Keep your eyes on the bubble as the ASP qualification battle heats up

With Kelly Slater closing in on his remarkable 11th world title a lot of big ASP tour drama is shifting to the massive race to make it into the Top 32 of the world rankings. With more than ten surfers either in danger, or in the hunt, interesting twists and turns are happening daily.

But a quick look at the world rankings is only half the story, because before surfers can gain any ratings ground, they first must backup any of their Top 8 results that might expire, as each result has a shelf life of exactly 12 months. With that in mind it’s important to note that some surfers have much bigger holes to dig out of than others.

Here’s a look at who’s on the bubble, beginning with number 22 ranked Taylor Knox. After looking closely at the hill each surfer has to climb before any ground can be gained, I took the liberty of predicting the likelihood of them doing so. As you’ll see, the current rankings are very fluid indeed.

22. Taylor Knox is 6,636 points shy of replacing the 10,800 points expiring before year’s end. Probability: Low. He can’t afford any slips, and needs one more solid result just to stay put, so he’s in danger despite this ranking.

23. Patrick Gudauskas is 3500 points shy of replacing the 7000 that expire before year’s end. Probability: Low. With two world tour events left, he’s got work to do. Hello Santa Cruz.

24. Chris Davidson has a whopping 12,058 points that are expiring before year’s end and very little in reserves. Probability: Low. But he’s already in Round Four at Portugal, which means he’s now only 8058 points shy.

25. Travis Logie is 2867 points shy of replacing the 5292 points expiring before year’s end. Probability: Good. A win against Adriano de Souza in Round Three would have gone a long way toward getting him out of the hole.

26. Dusty Payne is 4,949 points shy of replacing the 9050 that will expire before year’s end. Probability: Good. But if he doesn’t get past Parko in Portugal on Tuesday, Payne will need another strong Pipeline finish to hold his ground.

27. CJ Hobgood is only 1750 points shy of replacing the 7050 that are expiring by year’s end thanks to his strong reserves. Probability: High. Ceej needs one more quarterfinal in a Prime to stay put. Anything more is gravy.

28. Kai Otton has already backed up what’s set to expire by year’s end. Probability: High. He has a good chance of moving up from here.

29. Brett Simpson has 258 points shy of replacing the 3550 that expire before year’s end.Probability: High. Brett also has a good shot at moving up the ladder.

30. Yadin Nicol has no way of replacing the 4626 points that will expire by year’s end, but he will likely get the injury wildcard anyway.

31. Kieren Perrow is 6250 points shy of replacing the 8000 that will expire before year’s end. Probability: Very Low. He blew up at Pipe last year. He’ll need to do the same this time to survive.

32. Tiago Pires is 1159 points shy of replacing the 3016 that expire by year’s end. Probability: High. Although turning lower after his Round Two loss at home in Portugal.

33. John Florence is 1691 points shy of replacing the 3941 that will expire before year’s end. Probability: High. Being eligible for three world tour events (including one in his backyard) should help him dig out and climb.

34. Kolohe Andino (below right) is 1137 points shy of replacing the 2057 that will expire by year’s end. Probability: Good. One more solid result could put him on tour, and he knows it.

35. Freddy Patacchia has already replaced the 4753 points that will expire by year’s end, and then some. Probability: High. Having ripped his way into Round Four, and Hawaii around the corner he’s ready to start climbing.

36. Adam Melling is 804 points shy of replacing the 3807 points that will expire by year’s end. Probability: High. But after bombing out in Portugal expect to see him at the Prime in Santa Cruz.

37. Dane Reynolds has a whopping 12,500 points to replace before year’s end and no motivation to do so. Probability: Very Low: Don’t fret, there will be more Yellow Teeth giveaways on his blog.

38. Tanner Gudauskas is 1857 points shy of replacing the 4114 that will expire by year’s end Probability: Good. He cant’ be counted out being that he’s been on a tear lately.

39. Daniel Ross is 3474 points shy of replacing the 7074 that will expire by year’s end. Probability: Good. He’s a battler with multiple shots. That said, he’s got serious ground to make up.

40. William Cardoso is 2177 points shy of replacing the 3503 that will expire before year’s end. Probability: Low. But he shouldn’t be taken lightly.

41. Thiago Camarao (right) is only 168 points shy of replacing the 868 that will expire by year’s end. Probability: High. He’s a real threat with a strong chance to climb.

42. Jesse Mendes is 1157 points shy of replacing the 3557 that will expire by year’s end. Probability: Good. He still has ground to make up but look out for this kid in 2012.

43. Cory Lopez is 4560 points shy of replacing the 6417 that will expire before year’s end. Probability: Low. The odds certainly aren’t in his favor, but Cory being Cory and all, he’s still a dark horse worth watching.

Upon further examination, the aforementioned surfers fall into one of four categories:
1. On shaky ground: Though currently in qualifying positions, Taylor Knox, Chris Davidson, Patrick Gudauskas, Dusty Payne, and Kieren Perrow are all in danger of sliding fast given the holes they’re in.
2. Holding steady: Travis Logie, CJ Hobgood, John Florence, Brett Simpson, Tiago Pires, and Adam Melling each have work to do, but are on solid ground.
3. Clear and present dangers: Freddy Patacchia, Kolohe Andino, Thiago Camarao and William Cardoso are ready to pounce and make the most of their opportunity.
4. Outside looking in: Dane Reynolds, Tanner Gudauskas, Daniel Ross, Jesse Mendes and Cory Lopez are long odds, but well within striking distance.