There have already been some surprises, if not necessarily the consistently majestic barrels to start the Billabong Pro Tahiti at Teahupoo. But Saturday ended in disappointing fashion for Sebastian Zietz, who saw Kolohe Andino turn their third-round heat in the closing minutes.
The pair of regular footers each did some good work in the early stages, but it was Seabass getting the better of the exchanges. He held what looked like a solid lead as the minutes ticked away. Zietz had put up the heat’s three highest single-wave totals but hadn’t been able to completely separate his score line. Andino needed a 7.27 to jump into first place, which certainly isn’t an impossible task when the right wave rolls in.
It did so right at the two-minute mark, when Andino used his priority to drop into a solid little barrel. He had to avoid it clamping too much and managed to stay on his board. It was pretty impressive to see him emerge unscathed from the pit and the judges determined that effort was the heat’s best, giving the Californian a 7.67 score to move into the lead.
Seeing the heat flip for the first time, Seabass needed a 6.51 to steal it back. He found a wave with just under a minute remaining and got into the barrel, but it never gave him an exit opportunity and he was taken down in the white wash. Andino came away with the 12.67 to 12.27 win to move into the fourth round.
With four events remaining, Zietz is beginning to creep into the precarious zone for re-qualification. He’s not in immediate danger, but the difference between a third-round win and loss is the difference between just 1,750 points and at least 4,000 points. Coming into Tahiti ranked 15th, Seabass might drop another spot or two after this week, which could make the back end of the season a bit stressful.
A few others with high hopes saw those dreams dashed in the early stages, with former world champ Adriano de Souza and former Teahupoo champ Jeremy Flores also getting knocked out in round three. Fellow Brazilian Wiggolly Dantas did the deed against de Souza, when the 2015 world title winner couldn’t find an adequate backup for his 8.17 high heat wave. Flores was eliminated by Aussie rookie Connor O’Leary, who is having quite a debut season. He entered the contest 10th for the year and looks to improve upon that now, guaranteed another top-10 result.
Though he’s never been a Teahupoo standout, it’s still a bit unusual to see Filipe Toledo fall in the second round anywhere, but that’s what happened in his matchup with Ethan Ewing. Coming off his win at J-Bay, Toledo needed to avoid all 25th-place results for any realistic chance at getting back into the world title race. Losing in the second round to start the season on the Gold Coast and having been suspended for Fiji, Toledo now has three minimum scores on his ledger, meaning at least one will count towards his season total. It’s difficult to win a title under those circumstances.
John John Florence coasted into round four, knocking off Nat Young after a first-round win. Florence enters Tahiti just 250 points behind Matt Wilkinson for the yellow jersey. Both remain in the contest, but John John is always the favorite at this wave. His chances of jumping back in front of Wilko and staying ahead of Jordy Smith and Owen Wright are certainly favorable.
Outside of a great heat between Flores and Leonardo Fioravanti in round two (that Flores won, 18.77 to 16.60), there haven’t been many huge battles to this point. Hopefully the waves are just pacing themselves for the back end of the event, which still consists of 10 days to go in the waiting period.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.