A hardcore Texas surfer, Paul had wired breaks from Galveston to South Padre Island before first visiting Kauai in 1970, where he lived for a spell at the famed countercultural beacon, Taylor Camp. Eight months before they could move the Zietz tribe to his Hawaiian ideal, Paul and Joanne had yet another baby to deal with in Fort Pierce, Florida. “The hospital was across a drawbridge from North Hutchinson Island that was always up,” Joanne remembers. “So we prepared for a home birth. We studied up, got a kit from the head paramedic, had an ambulance close by, and delivered Sebastian with just the family. He actually came out humming.”
Meanwhile, the elder Zietz boys received invaluable mentorship and sleek blades from one of Paul’s closest buddies, Impact Surfboards shaper Charles Williams, who coached the kids to early ESA success. Billy actually won his district’s Menehune division the year Paul relocated the family to Kauai. The sheer beauty of the island and aloha of its inhabitants mitigated any culture shock the kids might’ve felt. “The locals related to us because we had a big family and weren’t rich, but still made it over here,” Billy says. “A sixth-grader at Hanalei School, I couldn’t believe how laid-back it was. Nobody even wore shoes. Andy [Irons] came up to me right away the first day, like, ‘Hey! Do you surf? What’s your name? Come stay at my house this weekend!’ We were close friends from that day on.”
Seabass had been experimenting with a boogie until Billy shaped his little brother a crude surfboard. By all accounts, the four-year-old was instantly trimming down the line. Within a month he was carving rail turns. By the time he was eight he had a distinct style, a magic 4’8” and a sponsor (Rip Curl). Everything Seabass needed either grew on the trees, swam in the ocean, or fell from the sky. One thing he didn’t need was an intermission. When you grow up in heaven, hell doesn’t necessarily look like a Clive Barker movie. On a nice day it can look a lot like the East Coast.
“It was supposed to be a month and a half, and we were gone four years,” Seabass recounts. “Billy, Max, and Josh stayed on Kauai while the rest of us flew to the mainland. We took a Winnebago from California to New Hampshire to collect an inheritance from a dead uncle—which [the widow] took us to court for. We were stuck. With no money to move home, we posted up in New Hampshire for two years. Then while we were gone, our house in Kauai burned down, so we had nowhere to move back to. What little inheritance we got would’ve been eaten up by plane tickets, so my parents decided to relive their glory days and sail down the East Coast to Florida.”
A North Atlantic hell-trip ensued with a couple near-death experiences for Paul and lots of seasickness for the kids. But while the Zietz children missed a few toys and meals, they were compensated with honesty, love, and an education like no other. Upon arriving in abysmally flat Key West, Seabass worked at a supermarket and dug holes with a pickaxe to pay for Greyhound rides up to Fort Pierce, where Charlie Williams bestowed upon him the same shaping and coaching tutelage he’d given Paul’s older sons a decade prior. Although he could only surf during contest weekends, Seabass started winning immediately, which quenched his thirst until Joanne made enough money selling artwork to shuffle everyone back to Kauai. Seabass was thrilled, but as his competitive peers began earning publicity and refining their skills abroad, Seabass found himself at the back of the bus.