Dec 21 (Reuters) - Australian Tyler Wright won the first women’s tour title at Hawaii’s famed Pipeline break on Sunday after the World Surf League event was moved because of fatal shark attack on a recreational surfer at the original venue.
Wright’s victory in the Maui Pro was followed by another breakthrough triumph when John John Florence finally claimed a win at his home break, having first competed in the Pipeline Masters as a 13-year-old prodigy in 2005.
The events at the dangerous reef break on O’ahu’s North Shore marked the return of the WSL tour after a year when travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 prevented any action on the circuit, but they were not without complications.
The shark attack on the 56-year-old surfer at Maui’s Honolulu Bay earlier this month forced organisers to relocate the women’s event and the Pipeline Masters had to be suspended when the WSL’s chief executive and other officials tested positive for COVID-19.
Wright edged Hawaii’s four-times world champion Carissa Moore in Sunday’s final and the significance of winning her second Maui Pro at Pipeline was not lost on her.
“We got this opportunity through tragedy, it’s devastating what happened at Maui,” said the 26-year-old.
“I definitely don’t take this for granted, to have this opportunity today is something truly special.”
For twice world champion Wright, it was only a second event in nearly three years after injury and a battle with chronic fatigue syndrome all but wiped out her 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Florence overcame 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater in the semis before beating Brazilian arch rival Gabriel Medina in the final for his first win at the Pipeline Masters.
After missing much of his 2019 season due to a knee injury, the win for Florence lays down a marker for the inaugural Olympic competition at the Tokyo Games next year.
“To win out here, I’m super stoked,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say.” (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Lincoln Feast)