Slater And Florence Receive WSL Injury Wildcards; Caio Ibelli Is Not Pleased
“Slater used and abused,” says the upset Brazilian.
We all knew it was coming.
Not one day after Pipe spit its guts onto Wilson, Medina, Slater and co., and with World Champions, Pipe Masters, and Triple Crowners officially decided, the WSL has chosen its injury wildcard surfers for 2019.
Two-times World Champion John Florence, who suffered a serious knee injury while free surfing around the Corona Bali Pro, and 11-times World Champion Kelly Slater, who suffered a serious foot injury while free surfing around the Corona Pro J-Bay (in 2017), were given the two available slots.
This decision would have been a difficult one for the WSL, due to the fact that there were three injured surfers throughout the 2018 Championship Tour season, including Brazil’s Caio Ibelli, who suffered a serious foot injury while free surfing around this year’s Margaret River Pro.
In an October meeting between the WSL and World Professional Surfers (AKA the “Surfers’ Union”), this very issue was raised, with many surfers sharing the belief that Ibelli, not Slater, should receive the 2019 Injury Wildcard, due to the timeliness and severity of his injury in relation to Slater’s.
Their argument stemmed from the fact that Slater has been seen surfing throughout his injury leave, including, and most famously, at this year’s XXL Cloudbreak swell, which came days after Slater pulled out of the Corona Pro Bali.
According to the surfers, it seemed odd that Slater’s foot was well enough to surf 20-foot Cloudy but not to compete at six-foot Keramas.
Slater argued that while he was able to “surf”, his foot wasn’t in good condition to perform at a competitive level.
Slater also surfed his way to third place at the inaugural Surf Ranch Pro this September, after which he skipped both European events and then returned at the Pipe Masters, where he also finished third.
Alternatively, Caio Ibelli was out of the water for four months between May and August, not putting his feet in the wax until mid-September, when he rode his wave, somewhat ironically, at Slater’s Surf Ranch.
In the WSL/WPS meeting, Tour Commissioner Renato Hickel was quoted asking, perhaps rhetorically: “Should wildcards be awarded to the surfers with more competitive legacy or injury gravity?”
Seeing that John and Slater were both in contention for the 2019 Injury wildcards, and realizing their incredible value to the sport of surfing, Ibelli knew that he would have a hard time getting one of the two WSL-selected spots for next season.
Therefore he pursued private talks with Sophie Goldschmidt, in which the WSL’s Chief Executive Officer proposed giving Ibelli something along the lines of six CT event wildcards in 2019.
Ibelli said that wasn’t good enough.
Today, the WSL released its final decision (from CT Commissioner Kieren Perrow):
“It’s always a challenge when we have a large number of applicants for a limited number of wildcard positions,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. “We truly appreciate and understand the value of being on tour and take this process very seriously. As it has for years, this process includes an independent medical review board, which assesses the applicants based on severity of injury and the impact it has on the surfer’s ability to compete at the Championship Tour level.
“In the case of 2018, all three applicants were deemed to have severe injuries that prevented them from competing in multiple events. From there, we apply our technical criteria and career achievement factors – which include World Titles, career results, prior year ranking, and ranking at time of injury. While all three have strong cases, we have determined that Kelly Slater (USA) and John John Florence (HAW) will receive the WSL wildcards for 2019 and Caio Ibelli (BRA) will be the first replacement for the tour – not something we guarantee to a third applicant most seasons but is deserving in this case.”
Caio Ibelli has since come out publicly against the WSL’s decision.
Google Translate gives us this from Caio’s caption: Today @wsl announced that next year’s Injury Wildcard will be Kelly Slater and JJ Florence. I sincerely disagree with the decision. Kelly used and abused. He went to surf 20-foot Fiji during the Keramas event, got 3rd in the pool and did not go to France next week. This is the second consecutive year that he uses the same spot. Is it fair?
And what do you think, dear readers? Is there a right and wrong side in this debacle?
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