When Sebastian Zietz arrived at the Gold Coast of Australia last month he wasn't feeling much pressure. That's because back in December he fell off the CT tour during the last event at Pipeline. His only glimmer of hope came in the fact that he was in the third slot for injury replacement slots. But there was just one problem there: technically, that's not an automatic slot fill. After the first two injury slots are automatically filled based on last year's rankings, from the third slot on tour commissioners can use their discretion to fill any remaining slots.
"So when I learned that I let Kieren Perrow and Renato Hickel know I was in Oz, surfing the QS events and ready to go if they needed me," he explained.
And ready he was. After getting the nod by commissioner Perrow, Zietz put in a handful of solid performances at the Quiksilver Pro. While his run drew less attention than that Stu Kennedy, who he eventually lost to in Round 5, Zietz too was a giant slayer, taking out Julian Wilson and Mick Fanning during his impressive run.
"It's kind of a different vibe when you're not sure if you're in for the whole year or not," Zietz said before the event. "I feel a lot more relaxed and like I can just let loose. I'm really just here to try to please the crowd."
Unfortunately Zietz had a rough run in 2015, enduring a number of close calls that didn't swing his way. "It was heart breaking at Pipeline when I realized I'd be missing out on the CT, and not being able to go to the amazing spots," he said. "I was rattled."
Rattled, but not about to give up.
"You gotta just get back on the grind," he says. "I learned a lot about how to improve my heat strategy and priority."
And at Snapper, where he looked every bit as loose as he said he felt, Zietz made good on the commissioner's decision, finishing with a strong 9th place finish.
With Filipe Toledo and Jack Freestone being added the injured list for Bells, Zietz is now likely to see more CT action than he originally thought, which is something he appreciates more now than ever.
"When I hear people complain about the tour I laugh," says Zietz. "That just means they're out of touch with reality. This is the best job in the world, and I'm still a surf groupie out here, enjoying witnessing history. Even when I lose heats I stick around and watch, because my surfing progresses when I'm around the best surfers in the world. I'm not going to get that anywhere else."
That outlook proved incredibly dangerous on the Gold Coast, and after his strong result and his new lease of CT life, Zietz may be ready for a breakout year.