EXCLUSIVE Surfing-Slater says he plans to compete for 12th World Title

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Feb 11 - Surfing great Kelly Slater said he plans to compete for an unprecedented 12th world title, including in Australia where officials have said he will not be able to travel unless he is vaccinated against COVID-19.

Slater, who has not revealed his vaccination status, has previously expressed some scepticism about vaccines and defended tennis world number one Novak Djokovic last month after the unvaccinated Serbian was detained and later deported by authorities ahead of the Australian Open.

"I'll see you in Australia," Slater told Reuters from Hawaii, declining to answer whether he had been vaccinated.

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"It is an important question, and there's a reason I'm not talking about it that is personal. I do believe that medical privacy is a real thing. But I think my answer that I'll see you in Australia answers that."

Slater, who turns 50 on Friday, had hinted he might retire from one of the longest and most successful careers in sport after a stunning win at the season opener at the notorious Pipeline last week.

"I'm planning on surfing the rest of the tour," Slater said.

"You know, I'm not thinking about 12 (titles). I mean it's in the back of my mind and having a win under my belt, if I get a couple more good results then yeah I'll make that top five... I'll deal with that challenge when I get there, if I make it that far."

The top five men and women after 10 events battle for the world title at a one day finale in September at Trestles, near San Clemente in Southern California.

Slater's first win as a pro was at Trestles in 1990 when he was 18, and he now lives part-time a short cycle ride away.

"So that would be a nice bookend for me as well, to be able to get there and try to win a world title and see how we go."

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Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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