Bourgeois, Zietz victorious

Times Staff Writer

It was a war of attrition packaged as two surfing contests, involving 192 of the world's best wave riders, played out near San Clemente over five long days at Lower Trestles, at one of the world's premier point breaks.

And when the last of thousands of turns were carved, as three- to five-foot surf continued to roar shoreward on a summer-like Saturday afternoon, there emerged two champions whose only common thread seemed to be how thoroughly each dominated their respective finals.

Ben Bourgeois, 29, a World Tour athlete competing in the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro qualifying contest mostly for fun, jumped to an early lead and quickly distanced himself from his three competitors by catching and shredding the biggest and best of the set waves.

"I was able to squeak by in the quarters and semis, but everything was coming my way and I was in good rhythm in the final," he said afterward, in a calm tone you'd expect from a veteran who'd spent years on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' qualifying circuit.

Sebastian Zietz, whose rail-digging turns, vertical snaps and stylish tail-slides put him quickly in front during the final of the Oakley Pro Junior -- he opened his final with a 9.5 out of a possible 10 -- was not seriously threatened and afterward proclaimed himself ready to unwind.

"I finally get to party," said an exuberant Zietz, 20, who also competed in the 6.0 Lower Pro and lost in the quarterfinals. "I've just been cruising this whole week."

Bourgeois, an East Coast transplant to Carlsbad, is in his third year on the World Tour and won with a best-two-waves score of 17.16.

Finishing second was fellow tour-mate Fred Patacchia of Hawaii. Both are headed to Tahiti for the next World Tour event.

Zietz, who won with a score of 18.40, is a next-generation surfer with a much more interesting side story.

He was born in a Hawaii commune and has nine brothers and sisters. He was home-schooled and did not own a birth certificate -- he has been referred to as "Mr. Invisible" -- until he developed into a star competitor and needed one to obtain a passport.

On Kauai he learned from guys such as three-time world champion Andy Irons and his brother Bruce. Oakley signed Zietz and he is no longer Mr. Invisible.

He'll travel to Samoa for a magazine photo trip on Tuesday, "and then I finally get to go home," he said, "which will be nice, because I haven't been home in two months."

That figures to be quite a reunion.


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