No one really thought that Kelly Slater would sit back and not vie for a spot in the first surfing Olympics, did they?
While Slater may have seemed on the fence about vying for an Olympic berth in the past, the 47-year-old, 11-time world champion has finally came out with it and declared he’d be participating in the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games (WSG), which are to take place at Kisakihama Beach in Miyazaki, Japan, from September 7th to the 15th.
Currently in 8th place on the WSL World Tour rankings, Slater sits behind fellow potential Team USA Olympians Kolohe Andino, who’s ahead in 1st place, and John Florence, who’s in 3rd, but currently out with a torn ACL. By default, that puts Slater in the second slot for United States surfers at the 2020 Summer Games. And while John John’s still hopeful and training for the Olympics, as he told ESPN on Wednesday, it’s not looking good for the 26-year-old Hawaiian.
Hawaii, by the way, while considered a separate nation where the WSL is concerned, will count as part of the USA’s three-man (Andino, Slater, and Coffin) and three-woman (Moore, Conlogue, and Marks) lineup at the WSG—an event surfers are required to compete in to be considered for the two-man and two-woman National Olympic Committee (NOC) quota at the Summer Olympics.
Qualification for the WSG was dependent upon WSL rankings after the first four events of the year, but qualifications for the Olympics team will still depend on the outcome of this year’s ‘CT in December following the season’s final event at Pipeline. Basically, the ISA World Surfing Games are just a hoop to jump through for World Tour surfers, and the outcome of the WSG themselves will not affect their Olympic bid.
That puts Slater pretty comfortably secured in 2nd, unless Conner Coffin, who’s tied with Owen Wright (AUS) for 12th on Tour, bumps Slater out by the end of the season. And Kelly knows it: The day after John John posted a video of himself prone-paddling accompanied by the hashtag “#Tokyo2020”, NBC Sports reported that Slater confirmed that he’d be surfing for Team USA at the WSG in September.
Still, in what we figure is an effort to make nice with the ISA, anyone who holds an Olympic seat due to their ranking on the World Tour will, at the very least, have to show up at and compete in either the 2019 or 2020 ISA World Surfing Games. That’s right: Kolohe and Kelly could just as soon paddle out at the WSG three sheets to the wind on finless foamies and still hold their spots for the 2020 Summer Olympics—so long as they don jerseys, that is. Here’s hoping they do.
And, while we’re feeling for John John, seeing Kelly, who’ll be 48 by summer 2020, at the first-ever Olympic Games for surfing sort of just feels right, no?