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Age is a funny thing. Bones that used to flex and bend like young willows become brittle as dry twigs. Ligaments that used to stretch like rubber bands become stiff and tough, like old jerky. And now, on the heels of a broken foot that’s kept Kelly Slater sidelines from competition for months, a toe injury is his latest malady. “Strange looking things, feet,” Slater announced on Instagram. “I’ve had 5 foot injuries now since 2003, the latest coming last week with a strained ligament (#TurfToe) on the same foot (R) I injured last year. Not a major injury but puts me in doubt for #JBay.”

Despite anyone’s best efforts, time marches on—and with it comes injuries. Injuries that don’t heal as quickly as they used to, injuries that never would have occurred in one’s youth. Such is the case for Kelly Slater, who, despite almost a lifetime of eating right, stretching, and doing all the right things, is feeling the effects of decades of professional surfing. His back, twisted like a pig’s tail, and his foot, broken in two last year, are just a few of the issues that have kept him from competing in recent events. And although he has been surfing (and surfing at a high level, I might add), he’s not surfing at the level he’d like to be surfing at in order to compete against the world’s best. Most notably, Slater flew to Fiji for a massive swell at Cloudbreak, missing the Corona Bali Protected. He took to social media to explain his absence and address the obvious questions. “Long story short, I am not on the level I want and need to be to compete,” he wrote after a day at Cloudbreak. “I did catch one really nice wave today, went straight perfectly well, and saw a hundred other good waves. When I’m ready, properly healed, and able to compete with the world’s best, I will.”

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Turf toe, what Slater appears to have, is a sprain of the big toe. According to OrthoInfo.com, “it happens when the toe is forcibly bent up into hyperextension, such as when pushing off into a sprint and having the toe get stuck flat on the ground.”

Still, though, Slater remains positive. “Sometimes the universe directs you to where you need to be,” he continued. “Injuries used to really freak me out but they’ve taught me patience and a sense of calmness somehow.”