The Last Qualifier: Gabe Kling Interview


Above: Gabe Kling and friend Ben Bourgeois in Nicaragua.

Being last ain’t always a good thing—but receiving any slot on tour, even if it’s the last one, is more than you and I could ever say. Florida’s Gabe Kling discusses receiving the last spot for the 2011 ASP World Tour.—Ryan Brower

Gabe, all smiles about getting that last slot for 2011. Photo courtesy ASP/Rowland

Gabe, all smiles about getting that last slot for 2011. Photo courtesy ASP/Rowland

TransWorld SURF: Congratulations on receiving the last spot on tour for 2011. It’s been a while, but tell us how they informed you that you received the last spot.
Gabe Kling: Renato [Hickel] from the ASP called me and left a message saying to call him back. I was a little nervous because I figured if I had gotten it he would’ve just told me on the message. I was dreading calling him but finally did and he told me congratulations. It was a good early Christmas present.

2010 was a pretty up and down year for you. Give us a rundown.
I was finally healed up from all my injuries and did a lot of contests early and didn’t do that well until the Lowers 6.0 Pro. I won and that put me back in the mix. From there everything started falling into place. I barely got the wildcard for the second half of the year and just had a great time on tour—the waves were really fun in France and Portugal and Puerto Rico.
Going into Hawaii I knew I needed another result to really be safe and had a couple shockers in both the ‘QS events and the Pipe event. If I had made one more heat at Pipe I would’ve passed two people and been safe. After that it was just sitting around, watching heats, and losing my marbles. It ended up working out though. I guess it kept me on my toes.

Winning the Lowers 6.0 Pro was definitely the highlight of your year. That contest was just ridiculous and no one expected you to come out on top, but you did what you needed to on the final day.

That whole contest was just amazing waves and amazing surfing. It was definitely the biggest win of my career—I’ll never forget it. I was just doing what I had to do to get through and had some really close ones. The final day the waves were still great and I had nothing to lose, so I just went out and had fun and it just worked out. It was one of those weird things when you look back just, wow, it was meant to be or something.

That definitely set the tone for the second half of your year.
I didn’t know what to expect with all the changes going on when I got the wildcard for the second half. It was just fun to get in there and really have no pressure. I wasn’t even sure if my points were going to count—they said they would, but it was hard to tell with all the changes happening.

Gabe earned the injury wildcard for the second half of the 2010 season and put up four 13ths and a 25th. Photo courtesy ASP/Scholtz

Gabe earned the injury wildcard for the second half of the 2010 season and put up four 13ths and a 25th. Photo courtesy ASP/Scholtz

It seems like the last few years you’ll make the tour, fall off or get injured, get back on. What’s it going to take for you to beat that mid-year shuffle?
It’s a big task for me. I feel like the first year I got on tour I did terrible, got beat pretty bad, but I learned a lot. So I fell off, then got back on, then I got hurt. This past year was the first time I really had that second chance to take what I learned and apply it. Going against the top seeds is going to be pretty hard, but I feel like I’ve got a better chance now. I definitely have to get some big results, and that’s what I’m looking to do.

With the first round a three-man non-elimination, how important is it getting to that fourth round where it’s three-man non-elimination again?
That’s my goal, to get to that second three-man heat. That’s a pretty good result. And if you win that one you’re in the quarters. I’m going to have a tough draw the whole year. But I’m just going into it as I did the second half of last year, just a wildcard with nothing to lose. They’re the top seed and I’m just going to throw it all out there.

Almost like they’ve got more to lose than you. What does it mean to you getting the empty slot that would have been Andy Irons’?
It’s bittersweet in that way. I haven’t really thought about it too much, but we all wish he was still hanging and surfing with us all. I’ll be thinking of him when I’m out in my heats for sure. Just this last year I got to hang with him a little more. He’s a legend.

So what’s the prep plan like for 2011 now that the Jaguars’ season is finite?

Right now I’m just winding down my little mini offseason, enjoying a little time at home. I don’t really have a plan together yet, but I’m probably going to have to get out of Florida soon because there’s no waves here. That’s a big part of my prep plan. If there’s any more cold fronts up north I’ll head up that way or head out to California. I’d like to try and surf a right point somewhere, maybe go over to Australia early, who knows?

Being the last slot on tour, Gabe will be facing the top seeds initially, unless he can jump up the ratings. Photo courtesy ASP/Cestari

Being the last slot on tour, Gabe will be facing the top seeds initially, unless he can jump up the ratings. Photo courtesy ASP/Cestari