As of Tuesday, Kelly Slater, who currently sits first in the ASP World Tour rankings, has officially withdrawn from the Billabong Pro Rio, which begins this week in Brazil.
"I injured the inside of my left heel in Java and then re-opened it again the following week at Cloudbreak," Slater said in the ASP's official statement. "It became infected and I flew to Australia to get it treated and stitched in hopes of making it to Rio, if not for Round 1, at least for Round 2. I've been in the water since getting it stitched and while I can go straight, I can't do turns at all right now so I'll have to pull out of Rio. It's unfortunate, but I'm just going to focus on healing up as soon as possible right now. Good luck to all the competitors in Brazil and I'll be watching online."
Last week during the Nike Lowers Pro, I asked Travis Lee from Channel Islands, who's responsible for all of Slater's surfboards, what's the likelihood of the 11-time world champ going for a 12th title? Lee alluded that baring any further injuries, he doesn't foresee Slater missing any other events.
Remaining on the ASP schedule are stops in Fiji and Tahiti, both of which rank among Slater's favorite waves, then comes Lower Trestles, where he's the most winningest competitor ever, followed by France, another favorite destination of Slater's.
"And then last year we found some secret spots in Portugal, so why not stay around Europe?" said Lee.
After that the Tour lands in Hawaii, and if there's one wave that Slater really enjoys it's the challenge of Pipeline.
Most recently Slater was in Fiji surfing on Tavarua. ESPN Surfing contributor Tom Servais was on location and photographed the surf sessions. The following is his report:
About two to three days before a big swell hit Cloudbreak off Tavarua Island last Wednesday, Kelly was in Indo, supposedly scoring sick waves at some secret reef break. He's got some small Indo tattoos to prove it. Scheduled to arrive in Fiji on Tuesday afternoon, he showed up on Wednesday instead. Getting there 20 minutes before dark, he was jet skied into the lineup at Restaurants for a couple of quick ones. He missed one day of the two-day swell, but scored the best six hours of it on Thursday morning, then surfed another two to three hours in the late afternoon.
Sitting in the boat at Cloudbreak in the morning, he asked, "How many boards do you think Cloudbreak has broken? Thousands?" He couldn't guess how many he's broken there, but he broke three that morning alone.
Sometimes seems that Slater's life is just a series of decisions, where to go and how long he should stay. Whether it's chasing swells or competing at an ASP event, you never know where he'll be, and that's a good thing.