Back pain being the culprit.
Fresh on the back of dropping his Continuance documentary, which somewhat ironically stated Kelly’s desire to go above and beyond for a twelfth world title in 2017, the greatest surfer to ever grace foam and fibreglass has announced he won’t be joining his peers in Brazil.
In a post on the WSL website Kelly says of his withdrawal:
"I have been working through some injuries the past several seasons and, unfortunately, I need to take some time off to mend my body. I won't be in Rio and I don't know how long I'll need. My lower back has been in constant pain for the last three years and although I've been able to fight through it with short stints of rehab, it hasn't fixed the problem. If I don't do this now, at some point, I'll ruin my body. I'm spending the next five weeks rehabilitating with WSL Doctors in Australia and we'll see how I feel after that. I'm hopeful that I will be in top form again this season at some point. Thanks everyone for the support."
The last couple of sentences may be cause for concern for those willing Kelly toward his swansong title. It hints that maybe Rio is not the only event that Kelly will sit out.
This of course is not the first time Kelly, or many other members of the tour for that matter, have decided to skip the South American stop. The excuses are always there but are also as transparent as a Tahitian tube.
Now, were not suggesting that Kelly’s injuries aren’t legit. It’s just that maybe skipping Brazil may serve his attempt at gaining ground in the title race better. Taking time to rest, reset and put all his energy into prepping for the Pacific leg and J-Bay, contests where he has previously been dominant, would be a smart tactical move.
In all likelihood a Slater resurgence is going to come in large tubes and roping walls. That is where Kelly can still match and even best them. As rad as Kelly is, he’s just not gonna equal the firepower of guys like John, Filipe and Gabriel in a shifty beachbreak. It makes no sense risking an injury, and possibly ending his campaign trying rotations in Brazil.
We just hope to see Kelly pull on the singlet come Fiji.