It looked like it would be an early exit for Sebastian Zietz as the clock ticked down on his second-round heat against Joan Duru. Both had surfed well and Duru pulled ahead late to seemingly advance into round three of the Oi Rio Pro, Tuesday at Brazil’s Saquarema beach break.
That would have been a tough result for Zietz, since the strong regular footers typically have the advantage when the barrels are firing at this wave. Duru gave him everything he could handle and showed well for the goofy footers, appearing to advance with his last-minute 7.67 for a 15.67 total.
Needing an 8.04, Zietz found himself positioned perfectly for a last-ditch effort. With only 15 seconds still on the clock, he dropped right into his final opportunity and almost instantly crouched into a picturesque barrel. He was deep and the wave wasn’t enormous, so exiting appeared to be unlikely at first glance. But he kept pace and the barrel even seemed to throw a bit of a pump fake, giving him a little more cover when it looked like the ride may end.
He scooted out cleanly and began to head into the beach. That extra little bit of formation and avoiding a shampoo finish was probably just enough to get the score from the judges, which came through as an 8.23 to give him a 15.86 total and a spot in round three.
It was a ride reminiscent of some of the greats who seem to always get the benefit of the ocean’s whims, like John John or Slater. A few feet in either direction may have meant not exiting or not getting the score, but it rolled in exactly where Seabass needed and he made the most of the opportunity.
He continued to capitalize in round three, defeating Tomas Hermes in their elimination matchup. Zietz had another fantastic barrel in that heat, which was much narrower and looked like it would clamp down about six different times before he somehow made his way through the front door and stayed on his feet. The second barrel section this time was even more distinct as he fully exited a clean section and raced into another tube, completely disappearing each time.
Seabass appears to have a great feel for this wave right now. If the conditions remain as they were Tuesday, he’s going to be a very tough out as the field has narrowed to 12 competitors. But the treacherous three-man elimination heats are up next in round four, whenever the men resume competition. John John Florence and Ezekiel Lau also remain in action, giving Hawaii three surfers still in the field.
Co-points leader Julian Wilson remains, but Italo Ferreira was upset by Yago Dora in round three. So Ferreira will not have the yellow jersey when the tour heads to Bali.
Jordy Smith, Owen Wright, Adriano de Souza, Michel Bourez, Matt Wilkinson, Frederico Morais and Ace Buchan also suffered upset losses in the early stages of this event. There are plenty of dark horse candidates who can now look to pick up big totals, along with the stalwarts like Florence, Wilson, Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo.
Zietz is already guaranteed his best result of the season, but the potential is certainly there for a finals day run, given what he has shown thus far.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.