It was always a three horse race for the two Injury Wildcard spots up for grabs from the WSL. Kelly Slater, John John Florence and Caio Ibelli were all vying for a spot. However, the WSL have opted to go with the two most high profile surfers rather than the Brazilian QS journeyman.

Many argue Ibelli was the worthier choice given the circumstances of his injury and time spent on the sideline. He suffered a fractured foot at Margs and missed 8 of the 11 events of the WSL season.

As has been well documented, Kelly broke his foot in a freesurf at J-Bay in 2017. Since then he’s cherry-picked events to compete in and chased swells while missing his less favoured events. Those decisions have seen the King lambasted on social media. It also raises questions of the WSL and whether they are more invested in Kelly than other surfers on Tour, given the WSL’s stake in the Kelly Slater Wave Pool and the benefits they receive from Kelly’s global recognition.



Strange looking things, feet. I’ve had 5 foot injuries now since 2003, the latest coming last week with a strained ligament (#TurfToe) on the same foot (R) I injured last year. Not a major injury but puts me in doubt for #JBay. Sometimes the universe directs you to where you need to be. Injuries used to really freak me out but they’ve taught me patience and and a sense of calmness somehow. Happy #WorldOceansDay and so long to a friend I never had the chance to meet in @anthonybourdain. I wish that meal had happened in Sydney and sorry you couldn’t shake that feeling. Too many good people have gone down before their time. Reach out and call someone if that’s happening to you. 🙏🏽👂🏽

A post shared by Kelly Slater (@kellyslater) on


Meanwhile, John John has flown under the radar. The Hawaiian spends hardly anytime on social media, rarely gives interviews and has only spoken about the extent of his injury and recovery a handful of times. But given his popularity and two World Titles it was obvious he was always going to snatch one of the Injury Wildcards up for grabs.

So, did it simply make more business sense for the WSL to pick Kelly and JJF over Caio?

WSL Commissioner, Kieren Perrow, who anguished over the decision believed the right surfers were selected. Here’s his statement from the WSL presser yesterday:

"It’s always a challenge when we have a large number of applicants for a limited number of wildcard positions,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. “We truly appreciate and understand the value of being on tour and take this process very seriously. As it has for years, this process includes an independent medical review board, which assesses the applicants based on severity of injury and the impact it has on the surfer’s ability to compete at the Championship Tour level. In the case of 2018, all three applicants were deemed to have severe injuries that prevented them from competing in multiple events. From there, we apply our technical criteria and career achievement factors - which include World Titles, career results, prior year ranking, and ranking at time of injury. While all three have strong cases, we have determined that Kelly Slater and John John Florence will receive the WSL wildcards for 2019 and Caio Ibelli will be the first replacement for the tour - not something we guarantee to a third applicant most seasons but is deserving in this case.”

Ibelli meanwhile took to Instagram to sting the WSL’s decision and let his feelings be known. (Excuse the Google translate grammatical errors).


Today @wsl announced that next year’s Injury Wildcard will be Kelly Slater and JJ Florence. Sincerely, I disagree with the decision, Kelly used and abused. He went to Fiji 20 feet during the Keramas event, stayed 3rd in the pool and did not go to France next week. This is the second consecutive year that he uses the same wave. Is it fair?”




Whether you agree or not with Kelly and John John’s selection for the Injury Wildcard spots it’s interesting to note that Mikey Wright qualified via a string of Wildcard spots gifted by the WSL and never had to grind on the QS.

Caio meanwhile was the 2016 WSL Rookie of the Year and has experienced the QS doldrums first hand. No doubt he will be hoping he’ll be granted a few injury replacement wildcards and be able to exercise some of the demons currently swirling around his head in 2019.

 2018 Top 22 CT: 
Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Julian Wilson (AUS)
Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Owen Wright (AUS)
Conner Coffin (USA)
Michel Bourez (PYF)
Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Kolohe Andino (USA)
Mikey Wright (AUS)
Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Yago Dora (BRA)
Joan Duru (FRA)

2018 Top 10 QS (minus double qualifiers from CT):
Seth Moniz (HAW)
Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Deivid Silva (BRA)
Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Jadson Andre (BRA)
Soli Bailey (AUS)
Jack Freestone (AUS)

WSL Wildcards:
Kelly Slater (USA)
John John Florence (HAW)

CT Men’s Replacement Surfers:
Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Frederico Morais (PRT)
Ethan Ewing (AUS)

2018 Women’s Top 10 CT:
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Lakey Peterson (USA)
Carissa Moore (HAW)
Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)
Johanne Defay (FRA)
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Caroline Marks (USA)
Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Malia Manuel (HAW)
Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)

2018 Women’s Top 6 QS (minus double qualifiers from CT):
Coco Ho (HAW)
Paige Hareb (NZL)
Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Brisa Hennessy (CRI)
Silvana Lima (BRA)

WSL Women’s Wildcard:
Tyler Wright (AUS)

CT Women’s Replacement Surfers: 
Keely Andrew (AUS)
Sage Erickson (USA)

2019 Men’s Championship Tour schedule
Gold Coast Men’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019
Bali Men’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019
Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019
Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019