‘It feels like the end’: Kelly Slater bows out after missing World Surf Tour cut

<span>Retirement appears to finally be on the cards after Kelly Slater ‘couldn’t quite pull a miracle off’ at the Margaret River Pro surfing competition.</span><span>Photograph: Colin Murty/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Retirement appears to finally be on the cards after Kelly Slater ‘couldn’t quite pull a miracle off’ at the Margaret River Pro surfing competition.Photograph: Colin Murty/AFP/Getty Images

Kelly Slater’s long and decorated career appears to finally be over after the 52-year-old – widely acknowledged as the greatest professional surfer of all time – missed the World Surf League’s mid-season cut at Margaret River.

Defeat to fellow American Griffin Colapinto in the round of 32 in Western Australia could prove to be Slater’s final act on the tour, bringing to an end a career spanning more than three decades at the very top.

After he was chaired up the beach at Main Break, an emotional Slater fought back tears and said “everything must come to an end,” although he indicated he would apply for a one-off wildcard for the WSL event in Fiji later this year.

“If you don’t adapt you don’t survive,” he said. “My motivation hasn’t quite been there to put in that 100% that everyone’s doing now. I couldn’t quite pull a miracle off this week but I’ve pulled off a few over the years.”

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The 11-time world champion has been battling a hip injury since 2022 and said physical issues in his advancing years – including an operation in the off-season – were becoming increasingly difficult to recover from.

“I’ve been struggling since my surgery, fighting through the pain and hoping for adrenaline,” he said.

Slater has 56 titles to his name since gathering his first in 1992. He became the sport’s youngest world champion the same year at the age of 20 and its oldest at 39 in 2011.

“It’s been an incredible lifetime of memories,” he said. “It’s so much emotion for so long … It’s not all roses but it’s been the best times of my life. It feels like the end but it’s the start of something else, the rest of my life.”

It would not be the first time Slater has retired – he called time on his career at the age of 26 after winning five world titles in a row from 1994 to 1998 before returning to the tour to win a further five titles.

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On Tuesday he left the door open to one final appearance on the tour in August at Fiji’s Cloudbreak, one of his favourite waves and an event at which he has enjoyed success.

“I’ve had a fight with this wave [at Margaret River] my whole career, so it’s not necessarily the wave I want to end on,” he said.

“I have put in for a wildcard for Fiji and we’ll see how that goes.”

After inadvertently sending him towards retirement, Colapinto paid tribute to Slater and noted all that he had done for the sport.

“The fact that he was chaired up after a heat with me, I was pretty blown away and was just trying to take it all in,” Colapinto, currently ranked No 1 in the world, said.

“I gave him a high five as he was getting chaired up … he’s given me and everyone else on this tour so much. Like we make a living because of him, he took the sport so far and it’s pretty incredible.”