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Top 34? It doesn't sound right. Since the early 1980s, the term has been "Top 44."
Forty four is kind of an odd number. It's not like the "Top 20" or "Top 50." Thirty four is equally awkward, but it's what the ASP has worked out to be the perfect number of surfers to compete in its ten events around the world, with a handful of wildcards thrown into each.
Either way, the list of tour surfers for 2011 has been finalized and with that came the announcement that Gabe Kling, 30, of Florida and Kai Otton, 31, of Australia, would be awarded the two wildcard slots.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to end the year, having to wait and watch instead of getting a good final result. But in the end, it worked out. Renato (Hickel) called me and let me know. It was a great early Christmas gift," said Kling.
Kling qualified for the tour previously but was knocked off after 2007 and fought his way back to requalify in 2009. But following that year's Quiksilver Gold Coast Pro, Kling sustained a Medial Collateral Ligament tear and Medial Meniscus tear in his knee as well as a Distal Tibiofibular sprain in his ankle at the Cold Water Classic in Tasmania.
At the start of 2010, Kling was denied an injury wildcard. He did, however win the ASP Prime Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro to improve his One World ranking, and after the tour dropped 12 surfers at the mid-season cut-off in Tahiti, Kling was granted a slot for the second half of the season. He took down Bobby Martinez at the Hurley Pro in September and also edged out Kalani Chapman at Pipe. But after Dusty Payne beat Mick Fanning to preserve his own tour life, Kling was again on the outs.
The ASP was leaning toward awarding Kling the wildcard in Hawaii, but the news was made official on Tuesday.
"I think this is the third time I have been on the bubble. It's not a fun place to be, but it makes life exciting," Kling laughed, "I'm just focusing on getting one result at a time. I cant really count points and ratings. That doesn't help me out. I am just focused on getting a breakout result on the WT this year."
Otton was an obvious recipient. Also a rookie in 2007, he finished in the Top 15. He has been a considerable force on tour for several years. Earlier this year, he suffered three bulging disks in his neck and actually had his arm go numb when paddling. Missing the second half of the year, he didn't have the points to requalify. Thanks to the wildcard, he will be back in 2011.
The ASP will again reshuffle the deck after the sixth contest, a new event in New York, in September.2011 ASP World Tour Surfers