Make it six straight events into the third round for Sebastian Zietz, who got as close to a perfect 10 as one can without actually seeing those digits in his second-round victory, Tuesday at the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
With the monstrous waves from Monday coming down just a bit, Teahupoo was still putting up 8- to 12-foot faces as the seventh World Championship Tour event of the season almost completed its second round, narrowing the field from 36 to 25. Kilauea’s Zietz had an elimination battle with Brazil’s Alejo Muniz and picked up a 9.97 score on his second wave, receiving a perfect 10 from three of the five judges. Seabass didn’t get much of a challenge from Muniz and coasted into round three with a 15.80 to 2.00 victory.
There’s a huge difference between a second-round exit and moving into the third round. Going out in round two nets just 500 rankings points, the lowest any competitor can receive. Moving into the third round guarantees at least 1,750 points and is a mandatory result for any surfers near the edge of the qualification bubble. Zietz entered Teahupoo ranked 19th with the top 22 at year’s end gaining automatic re-qualification.
With one heat still to be completed in round two, Zietz’s third-round opponent isn’t yet assured, but it will be either Josh Kerr, Kolohe Andino, John John Florence or Owen Wright.
Wednesday is expected to bring big swell back to Chopes, similar to Monday’s huge session. With mostly 10- to 15-foot faces and some larger sets rolling through, there were plenty of big scores to be had on Monday, but some wipeouts reminded everyone of the wave’s power – not that they needed one. South Africa’s Jordy Smith took a monster set on the head after getting caught inside. He needed the jet ski to come rescue him on the sled and take him back to the lineup.
Many of the top seeds were the stars of round one, but Aussies Kai Otton and Ace Buchan pulled out upset wins. Buchan used a 9.97 to just outpace Joel Parkinson and jump directly to round three, while Otton totaled an 18.24 to distance himself from Florence and Smith.
Zietz had the event’s first heat against Kelly Slater and Glenn Hall. Slater was true to usual form, pulling into a big barrel that resulted in a 9.40 and finishing with a 16.40 total. Seabass took second and headed to round two, where he matched up against Muniz.
With just a 1.50 on his scoreline, Seabass had a late takeoff on a huge wave. He air dropped in as the barrel was already beginning to form behind him and held his rail to maintain balance. The lip had him completely covered and Zietz was deep enough to prolong his disappearance from the judges until getting spit out for the day’s best wave.
The 9.97 put him in great position, but with 17 minutes still on the clock, it was either man’s heat to win. Seabass further distanced himself by backing up his monster score with a 5.83, standing tall in a smaller barrel and coming out cleanly to increase the combination lead. With Teahupoo a similar wave to Pipeline, where Zietz has had so much success, he’ll be a tough out moving forward..
Oahu’s John John Florence picked up a win over Brazil’s Raoni Monteiro. The young phenom has had an up-and-down WCT season but he gained a pair of medium waves on the way to an 11.00 to 2.43 victory. Fellow Oahu surfer Freddy Patacchia lost the heat of the day, knocked out by Spain’s Aritz Aranburu, 17.46 to 17.04.
Today should be another massive day with a building swell over the next 48 hours. Aussies Adam Melling and Matt Wilkinson surf the final heat of round two before fellow Aussie Taj Burrow opens up round three against Portugal’s Tiago Pires. Other intriguing third-round matchups will pit world No. 1 Gabriel Medina against red-hot wild card Nathan Hedge, as well as Parkinson against upset-minded Brett Simpson.