Big scores on Saturday at Bells Beach

If you weren’t bringing high scores on Saturday, you weren’t making it through at Bells Beach. The waves were providing opportunity after opportunity and those who took full advantage kept their spot in the draw. Those who didn’t will now be watching, likely with some regret.

To put things in perspective, in round two, Leonardo Fioravanti, Conner Coffin, Josh Kerr, Ian Gouveia and Miguel Pupo averaged a 15.48 heat total between the five of them. All five lost.

It was all about the excellent range at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and Jordy Smith set the bar quite high from the outset. In the day’s first heat, the powerful South African threw together a few flashes of brilliance with a 9.50 and an 8.90 for an 18.40 heat total. Smith was runner-up at Bells last year, a quarterfinalist in 2015 and a semifinalist in 2013, so he wouldn’t be a shock to complete the job this time around and ring that elusive bell.

Joel Parkinson followed suit with a 16.57 to 12.83 win over Samuel Pupo before Sebastian Zietz paddled out for what turned out to be a thrilling heat against Fioravanti.

With about eight minutes remaining and behind, Zietz took off on a wave that showcased his impressive rail work with a few beautiful carves and a great snap on his final section. He took the lead with an 8.60 to add to an earlier 8.33. Fioravanti was on the second wave in the same set and the judges felt he only slightly got the better of the exchange with an 8.67. But even so, Seabass moved in front by a hair and held on in the final moments for a 16.93 to 16.84 victory.

The result set up a third-round meeting between Zietz and Julian Wilson in a rematch of last year’s Margaret River final, which Seabass won for his first career Championship Tour victory.

Third-round results were unavailable as of press time.

Consistently reaching round three is a qualification key for all CT surfers and Zietz has now done so in the year’s first three events. But what moved Zietz into the much safer area of the rankings in 2016 was being able to run deep a few times once getting beyond that second-round danger zone. The way Bells Beach has looked so far, he’s sure to be a tough out.

Ezekiel Lau bested Zietz’s showing in the very next heat when the big rookie from Oahu eliminated Coffin, 18.40 to 16.40. Trailing with a few minutes left, he continued the trend of the day with some exquisite rail work for a 9.40 to jump into the lead, holding on to reach a round three matchup with Kolohe Andino.

The afternoon was also highlighted by Mick Fanning’s dominant win over Ethan Ewing with a pair of nines and Frederico Morais showing just how skilled and comfortable he is on bigger waves and longer rides. Morais feels like a solid dark horse candidate for the rest of this event.

The women were off for the day and will start their quarterfinal action when they resume. Tatiana Weston-Webb’s round four loss to Sally Fitzgibbons means two Hawaii wahine remain in the field. Carissa Moore is looking for her fourth Bells Beach victory, but she has a tough road ahead that starts with Courtney Conlogue.

After losing in round two at four straight stops to start 2016, Coco Ho has reached round three at all three events so far in 2017. She’s set for her first quarterfinal of the season and will take on defending world champ Tyler Wright.

Fitzgibbons will take on Lakey Peterson and Stephanie Gilmore faces Johanne Defay in the final two women’s semifinal heats.

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

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