NewsRip Curl Pro Bells BeachKelly Slater

Slater Withdraws from Bells, February Steps in as Replacement

Kelly Slater Kelly Slater at last year's Rip Curl Pro. WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

Kelly Slater, 11x WSL World Champion, has formally withdrawn from the second event of the 2018 WSL Championship Tour season, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, due to an ongoing foot injury sustained in July at the Corona Open J-Bay.

Slater, who broke his foot during a freesurf, has undergone a few surgeries to get back into competing form. Unfortunately the injury has not fully healed prompting the Florida native to take some precautionary steps. He also had to withdraw from the first event of the season, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, last week.

Slater's Sweet Start at Winkipop
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Kelly Slater stayed busy during his Round One heat at Winkipop to earn an easy win.

"I think it's best that I properly rehabilitate the injury and choose to surf wholeheartedly. I'll be back when the time is right," Slater said.

South African surfer Michael February will replace Slater at Bells where he will face standouts Filipe Toledo and Griffin Colapinto in Round One.

February will become an official Championship Tour (CT) member after the Rip Curl Pro -- due to Mick Fanning's retirement. The 17-year-veteran will be competing for the last time at this year's Bells Beach event, making the Margaret River Pro February's first event as a CT member. But, due to Slater's injury, February has started his season earlier than expected -- surfing as a replacement for the first two events of the season. Despite the recent shakeup, the South African was able to keep composure and eliminate former Gold Coast winner Matt Wilkinson at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast last week, making a name for himself prior to his cemented arrival.

"It's a weird way to get on the CT -- it's cheesy, but I guess everything happens for a reason," said February.

Watch: Michael February's Winning Wave
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The upsets just kept coming Tuesday at the Quik Pro Gold Coast, as the newly minted Tour member took down the former Snapper winner.

The 23-year-old finished the Qualifying Series (QS) at No.15 last year, just barely outside the qualification cutoff.

"With the possibility of me being a part of this Tour for the year, I want to look at all these matchups and improve," he said. "I think the year's going to be full of a lot of learning."

Watch Michael February and the rest of the men's and women's WSL Championship Tour live daily when they compete next at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach, from March 28 - April 8.

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