Six-time world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore has withdrawn from the upcoming tour event at Lower Trestles in California.
The titleholder hasn’t competed since suffering a knee injury in April at the Margaret River Pro.
She has missed events at Brazil, Fiji and the US Open of Surfing at California’s Huntington Beach to leave her title defence in tatters.
Gilmore, who suffered three hairline fractures around her knee in Western Australia, says she’s simply not fit enough to return to competition.
“I’m only about 70 per cent recovered from my injury so, unfortunately, I can’t compete at this great event,” Gilmore said.
“I really don’t want to push it and I want to be fully healed before I surf competitively again.
“But on the plus side, I’m really looking forward to watching the women attack the wave and seeing what they do out there.”
Gilmore has slumped to 10th on the tour rankings during her enforced absence.
American Caroline Marks will take her spot in the field and will match up against two-time world champion Carissa Moore and Brazil’s Silvana Lima in the opening round.
The men’s tournament has also been hit by injury with South Africa’s Jordy Smith and Australian rookie Matt Banting also withdrawing.
Three-time world champion Mick Fanning will be hoping to overhaul championship leader Adriano de Souza at the event, which is poised to start on Friday (AEST) if conditions are favourable.
“Everyone is so close at the top, which is really awesome,” said Fanning, who is a mere 250 points behind Brazil’s de Souza.
“It’s going to be a really good pressure cooker all the way to the end of the season.”