MARGARET RIVER, Western Australia, Australia (Thursday, April 27, 2023) - Kelly Slater (USA) and Johanne Defay (FRA) have been awarded the WSL Season Wildcards for 2023/2024. The Season Wildcards gives Slater and Defay entry into Championship Tour (CT) events following the Mid-season Cut and entry into the first half of the 2024 CT season. Miguel Pupo (BRA) and Brisa Hennessy (CRC) have been awarded the 2024 WSL Season Wildcards, which gives entry to all competitions in the first half of the 2024 CT season.
Slater, as a former World Champion, and Defay, as a previous Final 5 competitor, will earn ranking points as the Season Wildcards and thus will be eligible for the WSL Final 5 rankings, where the Top 5 surfers on the men's and women's CT will compete in the Rip Curl WSL Finals to compete for the 2023 World Title. Slater's ranking points will also give him the opportunity to compete for provisional qualification for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. Defay's provisional qualification for the Olympics was confirmed last week at the Western Australia Margaret River Pro.
The WSL is the Tier 1 pathway to qualification for the world's best surfers to the Olympic Games. Of the 48 athletes competing in the games, the Top 18 competitors (10 men and 8 women) will qualify via the 2023 WSL Championship Tour's final rankings. Each country can only qualify a maximum of two men and two women. Learn more about Olympic qualification at WorldSurfLeague.com/QualificationSeason.
11-time World Champion Slater is regarded as the greatest competitive surfer of all time, holding nearly every major record in the sport, including 11 World Titles, 56 CT victories, and being both the youngest and oldest World Champion in men's history. He's had a huge influence on the sport through his progressive surfing, competitive nature, and wave system technology. Slater's incredible career started with winning Rookie of the Year in 1990 and spans more than three decades. He won his first World Title in 1992 and his most recent Title in 2011. In 2022, Slater claimed his 56th CT victory at Pipeline, just a few days before his 50th birthday. Now at 51, Slater is in search of adding yet another World Title and a provisional Olympic qualification to his name.
Defay has finished in the Top 10 every year on the Championship Tour since qualifying in 2014. She competed in the Rip Curl WSL Finals in 2021 and 2022, finishing fourth and third, respectively, on the world rankings. Defay represented France at the Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 and is set to make her second Olympic appearance as she has provisionally qualified for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
As the 2024 WSL Season Wildcards, Pupo and Hennessy will be eligible to compete in the first half of the 2024 CT. Pupo sustained an ankle injury in Portugal, forcing him to miss the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and Western Australia Margaret River Pro. Last season, Pupo climbed up the rankings to a career-best sixth-place finish after his break-through victory at the Tahiti Pro. The 2024 CT will mark the 31-year old's 12th year on the CT. Hennessy made it all the way to the Rip Curl WSL Finals last season, finishing fifth in the world, a career best. In 2020, she represented her home country of Costa Rica at the Olympic Games Tokyo, where she finished fifth. She was recently confirmed as one of the first surfers to provisionally qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
The WSL Season Wildcards are selected by the WSL Tours and Competition team following applications from athletes. The wildcard selection process takes into account competitive performance, such as World Titles, CT and Challenger Series rankings, and event results, as well as a medical evaluation if applicable.
"With the rankings for the Mid-season Cut completed, we've announced Kelly Slater and Johanne Defay as the WSL Season Wildcards for 2023 and 2024, and Miguel Pupo and Brisa Hennessy the Season Wildcards for 2024," said Jessi Miley-Dyer, WSL Chief of Sport. "The WSL Rule Book allows for only former World Champions and previous WSL Final 5 competitors to be eligible to earn points in the second half of the season as the Season Wildcards. Kelly and Johanne meet those criteria, so we look forward to seeing them complete the CT season. We also look forward to welcoming back Miguel and Brisa in 2024."
Finals Day awaits at the Western Australia Margaret River Pro. The competition window will close on April 30, but promising forecasts suspect Friday, April 28, could see the final rounds of the competition completed and the event winners crowned.
The Western Australia Margaret River Pro will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL's YouTube channel, and the free WSL app. Check out more ways to watch from the WSL's broadcast partners. For fans watching in Brazil, coverage of the remaining competition will continue exclusively on WorldSurfLeague.com and SporTV.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.