Injuries will keep Kelly Slater grounded and unable to compete in Australia's new-look World Surf League swing next month.
The 11-time world champion confirmed on Friday he won't be boarding this weekend's charter flight to Australia because of nagging ankle, hip and foot complaints.
He's been unable to surf and needs at least another month to recover, ruling him out of a rejigged Australian calendar that will now feature championship tour events in Newcastle and Narrabeen before heading west to Margaret River and Rottnest Island across April and May.
The WSL couldn't settle on biosecurity arrangements with the Queensland or Victorian governments in time, forcing them to scrap the popular Snapper Rocks and Bells Beach events this year.
Australian injury replacement Mikey Wright, who missed a permanent tour spot this season in a surf-off, will slot in for Slater at the Newcastle Cup from April 1. Wright is a past winner of Merewether's Surfest qualifying series event.
Slater, who made the semi-finals of the season-opening Pipe Masters in December, said he had struggled physically since breaking his foot in 2017.
The 49-year-old said separate issues with his ankles and hip had kept him out of the water.
"It's a tough one for me because I love Australia so much and miss the time I usually get to spend there each year," Slater said.
"I'll just have to use the time to get myself up to a level physically I never really got back to after my broken foot and get myself out of constant pain.
"Good luck to all my fellow competitors and I hope to see everyone back on tour soon."
Hawaii's John John Florence dominated his home event to claim the COVID-19-disrupted season opener, before subsequent Championship Tour events were cancelled and new venue Newcastle was earmarked as the elite tour's return.
On a comeback of her own after a season missed through sickness, Australia's Tyler Wright heads the women's standings after her impressive Maui Pro win that was decided at Banzai Pipeline for the first time.
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