Some CT Surfers Believe Caio Ibelli, Not Kelly Slater, Should Get The 2019 Injury Wildcard
Will the WSL choose legacy or gravity of injury?
Kelly Slater, John John Florence and Caio Ibelli are all vying for two injury wildcard spots for the 2019 CT season.
Somebody’s not going to be happy next season when Santa Monica makes the call…unless the current rulebook is amended.
Kelly, John, and Caio—all three are in the draw at Pipe. Kelly’s been around San Clemente lately; John’s in the South Pacific, popped up in the background of a Bob Hurley Thanksgiving Instagram post, live from Tavarua; Caio made a heat at Haleiwa but lost in Round 2.
According to sources, at the World Professional Surfers meeting in Hossegor in October, WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow told surfers that the injury wildcards wouldn’t be decided until the end of the year, when medical reports for all three surfers were submitted. Surfers in attendance voiced concern about Caio getting the short straw; there were suspicions around Kelly’s surfing in the Surf Ranch Pro and a session in Fiji.
And while all three surfers are currently in the draw at the Billabong Pipe Masters. Here’s where they stand in regards to the injury wildcard situation:
After many months out of competition, Caio Ibelli returned for the Triple Crown and has been in contact with the WSL (including a meeting directly with CEO Sophie Goldschmidt). His injury came while warming up at Margaret River.
John, as the 2x defending World Champion, and like Caio, having been hurt while freesurfing around an event this year, is another clear-cut wildcard option for the WSL to consider.
That just leaves the 11x World Champion Kelly Slater, whose foot was broken in numerous places following a wipeout at the 2017 Jeffrey’s Bay event, 16 months ago.
Since then, Slater has surfed in four WSL competitions, including the 2017 Pipeline Masters (prior to his February 2018 screw-removal surgery), the inaugural Founders’ Cup (a non-CT-sanctioned event), the J-Bay Open, and the Surf Ranch Pro earlier this year. Slater skipped several events between the Founders’ Cup and J-Bay (but managed to score the aforementioned Fiji swell in that same period), then passed on Teahupo’o between J-Bay and the Surf Ranch Pro, then skipped the entire European leg before entering the draw at Pipeline.
Some people – apparently including Slater’s CT peers – have called this an all-too-convenient pattern. Slater calls those people haters.
“Do you want to see the X-rays?” he’s commented to Instagram trolls.
But with only two injury wildcard slots (currently) available for 2019, the WSL has a major decision to make: do they go with Caio, the more recently-injured applicant and clear favorite of his peers, or Kelly, the Greatest Surfer of All Time?
According sources, WSL Commissioner Renato Hickel was conflicted by this very point, going so far as to pose the question: should wildcards be awarded to the surfers with more competitive legacy or injury gravity.
And it’s a fair question.
Sure, if the past year existed in a vacuum, Caio would be the more singularly deserving candidate, but after everything Kelly has done for the sport of professional surfing—plus the fact that he has been injured (to a certain degree)—would it really be fair to kick him to the curb before (what would theoretically be) his last full season on Tour?
Only time will tell what the WSL chooses to do with their 2019 injury wildcards. Realistically, all three surfers deserve another a shot at the Tour, but as we know life ain’t fair.
Unless the WSL alters its own rules to allow three injury wildcards for next season, we’ll be losing one of the names above, which, barring an extremely premature retirement announcement from John, realistically means that Kelly or Caio will bid adieu.
And which would you choose? Surfing’s ultimate superstar, who many have felt to be teetering on the edge of competitive oblivion for years; or a wholly un-hatable journeyman, who’s done everything by the book?
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