As people ran toward the water, he grabbed his phone and started filming to document her rescue. But he realized it soon might be too late to help her.
So Wright handed his phone and beer to his wife, took off his shirt, hopped a fence and sprinted toward the water.
Within minutes, Wright had pulled the woman out from the water, with help from other bystanders on the beach, his sister’s guidance and their lifesaving surfing experience.
After posting a video of the dramatic rescue to his Instagram account, Wright has been hailed a hero. The surfer said he was just in the “wrong place at the right time.”
“I didn’t question if I was in danger,” Wright, 24, told ABC’s “World News Tonight” over Zoom Saturday. “I just knew that she needed help.”
Wright, an Australian currently in Hawaii for surf competitions, was on Oahu’s North Shore, a stretch popular among surfers due to its big waves.
The woman had been taking a video from dry rocks, Wright said, when a “freak” 15-foot wave dragged her out into the ocean.
“This lady was in a very tricky situation,” Wright said. “Even for a confident person in the water, that’s not somewhere you want to be.”
Wright said he assessed how to best approach the woman to avoid the jagged volcanic rocks and 15-foot swells. His sister, who followed him to the water, also helped alert him to when waves were “doubling up.”
“We had to jump over it, because when a wave doubles up like that, it’s got the force of two waves,” he said. “It has like double the strength.”
Once they were back on the sand, Wright and his sister checked to make sure the woman was OK and wasn’t knocked around or cut up too much. Luckily, she mostly just had a graze on her wrist, while he made it out with only some scratches down his back, Wright said.
“We came out pretty, pretty lucky,” he said.
By that point, the woman’s son had also joined them and thanked him for saving her, Wright said.
“We stayed there for a little while just to make sure she was OK,” Wright said. “She was just very thankful.”
“I think she knew she was in a bad situation,” he added.
Wright fittingly captioned the video of the rescue on his Instagram account with “Hold my beer.” In the first part of the footage, several people can be seen running to help the woman as she struggles in the water.
“They’re going to get saved,” Wright says, before handing the phone to his wife.
“You can’t save him,” someone can be heard saying off-camera, as Wright is then seen running toward the water himself.
In the second part of the video, Wright can be seen jumping in the surf. He reaches the woman and starts to bring her toward the shore as waves continue to crash into them. After one final wave, they’re out of harm’s way, as several others come to their aid.
Pro surfers praised Wright following the rescue.
“You’re a living legend!” Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau wrote in the comments, while Jessi Miley-Dyer teased, “Who needs a cape when you have a mullet.”
Others offered a warning.
“This lady is so lucky to be alive,” the North Shore Lifeguard Association said on social media. “The North Shore surf can sweep up and grab you at any time. Please be careful!”