Tyler Wright has fallen just short of a fairytale return to professional surfing.
The 25-year-old was outclassed by fellow Aussie Stephanie Gilmore in the Maui Open final on Tuesday morning in Hawaii.
Gilmore secured victory with a score of 14.16 to Wright's 9.67 in the 10th and final round of the World Surf League's 2019 Women's Championship Tour.
It's been a long road to recovery for Culburra Beach surfer Wright.
Wright was initially diagnosed with Influenza A and was hospitalised in South Africa ahead of the 2018 J-Bay Corona Open. The Maui Open marks her first professional competition after a 17-month layoff.
The two-time WSL champion thanked everyone who had supported her on her journey to recovery, including her girlfriend Alex.
"I think I'm very much processing it all, but I am so lucky and grateful to be here today... I'm so enjoying this moment," Wright said.
"I felt a little overwhelmed [before the final], it's a lot of stimulation. But then I looked across and saw my friend Steph and thought 'I love Steph', I couldn't think of a better way to finish this recovery process.
"It was a fun heat but I definitely wanted to beat her!"
Wright made a big splash on her return, taking down some big names to book her spot in the final. She overcame Brazil's Tatiana Weston-Webb in the semi-final and France's Johanne Defay in the quarter-final on Tuesday.
On Monday, Wright overcame a strong challenge from World No.2 Lakey Peterson to qualify for the quarter finals.
Gilmore, 31, said she was honoured to secure the round victory in Hawaii.
"It's amazing, you get so much joy from surfing out here," she said.
"Everyone has been surfing so well but there has been so much drama... but I found myself in a good position.
"It's so cool to have Tyler back. I couldn't think of a better person to share the final with. I can't wait to see you back next year - you'll be as dangerous as ever."
Fellow South Coast surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, of Gerroa, bowed out in the quarter finals against Tatiana Weston-Webb.
Hawaii's Carissa Moore was crowned world champion on Tuesday morning. Moore is now a four-time WSL champion.
While you're with us the Illawarra Mercury is offering sport readers 20% off an annual digital subscription. Sign up to stay up to date with all the local sports you love for only $3 a week. Terms and conditions apply.