Each week, Benjamin Law asks public figures to discuss the subjects we’re told to keep private by getting them to roll a die. The numbers they land on are the topics they’re given. This week, he talks to Tyler Wright. The Australian professional surfer, 28, is a two-time world champion. After two years out of the sport through illness, in April she won the World Surf League event at Victoria’s famed Bells Beach.


You’ve previously described aspects of the pro surfing world as “a f…ing sausage fest” and talked about feeling at odds with a surfing culture that sexualises and demeans women. Can you expand? As a young girl becoming a woman in surfing – 12 years ago – it was an era of “sex sells”: “We want sexy, straight, blonde, female surfers.” I was clearly not that. I’m built like an athlete, I’m not straight, I don’t have blonde hair. And while men were allowed to go out and be athletes – and get paid for doing it – a lot of women weren’t. It’s funny: the minute equal pay came to the World Surf League, some of the hardest-working women went from being non-sponsored and non-backed to high world rankings. If you invest in women, you’ll see them excel.

You came out as bisexual in an interview with 60 Minutes in 2020. Had you already had that discussion with the important people in your life? Honestly, there was no conversation. One day, I just rocked up [with a date] and my family were like, “Yeah, cool” – and that was it. The reason I came out was because surfing should be progressive, and I’ve always found it to be conservative.

Are you partnered, or single and ready to mingle? I’m partnered and about to get married.

Congratulations! Tell me about your partner. Lily is just a vibe. She was working in a cafe in Newcastle [in 2021] when I was in town for a contest. I felt so respected and appreciated [by her]. Eventually, I asked her out, she said yes and here we are.

What sealed the deal for you? There’s an ease and openness. There’s genuineness, love, respect and appreciation. Being with someone who encourages you to be more you is always a good time.


Do you ever fear death when you’re in the surf? Yeah, I’m scared all the time. But I don’t really associate death with my job. I know, at certain times, that surfing is an extreme sport. We have to sit with that to a certain extent, but not all the time.

In 2015, your older brother, Owen – also a surfer – suffered a life-threatening brain injury at the Pipeline Masters, off Ehukai Beach Park in Hawaii. Did that shake your confidence? For sure; that was the first thing that really rocked it. There’ve been a few instances that have brought me and my siblings close to death, and it’s shocking. An important thing for me [to know] is that when I approach those waves, I always have a choice. I can do all the preparation, I can put myself on the spot but, ultimately, I can choose [whether to go ahead or not].

In 2018, you got influenza A, which caused you to develop chronic fatigue syndrome. You were in bed for months. Did you feel as if your career was dead? Yeah. But more so, I thought I was gonna die. When the doctors who are treating you say, “We’ve just injected you with something, you should feel better in 30 minutes” – and you don’t, it’s scary. Honestly, I thought my career was done. I just wanted to be able to walk downstairs, cook a meal or have a conversation and not be in constant pain. Now I understand what a virus can do to the body; we’re all a little more aware of that now since the pandemic.

What was the breakthrough for you? Was it just time? We discovered that the virus had got into my brain. My heart rate was over 110 just standing up. When I tried to balance, I’d fall flat on my face. Eventually, the symptoms were so [clearly] brain-related that I ended up in neuro rehab. It took me probably a year and a half. That was the real breakthrough.

How has coming so close to death changed how you live your life? Sometimes, I’m like, “We should think about consequences.” It slows me down a little bit and I really struggle with being slow. But overall, it’s like, I hung out with myself a lot: I got to know myself pretty well through that process. But sometimes I get frustrated, that I can’t just go, “Oh, she’ll be right.”

Turns out you’re a human being. When I discovered that? Absolutely shocked!


At 14, you became the youngest surfer to win an Association of Surfing Professionals [now World Surf League] World Champion Tour. How much of that skill is innate and how much is down to training? It’s hard to say. There’s natural talent – and then there’s hard work.

You need both, right? You need both. Natural talent won’t get you that far, but the right support and people – giving you really good guidance on where to take your body and how to respect it – will.

What have been your worst injuries? I’ve only ever had – touch wood! – two lots of stitches from surfing. I’ve had a haematoma on my hip and once, coral went from one side of my thumb into my nail. That was a fun one. I’ve ripped my MCL [medial collateral ligament, in the knee] off the bone and had a meniscus tear. They’re things you just get over with time. You have to balance out the sport’s impact with training, yoga, Pilates.

You’ve talked about feeling pressure to fit a narrow ideal of feminine beauty. Do you still feel that? No, I started realising that those elements of [surfing culture] are really narrow-minded.

What helped you give fewer f…s about this stuff? Honestly? I just looked to great women. I stopped looking at men. People are almost scared to talk about women’s strength.

CREDIT: Benjamin Law – SMH (Good Weekend)

Contact Us

A: 13-15 Little Burton St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
P: +61 2 9332 9111

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top