The heartbreak and horrors of elimination in round two.
There are no easy heats as a tour rookie. And for Zeke Lau there was no tougher draw than facing frequent flyer, Filipe Toledo in round 2. The wiry Brazilian dynamo and former Quik Pro champ was always going to be a threat at Snapper Rocks—especially when it’s 3-4 foot. But against the Hawaiian powerhouse he failed to capitalise early, looked only mildy enthusiastic and let the rookie control the heat.
Zeke’s opening 5.33 was a telegraphed sledgehammer hack from well up the point. Sure, conservative by CT standards but it demonstrated his raw power all the same. His 7.00 was a banger of a wave. After some lacerating rail work the wave doubled up and ran across Little Marley allowing the Hawaiian to weave behind a shimmering Snapper curtain icing it with a flurry of switchblade snaps. Knowing he had taken the first step in proving himself against the best the Hawaiian was relieved to take the win. “It feels great, a little nerve racking at the end but that’s the moment I live for,” said the beaming big bopper.
It’ll be interesting to see how Toledo bounces back from this loss. He would have expected to take home a keeper here. With Margs and Bells next, two venues he missed in 2016 due to injury he will be wanted to be in the final four or find himself with his back against the wall before the Pacific leg. The Brazilian was last seen way down at Rainbow Bay, making the long walk back to his Snapper Rocks apartment, head down, sullen and trying to make sense of a very bad day.
After the biggest upset of the day, the match-up between part-time Kauaian resident, Jack Freestone and full-timer Seabass delivered the biggest disappointment of the day. Freestone struggled with injuries in 2016 but with a clean bill of health he can’t afford to lean on excuses no more. To see him go down to Seabass—especially at a wave in his backyard—you’ve got to wonder whether he has the chopes to make an impact on tour or will just make up the numbers for a couple more years.
The Aussie started off strong dropping a 7.83 and 6.17 in quick succession putting the torch to the Hawaiian. But when Zietz fired back with an 8.13 he kicked in to top gear and wielded his full bag of tricks. Freestone never managed to reclaim priority. When Zietz dropped an 8.27 taking a cleaver to a shimmery Snapper lip he showed that he’d graduated to a mature, legitimate, CT threat.
The battle between working class Italo Ferreira and Italy's chosen one, Leo Fioravanti, produced the move of the event. Italo’s 10-point fly away air reverse to pop-shuv it and switchfoot float had everyone stomping up on their feet. From that point on Leo crumbled, hanging on to priority willing the ocean into life. Leo has spent a couple of months on the Goldy, and it’ll sting packing up early on the eve of a building swell. After his breakout performances in 2016, twice taking down Kelly, this result will bring the rookie back down to earth. “I never really fall off that much I just wasn’t surfing the way I normally do, I was thinking too much and it just wasn’t my surfing,” said Leo afterwards as he processed the loss.