Tyler Wright: SurferToday named the Australian surfer Athlete of the Year 2020 | Photo: WSL

Australian surfer Tyler Wright has been named "Athlete of the Year 2020" by SurferToday.

For the first time in its history, SurferToday decided to highlight a single athlete instead of four recipients, representing surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, and bodyboarding.

There are two main reasons for this unprecedented format change.

The first one is the global pandemic that hit the world.

In 2020, almost all competitions were canceled, and a large majority of athletes were forced to stay at home and/or avoid participating in sports activities.

But the most important reason for naming a single "Athlete of the Year 2020" is that Tyler Wright was the only water sports professional who publicly raised her voice against two plagues that spread throughout the world - racism and sexual orientation discrimination.

Actions matter.

Tyler Wright: alone by herself, taking a knee for Black Lives Matter and against racism | Photo: WSL

Alone With Everybody: Black Lives Matter

The death of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman shocked the world and uncovered a global problem that can only be addressed with drastic actions.

Wright, 26, was one of the few professional surfers who understood that we need more than words to ban racism from all society and all human activities.

She took a knee before paddling out at the Tweed Coast Pro with a clear message written on her surfboard - Black Lives Matter.

While many other pro surfers wrote blunt, politically correct words on their social media accounts, Tyler Wright stood alone on the beach in solidarity with the black community.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the Australian honored surfing's spirit and roots.

We strongly believe Wright is on the right side of life and history. And it's not just been a random, isolated example.

It's OK Not To Be OK

When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March, Tyler spoke openly about the public panic attack she had suffered while preparing for the first heat of the year.

"My trauma triggers and flashbacks collide with my fear and anxiety. I wasn't okay, and I needed help," Tyler Wright wrote on March 17, 2020.

"There's a few people I can call when I know I need it. I'm aware of why I have these, and I no longer try to hide them or suppress them (and act tough to cope)."

"I've found that's created a sort of shame around my emotions/feelings. And I'm not ashamed of me."

Mental health issues have taken lives that could've been saved if people were encouraged to book an appointment with a psychologist.

And the pandemic is making everything worse, so we really need to make sure to everybody around us that it's okay not to be okay.

Tyler Wright: the Australian surfer will carry both the Australian and LGBTQ+ flags on her competition jersey throughout 2021 | Photo: WSL

Courage and Freedom

Finally, in December, during the Maui Pro finals, Tyler Wright took another unprecedented decision - to publicly announce that she is a bisexual woman competing in the elite of surfing.

The rare and bold move among professional male and female surfers will surely open a new chapter in the history of surfing, a sport that is proud, promotes itself, and legitimately epitomizes the concept of freedom.

Once again, her words reflect a consequence.

Tyler Wright will carry both the Australian and LGBTQ+ flags on her competition jersey throughout 2021.

The Australian surfer ended up winning the Tweed Coast Pro and the Maui Pro, proving that, despite the pandemic, she was the most in-form female surfer of the year.

But, especially in 2020, that's the least important part of this year's SurferToday "Athlete of the Year" message.

We - the staff - were inspired.

Tyler Wright is on the bright of life. Let us all follow in her footsteps.

As she once wrote, "surfing is for everyone."

Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

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