The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Surfing News: Kelly Slater’s Surfing Related Foot Injury Prompts Early Retirement

Posted by on Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Share: is calling the impending retirement of 11-time World Surf Champion Kelly Slater “one of the most memorable send-offs in modern surfing history.” He is both the youngest (at 20) and oldest (at 39) competitive surfer to win the “World Champion” title. Over his career, he amassed more than $4 million, securing 820 heat victories in 257 contests.

Last month, he announced that his plan is to “get really healthy” to prepare for April 2019, when he’ll commence his last year on the World Surf League tour to finish up at age 47. No storied athlete wants to end a career with an injury. After suffering toe issues this season, Slater wants to go out on a bang. Some speculate he’ll compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo when surfing will finally make its debut as a gold medal sport. We couldn’t think of a better grand finale.

Strange looking things, feet. I’ve had 5 foot injuries now since 2003, the latest coming last week with a strained ligament (#TurfToe) on the same foot (R) I injured last year. Not a major injury but puts me in doubt for #JBay. Sometimes the universe directs you to where you need to be. Injuries used to really freak me out but they’ve taught me patience and and a sense of calmness somehow. Happy #WorldOceansDay and so long to a friend I never had the chance to meet in @anthonybourdain. I wish that meal had happened in Sydney and sorry you couldn’t shake that feeling. Too many good people have gone down before their time. Reach out and call someone if that’s happening to you. 🙏🏽👂🏽

A post shared by Kelly Slater (@kellyslater) on

What Happened to Kelly Slater’s Foot?

“You ever folded your entire foot backwards?” Slater asked in a social media post following the incident. He posted a gruesome x-ray, explaining: “I pulled into a barrel this morning and the whitewash bounced the board back into my foot as I hit the closeout, taking all the pressure into the metatarsals. Kinda like smashing my foot with a big hammer as hard as I can. Sorta feels like I’m giving birth out of my foot right now!”

His initial prescription was surgery and a six-week holiday, which was soon changed to “four to six months” of recovery when it was discovered he not only fractured the two long middle metatarsals of the foot, but also injured the bones and ligaments of the 1st and 2nd metatarsal-cuneiform joints of the Lisfranc joint in his midfoot.

Slater dropped from first to third place in 2016, missing four of 11 major events, after breaking his foot free-surfing in South Africa last July. Fifth place was the best he could do in the limited runs he’s had since his accident.

Kelly Slater’s Other Surfing Related Foot Injuries

Last month, he competed for the first time since December, but he wasn’t feeling great. Now add onto his broken foot recovery woes a bit of soft tissue strain. “I’ve had five foot injuries now since 2003,” he admitted on Instagram, adding: “the latest coming last week with a strained ligament (#TurfToe) on the same foot (R) I injured last year.”

“Turf toe” is another name for a big toe sprain. It typically occurs when the toe is forcefully bent into hyperextension, overstretching and damaging the underlying ligaments while pushing off to sprint. In surfing, the constant jamming of the waves against the toe while it’s bent and gripping can cause this common injury. Athletes with turf toe are routinely out for six months or more.

Symptoms of turf toe include:

  • Big toe pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising
  • Ball of the foot pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising
  • Limited big toe joint movement
  • Inability to push off on the big toe or bear weight on the ball of the injured foot

Many times these symptoms mimic that of big toe tendinitis, so it’s best to have any nagging pain evaluated by a professional. Within the first 24 hours, you should rest, ice, compress, and elevate. Long-term treatment typically involves off-loading pressure from the injury with a walking boot, resting, and physical therapy to re-establish range-of-motion. Sometimes surgery is necessary to repair severe soft tissue damage.

Surfing Related Foot Injury Treatment in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine clinics in Manhattan and White Plains, New York offer state-of-the-art treatment for turf toe, tendinitis, foot fractures, and other surfing-related foot injuries. From Montauk and Rockaway to Sandy Hook and Long Beach, the New York City region is blessed with waves. We see surfers regularly during the warmer months to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate foot, ankle, and toe injuries. Our staff includes board-certified podiatrists specializing in sports medicine, as well as board-certified podiatric surgeons, so we can offer you the best treatment for your injuries. Contact us to schedule an appointment—no referral necessary.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.