Kelly Slater has officially pulled out of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. His withdrawal comes on the heels of a last-minute desicion to skip the Quik Pro Gold Coast because of the broken foot that the 11-time world champion sustained at last years’ J-Bay event.
Since his injury, Slater has surfed a few times—his first competitive heat was at Pipeline, where he surfed well, but clearly favoring his foot. He’s popped up at a few spots here and there, including his wave pool, but never at 100 percent. “The looming excitement about a new year starting,” he wrote on Instagram, “my foot sort of magically allowing me to surf the past couple of days, and a number of other factors had me talking myself back into jumping in as soon as possible against my better judgment.”
That’s why, when the horn sounded for the event at Snapper Rocks, Slater was nowhere to be found. “I think it’s best that I properly rehabilitate the injury and choose to surf wholeheartedly. I’ll be back when the time is right,” Slater said when he made it known he wouldn’t compete. South African Michael February was on hand to take his spot, and he couldn’t be happier. “It’s a weird way to get on the CT—it’s cheesy, but I guess everything happens for a reason,” February said. He’ll replace Slater at Bells, where he’ll come up against Filipe Toledo and the on-fire rookie Griffin Colapinto. It’s an early start for February, who was slated to become a CT surfer after the Bells event because of Mick Fanning’s early retirement.
As for Slater, he’s just taking things one day at a time. “I think it best that I properly rehabilitate the injury and choose to surf wholeheartedly, not from the excitement or stress of a last minute arrival,” he said. “It’s not very professional or responsible and it won’t allow me to be at my best potential.”