through everything he did was the hardest thing I've ever seen.
"... I think I was competing against a bit more than the ocean out there."
Wright also beat another great mate, triple world champ Mick Fanning, in the third round.
"It relaxed me a little bit. I felt more comfortable against them for some reason," Wright said.
"There has been such a beautiful energy coming my way at this event and throughout the whole injury."