Seabass, Malia, Tati all stave off elimination in Rio

It was a good day.

Sebastian Zietz, Malia Manuel and Tatiana Weston-Webb all advanced from their elimination heats during Saturday’s action at the Oi Rio Pro.

Early losses are killers and all three Kauai surfers have avoided that fate. They can now eye some deep runs at this fourth stop of the Championship Tour season.

Zietz probably has the most to lose at this event, with so many competitors on his heels. Plus, with Matt Wilkinson’s second-round elimination, everyone will be trying to take a bite out of that large lead Wilko set up for himself to start the season.

The waves were very difficult to traverse, but Zietz earned an 8.00 on his first wave by torching just a pair of quick turns on a small left. He held off Keanu Asing, who is having a brutal start to 2016. Asing still hasn’t made it beyond round two through the first four contests.

Next up for Seabass is another elimination heat with Adam Melling. With Wilkinson out of the field, if Zietz were to win his second straight contest, he’d move into the world’s No. 1 ranking. Wishful thinking, I know. But the door is now open for either Zietz or Italo Ferreira to take the yellow jersey from Wilko with a victory.

Dusty Payne and Jack Freestone had some nice upset wins in round two, eliminating Julian Wilson and Jeremy Flores, respectively. For the rookie Freestone, it’s his first-ever CT heat win.

For the women, both Manuel and Weston-Webb are into the quarterfinals to guarantee themselves a top-five finish. Tati has reached the quarters in all four events this year. It’s a good comeback result for Manuel, who made it to the quarters on the Gold Coast to start the season, but not since.

After knocking off Alessa Quizon in round two, Manuel had another elimination heat against Keely Andrew in round four. She was very active despite the small conditions and elected to hop on every wave she could paddle into. The strategy worked out in a 13.10 to 11.50 victory. Manuel will be the underdog in her next matchup with Sally Fitzgibbons as she tries to get into the semifinals for the first time since the 2015 Margaret River Pro.

Weston-Webb survived a battle with Coco Ho in round two and then came back to knock off Sage Erickson in round four. Erickson came close to the necessary number on her last wave but wound up just shy in a 13.24 to 13.00 result.

Tati now has a go at world No. 1, Courtney Conlogue, in the quarters. It’s certainly a difficult matchup for Weston-Webb as she tries to reach her third straight semifinal round.

Tyler Wright awaits the winner of Johanne Defay and Laura Enever, who still need to complete their fourth-round heat. Stephanie Gilmore will also take on the winner of Carissa Moore and Bronte Macaulay. It’s no certainty, but it seems we’re likely to get another Moore-Gilmore matchup, which is always must-see action.

A few lay days may be in store, with some small swell sticking around before a larger period is expected mid-week. But they elected to go in the small stuff Saturday, so stay tuned.

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

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