RYAN Callinan won his three-man seeding heat and Morgan Cibilic finished second in his, to ensure both make it through to the round of 32 in the Narrabeen Cup on Sydney's northern beaches.
Their results mean both avoid the dreaded "elimination round" that hands the losers an unwanted 33rd position in the men's and 17th in the women's tour, which has half as many surfers at the championship tour level.
The waves were inconsistent for much of the day but great surfers make average waves look good, and the very best were able to still put down big scores that elevated them beyond their rivals.
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World champ and Newcastle Cup winner Italo Ferreira showed his small wave mastery in his heat against Cibilic and Fanning, winning 14.16 (7.33 and 6.83) from eight waves, to Cibilic's 10.33 (4 and 6.33) from three, with Fanning in third spot with 5.6 points (3.57 and 2.03).
Callinan was in the water two heats later in the eighth seeding round against Italian Leo Fioravanti and Tahitan Michael Bourez.
Callinan won with a two-wave total of 11.67 (5 and 6.67), beating Bourez with 9.37 (5.17 and 4.2) with Fioravanti third on 8.23 (4.5 and 3.73).
This heat was much more of a topsy-turvy affair with Fioravaranti in front for much of the time, before Callinan sealed it with the 6.67 on the fifth of his eight waves.
The trio concentrated on the left-breaking waves, with Callinan on his forehand against the two-natural footers surfing backhand.
The Cibilic-Fanning-Ferreira showdown was a highly anticipated affair, with Fanning making his wild card return at the age of 40.
This was another heat with long lulls between waves, and with Fanning needing a major score to avoid a place in the next elimination round, he took off on an innocuous left with a few seconds to go.
It closed out on him, and when the whitewater cleared, he emerged smiling to find his board was snapped in half.
Although Ferreira owned the heat, Cibilic showed enough in his two scoring waves indicated he's retained the momentum he gained with his semi-final finish at Merewether.
World Surf League officials called the contest on this morning, having opted for a lay-day on the opening day on Friday.
Merewether finals day turned on the surf, but there was widespread criticism among online viewers of the competition in the earlier sessions about the quality of the waves.
Today dawned to smallish conditions in Sydney with waves of about one metre at North Narrabeen, a beachbreak at the northern end of the beach that has many similarities to Merewether, but in reverse.
The far northern end of Narrabeen has a jutting rock platform, and the main wave, a bit further south, is the main "Alley" left, with a smaller right breaking towards the rocks.
A bit down from the Alley is the "Carpark Rights", a wave that corresponds to the left that was breaking at Pogo's during the Newcastle Cup. Again, though, in reverse.
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Narrabeen also has an outer wave - as Merewether has "Third Reef" - but it will not be in play while the surf is as small as it is.
Given the criticism of Merewether - which the commentators referred to briefly in their Dawn Patrol broadcast on Friday - there was a gentle irony in the Narrabeen lineup being no better than the early rounds in Newcastle.
Some of the comments on the surfing website Swellnet summed things up.
"Wow. Waves seem sh.t. What a surprise," wrote one viewer.
"To be honest, this is just what I thought North Narraben would look like in a south swell. Lots of closeouts.
"What a joke. Not worth watching piddly closeouts."
Plenty of others would disagree.
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