On a day of upsets and close calls, it was a bit of hard luck that eliminated Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz from the J-Bay Open, Monday in South Africa.
The sixth stop on the 2014 World Championship Tour worked its way down to 12 remaining competitors but Zietz fell victim to a strong performance by Brazil’s Adriano de Souza. Seabass put up the eighth-highest heat total of the 24 competitors in round three, but de Souza managed to outpoint him thanks to an 8.87 score midway through the heat, as well as a Zietz misstep in the closing seconds.
The Brazilian picked up the first score of the heat, remaining patient on a wave he could have bailed on a few times. He managed to combine eight maneuvers and finish with a float, landing softly for a 6.17 on a wave didn’t look like much at the outset. Seabass regained a lead at the 18-minute mark, carving three turns and finishing with a layback on the fourth to earn a 6.50 score. His lead was short lived as de Souza jumped right on the next wave and raced down the face to get ahead of the action. He started with three big turns and then another long float, which he followed up with two more turns and a quick claim at the end. It was worthy of an 8.87 and moved de Souza ahead, 15.04 to 11.33.
Needing an 8.55, Seabass swiftly got a bit closer. He started with a familiar layback and scorched a pair of turns, finishing in the whitewater and staying on his board for a quick but explosive ride. It wound up just shy of the requisite number, but at 7.87, he now needed a 7.18 to move back into first.
With less than a minute to go, the situation remained the same as Seabass hopped into a wave that began to stand up nicely. After an easy opening move, he slashed two fierce carves that spit plenty of spray and kicked into another sharp turn but was unable to remain atop his board while trying to slash back into the face. It was his last opportunity and would have very likely gotten him the score to advance, since he earned a 5.67 even with the fall at the end.
Nonetheless, it’s still the fifth straight event Zietz has reached the third round and the Equal 13th will net him $9,500 in prize money along with the 1,750 rankings points.
With Seabass and John John Florence out, Freddy Patacchia Jr. is the sole Hawaii surfer remaining. He was able to knock off American Nat Young, putting up an 11.60 to 5.44 win. Despite those low numbers in round three, Patacchia still has one of the best heats of the week in round two, nailing a 9.93 wave on his way to a big win over South African local Travis Logie. Patacchia will be taking on Mick Fanning in an elimination round five heat.
Already into the quarterfinals are a trio of Aussies – Joel Parkinson, Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson – along with Brazil’s Alejo Muniz. Wilkinson pulled off the biggest upset of the event when he surfed one of the heats of his career by knocking off Kelly Slater in the third round (18.36 to 15.37). He followed that up with a win in his non-elimination fourth round against Kolohe Andino and de Souza, which propelled him directly into the quarters.
The win over Slater was a role reversal for Wilk. He entered the event ranked 33rd in the WCT standings and had only moved past the second round once all season. He nailed two successive nine-point waves. Now in the quarters, he’ll leave Jeffreys Bay with at least an Equal Fifth place result, a big jump towards his efforts to re-qualify for 2015.
The field has opened up for some underdog potential with top seed Slater out of the competition, along with No. 3 seed Michel Bourez falling to Muniz in round three. Young was the seventh seed and coming off a runner-up finish at the Fiji Pro, but Patacchia ended his event early, as well. Wilkinson, Muniz (ranked 28th) and Wright (15th) have already exceeded expectations, but there’s little reason to believe they can’t advance further.