Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 |
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Malia Manuel and Sebastian Zietz each came to France with an opportunity to secure a bit more breathing room in their yearly point totals. But neither were among those who benefited most from some good swell coming through Hossegor last week and each will now be pressed for results in the Championship Tour’s final stops of the season.
Zietz entered in the more vulnerable position, tied for 22nd in the men’s CT rankings. That’s the cutoff point for a return to next year’s world tour and Seabass doesn’t yet have a Qualifying Series ranking worthy of inclusion. Staying in the CT’s top 22 is his best chance at a fourth consecutive year on the elite level.
But after a second place in the non-elimination opening round, Zietz took on Matt Wilkinson in round two. There has been good swell with excellent wave chances for much of the contest, but the men’s second round didn’t include many.
Each competitor settled for some middling totals and Wilko held on at the end for the 10.17 to 8.16 heat win. It adds to a somewhat uncharacteristic stretch for Zietz, who now has three second-round exits in his past four events. Prior to that, Seabass had advanced to at least round three in all five contests to start the season. His results are emblematic of the men’s CT season as a whole; an unpredictable one in which anything that can happen, probably will.
We know Zietz publicly as a guy who doesn’t appear to worry about much and enjoys his life and time on tour. But now he’s going to require some results at the year’s final two stops, Portugal and Pipeline. He was close to the cut line at the end of last season and managed to make heats under pressure when he had to. That same pressure now returns, maybe even more severely as he’s likely to fall below that key No. 22 line.
Things are probably more manageable for Manuel, but she is currently in the most vulnerable position she’s experienced in a few years. Having finished comfortably in fifth place last season, the depth on the women’s tour this season had her in ninth heading into France. She also now has to deal with the return of six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore, who had missed five straight contests with injury. Despite a pair of finals appearances, all the time off has dropped Gilmore to 11th place.
Manuel managed a 14.17 total in round one, but still finished third and headed to round two. There she was dealt another bad break to be matched up with Gilmore. These two normally wouldn’t have to deal with each other in such an early round, but Gilmore’s time out of the water made it a possibility. Manuel still led after Gilmore found some cover on a long right for an 8.83 score, but a small back-up score changed the order and Gilmore barely held on for a 13.50 to 13.40 win.
Only one event, the Target Maui Pro, remains for the women. Manuel holds a decent lead over Nikki Van Dijk (10th), Gilmore (11th) and Coco Ho (12th), but this second-round loss opens the door for some interesting scenarios to develop. That trio all reached the third round and will close the current gap. Van Dijk has made four consecutive quarterfinals and Gilmore’s return means her free fall in the rankings will surely reverse course.
Manuel and Alessa Quizon are tied for the sixth-place cutoff point on the Qualifying Series. A helpful point for Manuel is that Van Dijk is actually ahead of her on the QS. If the Aussie moves ahead and qualifies through the CT, Manuel will bump up a spot on the QS, so being passed by Van Dijk doesn’t necessarily hurt her chances.
In years that Manuel hasn’t been secure in her CT rank, she’s dominated the QS circuit. She probably hoped to not have to go that route this season, but it could be the deciding factor if Maui results in another early exit.
Tatiana Weston-Webb, Carissa Moore, Ho and Quizon all reached round three in France, while John John Florence was the only Hawaii male to survive into round four.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.
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