Kelly Slater Gets Another Shot with the WSL Wild Card
Posted by DAVID KELLY
Just when you think the GOAT has been put out to pasture, things are again looking up for Kelly Slater.
After falling off tour following his early loss at Margaret River last week (due to the mid-season cut), Slater’s season was over—along with his hopes of a top-five berth in the championship event and shot at qualifying for the 2024 Olympics, which will be held at his pet venue Teahupoo. But today, the WSL announced the recipients of the 2023/24 world tour wild cards—and wouldn’t you know, Kelly Slater got the nod on the men’s side.
By receiving their wild cards, Slater and Johanne Defay have a guaranteed spot on the 2024 world tour, as well as all the remaining events on the 2023 tour. The ramifications of this are huge, particularly when you consider the five remaining venues on tour this year and Slater’s pedigree at these waves.
Next up after Margaret River is the Surf Ranch, which, as we all know, is literally Slater’s wave. Following the tour heads back to El Salvador, the land of perfect, head-high, right-hand points. If conditions are good (i.e., conducive to down-the-line rail surfing), Slater has a chance of putting in a good result. While he wouldn’t be considered a favorite at the OI Rio Pro in late June, he is definitely expected to do well at J-Bay, which is a wave perfectly suited to his approach (and one that he has won a number of times). Finally, the season finale at Teahupoo is an event that Slater could arguably be favored to win, especially if the swell is bombing and conditions are impeccable. With Jack Robinson currently injured, you’d have to think the two favorites for Teahupoo are Slater and John John—and if you will recall, they famously shared the “best heat in history” at Teahupoo a few years back.
The long and short of it is that the back half of the schedule is a much stronger series of events for Slater, and it’s entirely possible that he can turn his year around—especially when you consider that the conditions for the first five events have been pretty horrible, which has likely benefited the younger, more high-pro surfers on tour. And if Slater were to pull out another magical finish, he could potentially see himself make the final five, giving him a chance to surf for the title at Lower Trestles in September—the venue where he first put the competitive world on notice more than 30 years ago.
Most importantly, if Slater were to make the final five—and that’s obviously a big if—he would likely be one of the top two rated American surfers on tour, which would guarantee him a spot at the 2024 Olympic event at Teahupoo. What better way to cap off an historic career than with an Olympic appearance at his favorite wave on the planet?
Before any of this can get underway, we still have an event to finish at Margaret River. After a number of lay days, the waiting period is starting to wind down, so expect to see the event finished sometime this week.