Sebastian Zietz Wins The 2016 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro
And beats Julian Wilson in the final for his first-ever World Tour win.
The resurrection is complete. One of the great raw talents in world surfing, Kauai’an Sebastian Zietz, finally put an event together, winning the Margaret River Pro over Australian Julian Wilson. A win that rockets him to second place in the ratings heading to Rio. He told Stab it would take a while to “sink in.”
“It doesn’t really sink in until later on. When I won the Triple Crown it was the same thing, just another normal day, just won a heat,” he said, adding, “One thing I’ve always wanted to do is win a WCT!”
He joins a list of Hawaiians on the Margaret River Pro winners list, including former winners John John Florence, Carissa Moore, and Dusty Payne. Something Seabass attributes to the wave’s likeness to several Hawaiian waves.
“If anywhere I was going to win a comp it was here or Sunset. You got a lot of open face and a lot of time to think about it,” he said, adding that he’s got work to do before the tour heads to Rio. “I gotta work on my quick-twitch reaction in the beach breaks and stuff but yeah, I like to just draw it out and I was super stoked the judges were loving it,” he said.
His day began against Brazilian Italo Ferreira. Seabass overcoming the explosive goofy foot with a more varied approach on the small, clean walls than his opponent could offer. With the semi-final complete, the Hawaiian chose to spend the 20 minute break before the final free surfing Main Break. By the time the final was over he would have spent 95 minutes in the lineup, not including his pre-event free surf (he was the only competitor on the final day to warm up at Main Break prior to the event).
“I didn’t see the point in coming in and re-setting. I just wanted to stay out there and surf. I think the more I get a freesurf in, the better I surf,” he said, adding, “It was dreamy just going into the final with already warm legs.
He drew a razor sharp Julian Wilson in the final, the sunny coaster overcoming Joel Parkinson in pressure-cooker semi-final. Parko had struck first, swooping into a clean tube, followed by a trademark wrap, and a closeout gaff for a 6.67. Julian then missed the set behind eliciting a howling “FUUUUCK” from coach Jake Paterson on the stairs. But it worked in his favour, Julian exercising priority shortly after with a lightning three turn combo, plus a bonus fourth in front of the bricks, for his first keeper, a 7.67. Parko then missed a crucial wave after misjudging the gusting offshore, an error he said contributed to the loss.
“There was one wave I missed, I think (Julian) got a 6.9 which didn’t matter in the end but I think it mattered for the rhythm and the way the waves were and priority,” he said.
“I’m pretty angry at myself. I just can’t believe I missed a wave. I’ve usually got good judgment with paddling in and offshore and stuff but yeah just underestimated how strong the offshore was and how far out I was.”
Julian sunk the dagger in late, gluing two radical carves to the pocket followed by a smooth inside tube-to-doggy door exit for an 8.93. Parko took off on the wave behind, opening with a trademark hook in the pocket and a closeout float, but the length of ride and variety of manoeuvres was not there.
“In a positive way I’m really happy but I’m also angry. It means I care a lot, it means I let an opportunity slip by and I’m fired up for the next one,” said Parko.
The final saw immediate fireworks with Seabass pulling what he later admitted was a “sleazy” paddle manoeuvre, resulting in Julian wearing a kick to the face and losing out in the first exchange.
“Yeah, it was lucky there was one right behind it. We mighta’ been brawling out the back before the heat got going,” laughed Julian after the final.
Despite giving up the opening wave for the second heat running, Julian went unpunished with Seabass pulling into a low percentage tube that pinched. The Australian was on the very next wave, opening with an 8.67 featuring the purest of bottom turns into a brutal laceration in the pocket, followed by two more hits down the line. He backed it up with a vicious down carve under Seabass’s priority, followed by a series of wraps and stabs for a 7.67 and a mountain of pressure for the Hawaiian.
Raw talent is a funny thing. It’s best friend is often zero expectations. Faced with a heat winning total inside the first five minutes, Seabass put all his chips on a single grab-rail gaff in the pocket, sticking it perfectly, despite bogging that exact turn in the free surf before the final.
“It kinda only lets you do one steep turn unless you get a really good wave. Especially when it’s smaller, it’s only steep for that one section,” he said.
“I try not to grab the rail but I’m pushing really hard and trying to hit it in the steep part of the wave so a lot of the time you’re gonna lose your fins or lose your balance if you’re not grabbing the rail. So I just grab it just to make sure, then you can just push real hard and I was really stoked to just wrap it around and felt the fins kinda come lose at one point. I felt it was a really good turn and was stoked to get the finish,” he said.
He dotted the ‘i’ with a closeout float for a 9.10, along with a rocket of self-belief. Then a 25 minute lull set in. The pair traded minor scores afterwards, before Julian again applied the blow torch with an 8.0 for a creatively drawn out gaff and three more perfectly linked turns. There was no time for the pressure to set in as Seabass took off on the wave behind, emerging from the foam into a billboard-bottom turn to hook combo, straight into a devastating layback. The judges favouring the two explosive manoeuvres over Julian’s fast, linked, carving runs down the line. As the minutes counted down, Hawaiian Carissa Moore appeared on the competitors race unsure whether it “would be weird” if she chaired Seabass up the stairs following the win (“Get down there! That’d be the best thing ever,” was WSL commentator, Rosie Hodge’s advice).
The victory is the biggest of the Hawaiian’s World Tour career, putting him in the bizarre position of contending for a world title despite being an injury replacement (he was relegated to the WQS at the end of 2015).
“Falling off tour was really hard, it made me feel like a kook,” he said.
“I just went home and the waves were super fun at home, I got a lot of waves, I got psyched to hit the WQS, then to get the call up for the comps and you know just being lucky to be here. Thanks Kieren for putting me in, hopefully he can put me in a few more times now that I’m doing alright.”
Julian was philosophical in defeat, telling Stab he was simply “outsurfed.”
“I think Seabass was on the edge of having a really poor final or getting it done. He kind of went as hard as he could and he got the job done where I feel like I put the pressure on and made good choices but I wasn’t keen to blow a good wave and he was really putting it on edge and getting rewarded for two turns with full commitment,” he said, adding, “I guess I tried to surf a little bit of a smarter heat. He easily could have fallen off on his first wave when he pushed so hard.”
The tour now heads to Rio De Janeiro with two former relegation battlers occupying one and two on the ratings, a 21 year old Brazilian sophomore, Italo Ferreira in third, Mick Fanning on holiday, and the greatest of all-time, Kelly Slater at 28th.
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