When the 2016 World Surf League season began, Sebastian Zietz wasn't even in contention. Not because he was some sort of rank outsider who'd scraped his way onto the world tour, but because he literally wasn't invited – he'd been relegated from the tour in 2015 after a series of below-par performances, and was ready to hit the qualifying circuit and regain his place for next year.
6 weeks later, Zietz is the Margaret River Pro champion and current world number 2.
It's a remarkable story, and a confusing one if you haven't been keeping track. Following the withdrawal of Alejo Muniz from the Gold Coast Pro at the beginning of the season, Zietz was called up as a 12th-hour injury replacement, and he hasn't looked back since. Impressive performances on the Gold Coast and at Bells were to follow, before he managed to defy all odds and make history by taking out the Margaret River Pro – the first win of his career.
"I'm just trying to put on more of a show this year," Zietz said in the lead-up to Margaret River.
"I had such bad wave selection and heat strategy last year, I know I can do better."
And he's certainly done that. A solid win over Julian Wilson in the final at Margaret's skyrocketed Sebastian into a world number 2 position, and he's now a shock contender for the world title – provided he manages to get the nod as a wildcard in future events.
Wilson's appearance in the final was backed up by mixed results from the rest of the Aussie contingent. Joel Parkinson continued his promising start to the season and was narrowly edged out by Wilson in the semi-finals, but they were the only Australian representatives to advance past the 5th round. Current world number 1 Matt Wilkinson was unable to complete a sweep of the Australian events, bettered in the 5th round by Nat Young, while Ace Buchan was also knocked out at the same stage against Wilson.
Wilkinson still remains well clear at the top of the overall rankings, with Parkinson sitting 5th, and Julian Wilson up to 7th. The story this time was all about Zietz, though, as his incredible win took him to dizzying heights as he aims to do the near-impossible – win the world title as a wildcard. He's not getting too far ahead of himself, though.
"I don't think I'd like the pressure of being number one. It's better to be sitting in second place, like a ninja just waiting to strike at the right moment," Zietz said following his unlikely victory.
The next tour stop is Rio de Janeiro, beginning May 10. Stay tuned for all the action.
Results: 2016 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro
1st: Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
2nd: Julian Wilson (AUS)
3rd: Joel Parkinson (AUS)
3rd: Italo Ferriera (BRA)
5th: Kolohe Andino (USA)
5th: Caio Ibelli (BRA)
5th: Nat Young (USA)
5th: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Current World Tour Rankings
1. Matt Wilkinson – 24,000
2. Sebastian Zietz – 15,750
3. Italo Ferreira – 14,750
4. Kolohe Andino – 13,700
5. Joel Parkinson – 13,450
6. Caio Ibelli – 13,200
7. Julian Wilson – 12,500
7. Jordy Smith – 12,500
9. Nat Young – 12,150
10. Adrian Buchan – 10,950
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