Huge opening win for Zietz in Portugal

In what could end up as his most important first-round heat of the season, Sebastian Zietz picked up a win over three-time world champion Mick Fanning and Brazilian Raoni Monteiro. The Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal finished up its first round on Tuesday and now sets up some critical elimination heats, but Kilauea’s Zietz won’t have to worry about that as he moves directly into round three.

Coming into the event, Zietz sat squarely on the cut-off line for re-qualification at 22nd place for the year. Now guaranteed at least an Equal 13th result, Seabass has a chance to move up a few spots and gain ground on the rest of the competitors fighting for those final few bids.

He had only won his first-round heat twice in the first nine contests of the year, but Zietz got going quickly this time around. His first scoring wave was a left that allowed for a cover-up tube ride. Zietz came through cleanly and quickly, rewarded with an 8.17 from the judges to put him in good opening position.

About five minutes later, Seabass showed off his diverse repertoire by finding another barrel, this time heading right on his forehand. It was a very narrow tube but Zietz stayed covered for a pair of quick sections and escaped through the lip on his feet as the wave closed out. That backup score of 7.50 gave him a 15.67 total and put the other two surfers into combination positions. He quickly improved upon that mark with another forehand barrel, this one a bit cleaner to earn a 7.93. His 16.10 point total would hold for the remainder of the heat and sends him into round three with a chance to find a strong result.

Four of the 12 first-round heats saw upsets with Zietz, Owen Wright, Miguel Pupo and Jadson Andre picking up wins that sent top seeds Fanning, John John Florence, Michel Bourez and Kolohe Andino into the second round. Andre is on a serious roll of late, finishing second at the previous World Championship Tour event in France and then winning the World Qualification Series contest last week in Portugal. He moved up from 29th to 20th in the WCT rankings and from eighth to first on the WQS leaderboard, so he’s no longer worried about qualifying for 2015.

But the same can’t be said for the others on the bubble who now face extremely important elimination heats in round two. Equal 25th finishes are a killer, especially this time of year, so the pressure will be on when action resumes.

Oahu’s Freddy Patacchia has what appears to be a must-win heat for both competitors when he takes on Aussie Mitch Crews. Patacchia entered the event in 18th place for the year but has already exited in the second round three times. Another minimal finish would severely hurt his chances. Crews is in 27th and a long shot to re-qualify, but Andre’s recent success indicates that one good event can make a major statement.

Matt Wilkinson and Dion Atkinson are a pair of Aussies who have a lot on the line when they face off in round two. Wilkinson is one spot behind Seabass in 23rd and Atkinson sits a few spots down in 26th. They’ve each been second-round casualties five time this year but are still in the mix thanks to a few big results. Zietz probably wouldn’t mind seeing Atkinson pick up the win to put some distance between Wilko and himself.

Tiago Pires will have the crowd support from his Portugese contingent when he faces Australia’s Kai Otton in the final second-round heat. Pires has work to do, currently in 25th place. Otton is just one spot ahead in 24th, but has a much better resume this season. It’s a must-win for Pires to keep himself in a realistic position for 2015.

The call for round two would have been made at around 9 p.m. Tuesday night Hawaiian time, which was 8 a.m. Wednesday in Portugal. Tune into Oceanic Surf channels 250 and 1250 each night at 8:30 p.m. for coverage from the Peniche peninsula.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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