Thoughts, prayers and so on for the great Mike Stewart as Kelly Slater hints at conspiracy.
Kelly Slater has operated in a world of big time sponsorship dollars, mainstream media appearances, a relatively stable and continuous now billionaire funded world tour with a quality series, full-time professional athletes, coaches, trainers, post-heat interview sponsor hat putter on guy, commentators….you get the point.
Kelly Slater has so engrained himself into the very DNA of surfing’s world tour when he failed to qualify after the mid-season cut this year he was most dubiously handed wild cards into the rest of the events, because, well he’s Kelly Slater.
Mike, at sixty years old mind, conversely started his 2023 campaign in what is now the International Bodyboarding Corporation (IBC) world tour by surfing from the trial rounds in many events after not securing a seeding last year after a shoulder injury sidelined him from many events.
(The IBC is essentially a promoters group who sanction events under the IBC banner if they meet certain financial and promotional criteria. Like the old ASP I suppose, but without the big surf clothing companies to prop it up and make it look all nice and flashy.)
The final IBC event of the year is the Fronton Pro, held at a wildly slabbing split peak which historically pumps. It’s far and away the best and most prestigious contest on the tour and attracts the largest number of potential competitors.
Now while Mike hasn’t set the world on fire in competition this year, he’d made it through enough heats in previous IBC contests to have himself seeded into the four round of competition at the Fronton Pro.
Our story really begins when Mike was unable to make it in person to the official riders check in meeting held on the 11th of October. Stewart maintains that he contacted IBC officials prior to the check in meeting that he would be unable to attend as he was still travelling from Java and had his sponsored team rider and current world tour leader Tanner McDaniel pay his entry fee and pick up his contest information package at the check in meeting.
However, because he failed to physically attend the check in meeting, Stewart was then informed by IBC officials that he would be stripped of his place in the fourth round and would have to again surf from the first round trials if he wished to compete in the main event.
Stewart has subsequently withdrawn from the competition maintaining that “there’s no rule in the rule book that they can strip my ranking.”
In a passionate piece to camera on social media Stewart states he is taking his position to ensure it doesn’t happen again to riders in the future and likens IBC officials to a “dictatorship regime” that are “completely unaccountable to anyone”.
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So how valid is Stewart’s claim? A quick perusal of the IBC’s rule book throws up a few curly quotes.
Article 1.5.03 states “Failure to confirm intention to compete pursuant to 1.20.02 will result in loss of any seeding that competitor may have had going into the event.”
Article 1.6.03 gives us “Once a competitor is deemed to have entered an event, it will be assumed that they will compete at the event. Entrants are expected to confirm their attendance at an event check-in, details of which will be provided to all entrants prior to event commencement.”
In a separate email sent to all registered competitors regarding the competition check in meeting it was also stated, “Those competitors who do not attend without justification may be penalized in the competition and not receive their competitors kit”.
So, was Stewart’s contacting of officials prior to the event in writing that he would be competing enough to tick off his attendance?
Was it really necessary for the IBC to physically sight Mike Stewart, a man who’s been competing in every form of high level bodyboarding competition since 1982, has sat on multiple riders board committees, who helps sponsor events and also makes appearances in the IBC commentary booth to confirm that he was going to compete in the Fronton Event?
The fall out on social media is almost a landslide in favour of Mike’s position.
Damian Hobgood wrote, “Sorry Mike, pretty disrespectful that the goat of bodyboarding would be getting treated like this.”
Johnny Boy Gomes threw in “F#%k All Them & Their BS 🤬 Competition now days is a Circus run by Clowns🤡”
Tension series creator Chris White suggested, “Take a dump at the check in tent, see if that’s in the rule book.”
And Kelly Slater?
Well Kelly being Kelly smelled a conspiracy, “Sounds like Mike laid it out pretty objectively here and cried about nothing. Sounds like someone is glad he’s not in the event.”
Whatever the true story is, for a man who has won nine world titles and is all but a demigod in the bodyboarding world to bow out of professional competition after 41 years on a rule book technicality doesn’t seem fitting.
It wouldn’t have happened to Kelly.