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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Mon, 12 March 2018

History was made early today when the last minute withdrawal of Kelly Slater presented Mikey February with his first start on the World Surf League Championship Tour, writes Spike.


BRIGHT FUTURE: So bright you got to wear shades. MFeb in chilled mode. Photo Grant Scholtz

Mikey becomes the first black South African - and indeed African - to make the elite world tour, and as early as tomorrow could be surfing in the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. That means in roughly 12 hours time in South Africa - around 2.30am or so tomorrow morning.

As it stands, the worst scenario for the season is that he will miss just one event of the 2018 Tour - the next one. The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach will be retiring Mick Fanning's swansong.

There might be an injury, but that's down to fate. Mikey will unofficially officially rejoin the tour at the third event: the Margaret River Pro.

With the good news came a few moans about messed up fantasy surfing team picks for the Quik Pro underway at Snapper Rocks. I know everyone is proud of Mikey, but apparently the announcement by the WSL Commissioner's office came after the Fantasy Surfer cutoff by two days.

This left many people's picks in a bit of a pickle, and pundits peeved over a percieved lack of information from the WSL about the "ongoing rehabilitation" of the foot Slater injured in J-Bay in July last year.


TOP TUBE: Mikey February tucks in at his local. His view is about to expand. Photo Grant Scholtz

It's true. Why did Slater delay his withdrawal? Why didn't the WSL say something sooner? The latter answers itself though. The WSL must follow the bureacratic channels of the corporate, which means something is only official when its official.

It boils down to Slater, and many have taken to social media to lambast him for his terrible crime against our lad. Yes, it's true that the reasoning about his withdrawal was a little obtuse and hard to fathom: “I think the reasoning about his withdrawal was a little obtuse and hard to fathomthe best thing for me to do is withdraw from the event,” Slater said. “My gut feeling has been to use this injury as a platform to overhaul and reset my mind and body. The looming excitement about a new year starting, my foot sort of magically allowing me to surf the past couple of days and a number of other factors had me talking myself back into jumping in as soon as possible against my better judgment. I feel I've had a couple of half-hearted attempts these past couple of years fighting injury and desire. The foot injury symbolizes a lot at this point in my career both as an ending and as a beginning.”

Round and round we go. Of course, the main news that everyone should be celebrating - and for the most part we are - is that Mikey has made the Tour. Wow!


THE TIME IS NOW: The significance of his inclusion cannot be underestimated. Photo WSL / Sherms

Yes, it's true that the Slater could have made his decision earlier, which would have given Mikey the chance to move directly to Round 3 if he had surfed from the word go.

He's been sitting quietly waiting at Snapper Rocks, on standby, a nailbiting affair, but at least he finally gets his chance. However, his grand debut is a tough ask. He must surf against wily Matt Wilkinson when he paddles out in Heat 3 of Round 2, which of course is a sudden death affair. The tough Aussie is not going to be doing our lad any favours.

In mitigation of Slater - whose delay for some people is akin to a heinous act by a raving ego-maniac - he is a six-time winner of this event (1997, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013). He is consitutionally entitled to withdraw from a WSL event at the last minute. He hasn't done anything wrong.

The official line from the WSL was that he was greatly looking forward to surfing in the event, "especially with a great surf forecast coinciding with the event window".


BULLET PROOF: Kelly Slater withdrew at the last minute because of his foot injury. Photo WSL / Kirstin

Slater went on to say: “Hearing Mick talk about his choice yesterday rang true for me also around doing things that make you uncomfortable,” Slater continued.

“Competing is a natural environment for us both and it's the easy route for me. I think it’s best that I properly rehabilitate the injury and choose to surf wholeheartedly, not from the excitement or stress of a last minute arrival. It's not super professional or responsible and it won't allow me to be at my best potential. I really love the energy around the events, especially a new year and I find myself at odds especially with a potential Kirra swell approaching."

In nice gesture to the pending incumbent rookie from ZA, he said: "I wish the best for everyone this event and a special good luck to Mikey February who will surf in my absence. Let him know if he wins I'm requesting a 10% caddy fee! Thanks to the WSL and crew for helping accommodate my predicament and I'll be back when the time is right.”

Go Mikey! Let's hope the fantasy picks are screwed up further with the unnamed Capetonian smashing a good result!


Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 6: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 7: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 9: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 11: Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 12: Jesse Mendes (BRA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)

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