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Sunday, September 4, 2011
Updated: September 9, 2:09 PM ET
Don't call it a cut-off

By Jon Coen
ESPN.com

Into the Quik Pro NY via injury wildcard, Cory Lopez is suddenly looking at another shot at the World Tour.

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Well, here we go again. Following the Quiksilver Pro New York, it's time for the ASP's mid season shake-up, cut-off, throw out, tune up ... whatever you want to call it.

"Cut off" was a good way to put it last year. But 2010 was the transition year for the ASP, when they went from 45 to 32 surfers on the World Tour and started using a universal points system to unify surfer rank between World Tour surfers and those slugging it out at the lower-rated events.

"It's a mistake to compare last year's cut-off with this year's rotation," says ASP Tour Manager, Renato Hickel. "Last year we cut numbers, from 45 down to 34. This year, we'll simply apply the World Rankings at the point of rotation to select the new top 32, plus two wildcards, forming the new top 34 for Trestles through to Pipe. Big difference."

So, this year and moving on, we're only going to see surfers lose slots, to six hungry fellas who have amassed enough points doing star-rated and Prime events as we go into the backside of the season. The Quik New York Pro is the last chance for some of these surfers.

Kelly Slater may have won the Billabong Pro this week, but it was Teahupoo who claimed the most surfers. No. 2, Jordy Smith left Tahiti in a wheelchair and is not in New York thanks to a fractured ankle. Dusty Payne, another victim of the Chopes meatgrinder, will not be in town, even though he's the only tour surfer to have competed in Long Beach in the past.

That means Cory Lopez gets a slot. Lopez needs a fifth place finish to be part of the top 32 heading to Trestles. Freddy Pattachia suffered a knee injury at the start of the season and, by the numbers, he has to make the final in New York to stay on tour. But according to Hickel, Pattachia is a candidate for a wildcard.

The only Portugese surfer to have ever made the tour, Tiago Pires, started the season with a third place at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. This is interesting, as he's ranked No. 12 on the World Tour, but he's down to No. 33 on the World Ranking and needs a 13th-place finish to stay alive. Adam Melling is in a bit more trouble than Pires. At No. 36, he needs a ninth place finish.

Tanner Gudauskas was cut in 2010 and sits just outside this year's rotation.

Gabe Kling has had a rough year since being granted the wildcard after the cut-off in 2010. The only 2011 World Tour event where he's made a round was the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, and now the pressure is on to make the semis, or he's out.

Bobby Martinez has said this is his last Tour event. He was a no-show at J-Bay and Teahupoo. If he changed his mind and did want to reamain on tour, he would have to make the finals in New York. It's not impossible, but boxing and photo trips may be more likely in his future.

There is some other talk of retirement. Taylor Knox is 40 years old and been holding his own since 1983. In a culture based on youth, he is still one of the most talented waveriders in the world and ranked No. 25, but what happens if he decides to bow out? And there are rumors of other vets looking to step away.

"There are rumors," says Hickel, "If they qualified and retire, next in line on the World Rankings will move up. If they don't cut into the 32, they are no help at all to anyone else."

So obviously, the guillotine will not severe as much of the tour as it did at Teahupoo in 2010, but what if you get "rotated" the wrong way? For the sake of history, let's take a look back at the dirty dozen who were axed last year and see where they are today:

At age 33, Kieren Perrow was awarded a wildcard slot right after he fell off tour. He came back to make the finals at Pipe and 2011 has been his best season ever. He is safely at No. 15 in the World Ranking and No. 31 on the World Tour.

Tanner Gudauskas is at No. 40, which keeps him one or two results out of the hunt. Ben Dunn did three years on tour before losing his slot. At No. 73, he won't be back anytime soon. Blake Thornton has still produced, but at No. 75, has quite the uphill battle ahead of him, same as Nate Yeomens, at No. 84.

Then there are the guys outside the top 100. Neco Padaratz, who had already been on again/off again several times is at No.108, with some solid Prime results in Brazil, but little chance of every competing on tour again. Several years younger, Kekoa Bacalso is at No. 105. Jay Thompson has slid to No. 122. Dean Morrison is at No. 138. None of these guys are 19 years old anymore. The 2010 cut off may have been a blow these careers never recover from.

Mick Campbell basically retired. Drew Courtney isn't even on the ASP radar anymore, although he led Australia to gold at the ISA World Surfing Games.

The crowds in New York are worked up to a fever right now. Hurricane Katia is going to be a saving grace to some and a vengeful wench to others.