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Kelly Slater’s health challenges spark debate of potential retirement from WSL

As the World Surf League VIVO Rio Pro began without Kelly Slater, a sense of reflection and concern arises regarding his potential retirement from competitive surfing due to his health conditions.

The World Surf League’s announcement of Slater’s withdrawal from the competition, citing an ongoing illness, has sparked discussions about the toll his physical well-being may be taking on his career. Just days before the Brazil event, Slater shared a snapshot of his body temperature on social media, shedding light on his current state. The accompanying caption described his afflictions: fevers, sinus problems, chills, headaches, and stomach flu.

Given the timing of his illness and previous instances of injury absences centred around the Brazil event, there is growing speculation about the toll these health challenges are having on Slater. Some refer to it as the infamous “Brazil flu,” a term used to describe his sporadic participation in the event over the years.

The waves in Brazil, though reminiscent of the ones Slater grew up surfing in his hometown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, may no longer be conducive to his preferred style. As his career has progressed, he has encountered difficulties in navigating unpredictable beach breaks compared to the more ideal conditions found in point breaks or heavy barrels like those at J-Bay, Teahupo’o, and Pipeline.

Earlier this year, Slater received a wildcard entry for the remainder of the season after being removed from the Championship Tour due to the mid-season cut. Unfortunately, his illness prevents him from fully capitalizing on this opportunity. This setback is particularly unfortunate as Slater had hoped to utilize this wildcard and make a lasting impact. The situation also presents a bittersweet twist for Brazilian surf fans, as Jadson Andre, a beloved figure from their country, now fills Slater’s spot.

Moreover, Slater’s chances of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics as part of the US surfing team seem uncertain. Currently positioned 23rd on the Championship Tour rankings, he trails behind his fellow American competitors. With only two male and two female surfers per country securing qualification through the 2023 CT, the prospects of Slater achieving his goal of Olympic participation diminish.

Amidst these circumstances, the surf community contemplates whether it is time for Slater to seriously consider retirement due to his health conditions. While his enduring passion for the sport has been undeniable, his physical well-being appears to be increasingly susceptible to setbacks. The toll of prolonged illness and the challenges of competing in less favourable conditions may prompt Slater to reflect on his future in the sport.

Regardless of the ultimate decision he makes, the surf community rallies behind Kelly Slater, hoping for his swift recovery and overall well-being. His contributions to the sport have been unparalleled, and should he choose to step away, his legacy as one of the greatest surfers of all time will forever be etched in the annals of surfing history.

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