ADVERTISEMENT
Owen Wright taking the drop at Pipeline in contest surrounded by photographers
Owen jagged himself a wildcard for next year. Photo: Joli.

READ: The WSL and The Wily Wildcard Tactics

The CT Golden Tickets have been handed out. The Wright Guy gets one?

The WSL has just revealed the 2022 season wildcards, formerly known as an injury wildcard, and they haven’t necessarily gone with the most objectively deserving of candidates. I mean, the WSL hasn’t done anything too dissimilar to previous years where they have operated as a business and favoured the surfer who will generate the most revenue instead of the surfer who may be the most objectively deserving of the position. Previous examples of commercial bias include Kelly Slater receiving the spot over Caio Ibelli in 2019. Kelly, the obvious favourite in the eyes of the WSL marketing team, missed 8 of the 11 events that year and copped criticism for surfing his Surf Ranch event (where he placed 3rd). Kelly notably chased swells across the globe that year despite withdrawing from events citing the foot injury he sustained at the 2017 J-Bay Open. Poor Caio suffered a serious injury at the Margeret River contest. He broke his leg while free surfing outside the event (maybe if he was in a singlet the call would have been different) and still got snubbed for the wildcard position. Previous wildcard spots influenced by star-appeal include Mikey Wright and his famous mullet and Dane Reynolds back in 2015, two of the more popular surfers in the world. Is it fair? No. Does it make sense? Yes.

Kolohe Andino doing an air reverse in competition
Kolohe Andino has been allocated a season wildcard for 2022. Photo: WSL

The WSL hasn’t gone all 2019 on us with the wildcards this year. In fact, the recipients seem quite deserving for the most part. You have Kolohe Andino and Lakey Peterson receiving slots for legitimate injuries sustained last season, causing them to miss five events, respectively. The final two wildcard spots were handed to Owen Wright and Malia Manuel. Malia is the logical choice for the second female wildcard; she has close to 10 years of CT experience and was the first surfer outside the requalification cut off, so awarding her the spot seems valid. However, things get a bit contentious with Owen Wright’s wildcard. On the one hand, Owen had a fantastic competitive year (away from the WSL). He qualified to represent Australia at surfing’s inaugural Olympic games and used his long, wiry frame to out-grovel Medina in the lacklustre conditions at Tsurigasaki Beach and received a Bronze medal. A feat that will no doubt be his most memorable to date, especially after suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2015, leaving him struggling to walk, let alone surf. On the other hand, though, Owen had a bit of a shocker on tour this year. Owen finished equal 25th with Caio Ibelli and the requalification cut off is at 20, so he wasn’t exactly close to requalifying on his own steam. However, it would seem Owen has luck on his side this year with three surfers in the top 20 choosing to either retire or have a rest from competing, leaving just one surfer, Matthew McGillivray, ahead of him. The South African rookie didn’t exactly make an impact, but he still beat Owen.

Lakey Peterson with a re-entry at the surf ranch
Lakey Peterson has received a season wildcard for next year after being injured for most of 2021. Photo: WSL

So, with Owen, Matthew and Caio all having a similar claim to the wildcard slot, why did Owen get it? It seems simple, Owen brings in the most $$$ and interest and has a proven track record with multiple CT wins. You do have to feel for Caio Ibelli, though. He has missed out twice.

Dr V Powered By Nature

SUBSCRIBE TO TRACKS

A bi-monthly eclectic tome of tangible
surfing goodness that celebrates all
things surfing, delivered to your door!

SUBSCRIBE TO TRACKS

A bi-monthly eclectic tome of tangible surfing goodness that celebrates all things surfing, delivered to your door!

LATEST

When surfing drops in on your favourite TV show.

We're all dreaming about a trip to Bali but ...

How Matt Haymes conquered the COVID blues by hitting the water

This will make you want to surf

PREMIUM FEATURES

The Emotional Response That Conquers All

Title: The Surfers Eye

Derek Ho – First Hawaiian Surfing World Champion 1993

When Dakoda Walters Takes Off, You Can’t Look Away.

TRACKS PREMIUM

Get full access to every feature from our print issues, read classic Tracks issues from the 70s, 80s and 90’s, watch all of our classic films & more …

TRACKS PREMIUM

Get full access to every feature from our print issues, read classic Tracks issues from the 70s, 80s and 90’s, watch all of our classic films & more …

CLASSIC ISSUES

PREMIUM FILM

PRINT STORE

Unmistakable and iconic, the Tracks covers from the 70s & 80s are now ready for your walls.

Tracks