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Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Florence in, Nicol out

By Jake Howard
ESPN Action Sports

John Florence, "at home," at Pipeline last winter. He will surf his first event as a world tour competitor next week at the Hurley Lowers Pro.

Twenty-five-year-old Australian Yadin Nicol has been forced to concede his spot on the 2011 ASP World Tour for the remainder of the year due to a broken right fibula sustained while on a surf trip in Japan. Benefitting from Nicol's calamity is 18-year-old John Florence, or simply "John John" as the surf world's known him for the last decade.

Unfortunate news for Nicol, especially after just qualifying for the ASP's mid-year rotation. No stranger to adversity, in 2008, '09 and '10 he came within a whisker of making the cut. Now in '11, just as he's about to make the big jump, he's had the rug pulled out from under him, so to speak.

"It has taken me three and a half years to qualify," told the embattled Nicol this morning from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. "The first year was the closest, I was a heat away. It feels pretty strange to have finally qualified and not be able to surf in any of the comps."

For Florence, who notes, "I just slipped in," graduation to the World Tour is the fulfillment of his well-documented destiny. The toe-headed sand flea that paddled out at Pipe as an 8-year-old, that left every magazine editor, team manager and photographer wondering how long until he burnt out, has successfully grown into one of the world's elite surfers. At the turn of the century he was the original "super grom," but more recently Florence has won both the Volcom Pipeline Pro and the Da Hui Backdoor Shoot Out, and posted good results in Brazil and South Africa that helped push him over the edge. He will begin his life as a World Tour professional next week at the Hurley Lowers Pro.

Hope is not entirely lost for Nicol, as he points out, "Luckily there's a light at the end of the tunnel It could have been worse, I could have broken my leg and not qualified. I am in California until my leg heals up and I'm going to do everything I can to get it strong with my trainer Andy Shmiess. Hopefully it won't take that long, I really want to surf at Pipe and that's 12 weeks away, so if I can get back by then I'd be stoked, if not then hopefully I'll get the injury wildcard and be able to put a singlet on at Snapper."