Payne reaches finals day as CT dominates Lower Trestles

There was no Slater, no Seabass, no Kolohe, but the Championship Tour still brought its A-game on finals day at the Oakley Lowers Pro, Saturday in California. Despite some top seeds exiting the draw on the early side, a few of the world tour’s biggest names showed off and entertained the Lower Trestles crowd with some sharp, progressive surfing.

The final came down to a pair of show stoppers whose CT seasons are currently heading in opposite directions. Brazil’s Filipe Toledo won the first CT event of the season on the Gold Coast, but he’s coming off a second-round exit at Margaret River. France’s Jeremy Flores is looking to work his way towards the top of the rankings with a pair of recent Equal Ninth results after starting the year with a second-round loss.

With each taking this small step down to a QS10,000 event, Saturday was Toledo’s time to shine once again as he started the scoring with a strong 7.83 on the first wave of the final. He later backed it up with an even better gem and an 8.30 put him further out in front. Flores needed a big score late but couldn’t quite connect on what was required, cementing Toledo’s 16.13 to 13.70 win and his second major title of the year.

The 10,000 QS points put the phenom all the way into second place on the QS rankings, behind only fellow countryman Alejo Muniz. Flores also vaults into the top five with 8,000 points. Neither is hoping to need their QS standing to earn re-qualification, but it’s a good number to have in their back pocket should the rest of the CT season go awry.

Maui’s Dusty Payne was the last Hawaii surfer standing and he made a huge run all the way to the semifinals. Payne was ultimately bested by Toledo, who continuously scorched the lip and punctuated the heat with an air reverse to combo his opponent. But Payne didn’t go quietly and put forth a good effort in the 17.24 to 13.27 defeat.

Payne consecutively put up the highest heat total in both the Round of 16 (17.14) and the quarterfinals (17.67), defeating Muniz and Yadin Nicol, respectively, in the process. He was also at least partially responsible for ousting Davey Cathels, Mitch Coleborn, Marion Lipke, Chris Ward and Tomas Hermes during multi-surfer heats earlier in the event.

Sebastian Zietz had a stacked first-round heat and the results bore that out. Zietz was unable to advance from his highly competitive group that saw Heitor Alves (15.77) and Lipke (15.10) move on past Seabass (14.40) and Beyrick de Vries (13.84). The Equal 49th result won’t be much of a help if Zietz does need to use his QS ranking come season’s end.

Kelly Slater has seen his 2015 get off to a rocky start by his standards and the trip to Lowers didn’t provide much cause for celebration. He was a third-round casualty in a stacked three-man heat that also featured Flores and Adam Melling. All are world tour regulars so losing one so early was going to be bad luck for whoever wound up in third place.

Kolohe Andino, who has had a slow start to his CT season after ending last year in 11th place, was also unable to right the ship at Lowers, falling in round two as Wade Carmichael and Miguel Pupo advanced ahead of he and David do Carmo. Andino is yet to advance beyond round three in a CT contest this year, but he found his stride last season with a runner-up finish in Rio, which just happens to be the next stop in a week.

It was certainly not a banner event in Cali for Hawaii’s contingent. Maui’s Tanner Hendrickson and Oahu’s Ezekiel Lau each made it to third-round action, but each was eliminated there for Equal 17th place results. Freddy Patacchia and Granger Larsen were both knocked out a round earlier while Zietz, Ian Walsh, Torrey Meister, Mason Ho, Keanu Asing and Sunny Garcia all failed to escape the first round’s four-man heats.

Both tours head to South America for the QS10,000 Quiksilver Pro Saquarema, which starts Tuesday, followed by the CT’s Oi Rio Men’s and Women’s Pros on May 11.

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

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