Coming into this contest, South African Jordy Smith had won all three of his first-round heats on this year’s Championship Tour. Sebastian Zietz managed to outwork and outmaneuver his counterpart in their three-man heat to move directly into round three of the Oi Rio Pro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As the fourth stop on the 2015 Championship Tour, the Oi Rio Pro is the world’s first look at the best surfers on the planet since the opening trio of events in Australia. Things got going on the second day of the contest waiting period and sets were pumping early on with lots of barrels available. Sets became a bit smaller toward the middle of round one when Zietz, Smith and Keanu Asing paddled out for their non-elimination heat.
Seabass is no slouch, himself, in round one this year. He managed a pair of firsts in both his opener on the Gold Coast and again more recently at Margaret River, so he’s now three for four in the three-man battles.
It was a slow start for Zietz as his two competitors got some early scores to set the pace. Smith picked up the first wave of consequence by dropping late into a tight barrel and pounding the landing. It wasn’t a huge wave but his ability to stay on his board and handle the lip got Smith a 5.67 score about 90 seconds into the heat. He and Asing later split the peak and each got similarly barreled. The judges gave the slight nod to Asing in that exchange with a 5.67 to Smith’s 5.00.
More than halfway through the heat, Zietz put himself back in the mix. Under priority, he caught a quick left-hander and got pitted with an impressive exit. He had to think fast and entered the wave with an almost drop-knee style, but it paid off big time and was tagged a 5.83 for the highest score to that point. He remained in third place, but it was anyone’s heat with 14 minutes to go.
At the nine-minute mark, Seabass went the other way and found a barrel heading right. It was another difficult attempt and he was quickly covered before plowing through the whitewash and managing another turn and float. He made the landing look easy but it was a fairly temperamental wave. Needing a 4.84 to take the lead, it ended up being just enough for Zietz as the 5.23 came through.
He later bettered his situation with a 6.23 for the best score of the heat at the five-minute mark. It was the biggest barrel of the session and Zietz dropped in heading left down the line, getting a clean exit.
Smith and Asing each needed a 6.39 to chase down Seabass in the final moments but neither could better their situation, sending Zietz into round three.
Though Asing, John John Florence, Dusty Payne and Freddy Patacchia Jr. were all relegated to round two heats, all but Patacchia survived to join Seabass in round three. Florence took out Brazilian Alex Ribeiro, Payne squeaked by Aussie Julian Wilson and Asing pulled off a huge upset of former world champ Joel Parkinson by a mere tenth of a point. That puts four Hawaii surfers into the Round of 24 when action resumes.
Florence will take on Adam Melling in the first heat of round three. Zietz will have to deal with local Jadson Andre. Payne gets three-time world champ Mick Fanning and Asing faces defending world champ Gabriel Medina.
The opening round of the women’s event got going after the first 12 men’s heats. Kauai’s pair of surfers, Malia Manuel and Tatiana Weston-Webb, were in the same heat along with Nikki Van Dijk. With not many good scores coming through most of the day, Tati struck first with a 4.50 to open the action, but both Manuel and Van Dijk responded with flurries and all three competitors held the lead during the first 10 minutes.
They continued to trade scores and Tati jumped back into the lead with a 6.93 at the 10-minute mark. She was able to hold on despite Manuel’s continued onslaught trying to find the 5.51 to move ahead. Weston-Webb was safe at the horn with an 11.43 total to Manuel’s 10.96 and Van Dijk’s 10.36.
Bianca Buitendag, Sally Fitzgibbons, Carissa Moore, Keely Andrew and Courtney Conlogue also won their opening matchups to move straight to round three.
Manuel has a second-round elimination heat with Laura Enever, who is still looking for her first heat win of the season. Alessa Quizon will be an underdog as she takes on fellow sophomore Johanne Defay and Coco Ho also must survive a matchup with Dimity Stoyle to advance to round three.
Depending upon the swell, action could resume today. The Rio site is seven hours ahead of Hawaiian Standard Time with a call to be made at 7 a.m. local time.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.