Kelly Slater didn’t show up to to the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper Rocks. Rumors had been floating around over the latter part of the week that he might be a no-show, but nothing was confirmed. “As of today I am not planning to [surf],” he texted to Surfline‘s Marcus Sanders a few days before the event started. “I can still hardly stand on a board from latest surgery. I thought I would be ok by now but it’s not happening. I’m officially in the draw as of now but am doubtful to make a start.”
Since Kelly is Kelly, he left everyone hanging on the suspense. The crowd waited with bated breath. They screamed and hollered and waved their arms in the air. They wanted Kelly. They wanted to see that shiny dome flying down the line under a rainy Australian sky. Look how much they wanted it!
It wasn’t until his heat was actually in the water that it was confirmed that he wasn’t there. The announcers didn’t know. Mick Fanning was there in red. Jesse Mendes was there in white. Kelly’s name was on the corner graphic. His jersey was supposed to be blue. The only thing that was missing was Kelly himself.
The heat went on, sans Kelly. Mick Fanning beat Jesse Mendes because Snapper Rocks is basically his personal property. Kelly’s replacement was to be Mikey February, a South African with more style in his surfing than anyone on tour. Instead, it was a two-man heat. While Kelly didn’t respond to an email, he took to Instagram to address his MIA status. “Thank you to everyone supporting me on the Gold Coast all these years and wondering where I am right now as my heat begins at the #quikprogoldcoast2018,” he wrote. “If round 2 men’s does not run tomorrow, I will most likely make it to surf my heat. If it runs tomorrow, @mikeyfebruary will take my spot and best of luck to him.”
As it turns out, Slater’s foot is still a mess. He did, after all, break it in half at J-Bay a few months ago, and despite all his best efforts, he ain’t no spring chicken anymore. “I had surgery 3-1/2 weeks ago and am not quite out of the woodwork yet,” he continued. “I was looking forward to having what could be our final heat together with @mfanno but I’ve only surfed 4 times since my latest surgery while getting work on the foot and letting it heal.”
Like Kelly says, there’s still a chance that he’ll be there for round two. And, believe it or not, it’s not against the rules to simply not show up. From the WSL rulebook: “If a seeded Surfer advises the Commissioner’s Office that they are not going to attend their first round heat but will be present for their second round heat, their spot will be kept. If the Surfer does not check in at the paddle out time for their second round heat, a Replacement will be provided their spot in accordance with Article 9.01. If the Surfer fails to arrive on time for their second round heat, they will be subject to discipline as if they did not show (but did provide warning in accordance with Article 181).”
Although one might assume that an extra day or two of recovery time wouldn’t be sufficient to heal a freshly-hacked open foot enough to surf, Slater is still on the fence about a possible second round heat. “If I do show, I’m not expecting my best performance but with some wave luck and tubes, I’ll have some fun. Thanks to the @wsl for keeping me in the draw (as per the rules, of course). I look forward to competing again soon and back to full health hopefully in the coming months.”