GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater is out of the season-opening Quiksilver Pro in the World Surf League.
Slater, returning from a lengthy layoff because of broken right foot, placed last in his three-man opening heat and was last again in his second-round elimination heat Thursday in the event which marks the start of Olympic qualifying for surfing.
The veteran American dug in the rail on his first wave and failed to catch his two rivals in his elimination heat.
Slater appeared upset with the conditions and with some of his scores, throwing up his hands at times while in the water. He needed a score of 8.07 on his final wave to move into second place in the heat, but with 30 seconds left, missed out entirely.
He said he’d struggled to read the lineup on the Gold Coast, where he has been a multiple winner, and he needed to regroup before the next event at Bells Beach on the southern Australian coast.
“I didn’t get many good waves in the end … it’s a tough pill to swallow. Horrible performance,” Slater said. “The last three days something has come over me and I’ve been really struggling. All the pressure, the buildup, has really kind of thrown me off enjoying it.
“I need to break out of that. I better get hungrier.”
Australian Owen Wright won the heat with 13.73 points ahead of Peterson Crisanto of Brazil, who both advanced. Slater, who would be 48 if he qualified for the U.S. team for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, where surfing will debut on the program, finished with 10.63.
Poor surfing conditions at the usual Snapper Rocks venue, caused by a recent cyclone shifting the regular sandbank, meant competition had to be move around the point to Duranbah for a second straight day.
The Quiksilver Pro and Boost Mobile Pro are the first elite events where men and women will receive equal prize money.
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Seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore advanced after the first round Thursday in the women’s event.
Reigning men’s series champion Gabriel Medina advanced directly to the third round by winning his first-round heat on Wednesday. Defending Quiksilver Pro champion Julian Wilson moved into the third round by finishing second in his three-man elimination heat on Thursday.
The top 10-ranked men and eight highest-ranked women on the 2019 WSL tour will be among those qualifying when surfing makes its debut at the Olympics next year in Tokyo.
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