The second most exciting battle on the WCT after, of course, the title race, is the coveted Rookie of the Year award. Especially when the rookies in the running for it are hungry young guns, like we have this year.
And who do we have this year? Santa Cruz’s Nat Young, a contest machine, and precision surfer-athlete with an unstoppable backside attack. Kauai’s Sebastian “Seabass” Zietz, an explosive regular footer with style like A.I. in the heavy stuff. And lastly, Brazilian Felipe Toledo, an incredible contest surfer and one of the best aerialists in the world (he seriously sticks everything).
Yes, one of these three fellas will win it come December. But which one? With two WCT events left in the year, we take a look at where they stand.
Nat Young: Ranking after France: 12th
Top 3 results: 2nd at Rip Curl Bells Beach Pro, 3rd at Oakley Bali Pro, 9th at Volcom Fiji Pro
Breakthrough performance: Rip Curl Bells Beach Pro. No one, and I mean no one expected Nat to get to a final in his second event of his first year on tour. But he stormed through the ranks and showed how formidable he is on a right point. He carried that momentum into the next few events, making a Semi at Keramas, yet again on a great right.
What’s next: While the past few events have been sub par for Nat results-wise, he could do well in both Portugal and Hawaii. If it’s hollow, Nat will find the rights at Super Tubes in Portugal, and at Pipe, he could make it through the rounds too, as he proved in Fiji.
Felipe Toledo: Ranking after France: 16th
Top 3 results: 5th at Rip Curl Bells Beach Pro, 5th at Billabong Rio Pro, 3rd at Quiksilver Pro France
Breakthrough performance: Quiksilver Pro France. France is where it all clicked. Felipe landed huge air after huge air so cleanly, it was ridiculous. His alley-oop rotator rivaled John John’s from Bali, not to mention a couple other frontside full rotations that were nearly 540 spins. His battle with Jordy Smith in Rd. 5 and then quarterfinal win over Slater was a sight for sore eyes and really, it was where Toledo finally looked comfortable and confident.
What’s next: If the waves in Portugal this year resemble France in anyway, Felipe will carry this progressive momentum and crush the other rookies. Pipe might be a little tough though as huge left barrels are not his strong point.
Sebastian Zietz: Ranking after France: 18th
Top 3 results: 5th at Billabong Rio Pro, 5th at Volcom Fiji Pro, 13th Hurley Pro
Breakthrough performance: Volcom Fiji Pro. Getting to a quarter final at Fiji in big surf (as it was) is pretty tough, but that shouldn’t have surprised anyone, as big hollow lefts are Sebastian’s specialty. Not only did he streak through that entire contest, he did it with style and expertise. At Cloudbreak, Seabass looked like a man.
What’s next: With just two events left, Seabass may very well excel in Portugal, especially if it’s hollow. But what he’s really waiting for is the last one in Hawaii. Last year at Pipe, Seabass got a 5th, following a 3rd at Sunset (which followed a 1st at Haleiwa). In short, the North Shore is Sebastian’s world and Felipe nor Nat probably won’t touch him there. Especially at Pipe.