MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Surfing great Kelly Slater has been given a wildcard to remain on the World Surf League’s (WSL) Championship Tour after the American missed the mid-season cut at Margaret River in Australia.
The 11-times world champion will be able to surf and earn ranking points at the remaining events in 2023 and for the first half of the 2024 tour, the WSL said.
The 51-year-old will therefore be eligible for the WSL Final 5 rankings, where the top five surfers compete for the world title at the Rip Curl WSL Finals at San Clemente, California in September.
“Slater’s ranking points will also give him the opportunity to compete for provisional qualification for the Olympic Games Paris 2024,” the WSL said.
Slater was knocked out by Australian Liam O’Brien early in the Margaret River Pro last week, which left him below the mid-season cut line.
After his elimination, Slater said he was not sure of his future.
“It is what it is. Let’s see how things turn out,” he told media at the event.
Some surfing media criticised the wildcard decision, saying it was motivated by commercial considerations and made a mockery of the WSL’s ranking system.
But the WSL said the decision was in accordance with its rules.
“The WSL Rule Book allows for only former World Champions and previous WSL Final 5 competitors to be eligible to earn points in the second half of the season as the Season Wildcards,” WSL Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer said.
The next event is held at the Slater-built Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California, on May 27-28.
France’s Johanne Defay was also awarded a wildcard to continue on the Women’s Championship Tour after falling well outside the mid-season cut.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)