Taking full advantage of his opponent’s early mistake, Keanu Asing made his way into the fourth round at the J-Bay Open in spotty conditions on Tuesday. The heat win guarantees Asing will at least equal his best result of this 2015 rookie season.
With a very slow forecast clouding the rest of the waiting period, the third round went into the water despite some hesitation from the surfers. Kelly Slater said he was surprised and a little upset the contest ran Tuesday, or at least as early as it ultimately began. Not many good waves were available during many of the 35-minute heats but Asing got a pair under his belt very quickly.
After Asing picked off the first wave of the heat for a solid 7.00, his opponent Josh Kerr held priority, but paddled for a wave and missed the takeoff. He watched it roll harmlessly beneath his board, which gave priority back to Asing. The Ewa Beach native was able to pick and choose his spots as Kerr went after some of the scraps. It paid off for Asing as he backed up his early ride with another nice 7.83, taking the right-hand wave on his forehand for some textbook turns and cutbacks.
Those two scores held up for the victory and Asing makes his way into the final 12 where he’ll face Michel Bourez and Filipe Toledo in a non-elimination heat to jump directly into the quarterfinals. Without John John Florence in the field, four Hawaii surfers started the competition, but Asing is the only one still in the hunt. Freddy Patacchia had reached round three but was blitzed by a huge effort from Julian Wilson, who had Patacchia combo’d for just about the entire heat.
Both Sebastian Zietz and Dusty Payne were knocked out in round two. Zietz fell to an in-form Matt Wilkinson and Payne was eliminated by Italo Ferreira. Zietz held a lead with two minutes remaining when Wilkinson, needing only a 4.56 to move back in front, found what he required under priority. The Aussie had to yield to Seabass, but he paddled well down the line and got into a wave that Zietz let go. He knocked out a number of quick clean turns and was happy with his finish, as were the judges whom awarded him a 5.43 for the win.
But with a round one victory and a win over Kerr, this will make two of the last three events that Asing has reached at least the fourth round. In this his first year on the Championship Tour, he came into the contest tied for 24th place on the season. He’ll be taking home at least an equal ninth result, which should temporarily propel him up into Top 22 re-qualification zone. It’s going to be difficult to make big moves up the leaderboard without making a quarterfinal or two, because the names in the 15 to 20 range – Joel Parkinson, Wiggolly Dantas, Jordy Smith, Gabriel Medina, Zietz – are more likely to rise than fall. But if Asing can keep getting beyond round two, which he has now done in three straight contests, he has a great chance to maintain a spot on the world tour.
Despite a couple highlights here and there, it just hasn’t been a banner season for Hawaii to this point. Unless Asing were to reach this final, an inactive Florence will still be the highest-ranked surfer of the group after Jeffreys Bay. He started the year with a pair of third-round exits and he’s now missed two straight contests with injury. Just his runner-up finish at the Margaret River Pro is keeping his name out of dangerous territory.
Zietz hadn’t taken a second-round loss all season before J-Bay, coming into the event ranked 19th. He now has one of his throwaway scores, but anything can happen with five more stops still on the CT schedule.
The fourth round, when it does begin, will feature one stacked group of championship performers. Defending world champ Medina, three-time world champ Mick Fanning and 11-time world champ Slater will do battle in a non-elimination heat. All three have an excellent chance to take home this J-Bay title, which Slater is trying to win for the sixth time.
Current points leader Adriano de Souza will take on Nat Young and Dantas while three Aussies – Kai Otton, Ace Buchan and Wilson – face off in the opening heat.