“When you have a baby at home,” Joanne explains, “you have to register the newborn at a hospital or clinic right away, which we did. But the clinic in Florida was pretty ghetto and they lost his paperwork, so we couldn’t get his birth certificate. That really hurt Sebastian once he needed to travel.”
“In a way it was a blessing,” Billy interjects. “He had this huge obstacle to surpass and so much built-up tension fueling his fire to break out. What blew me away was when he came back, he’d barely surfed at all, and within a week he was blowing tail. I couldn’t believe his natural ability was still where it was, and he was getting better with every wave. When he was 14, my parents decided to move to Key West again, and I wouldn’t let them take Seabass. ‘You gotta leave him with me!’ I begged. ‘You don’t understand how good he’s getting.’”
For the next two years, Seabass lived on the floor of Billy’s, and wife Juliet’s, tiny apartment. Without a passport, he couldn’t travel like other fast-track groms, so he plunged himself into Kauai’s wild wonderland of world-class waves: reef passes like Tahiti, beachbreaks like Mexico, reef points like Indo, dry slabs like Oz, pier wedges, deadly waves, playful waves…
“I was finally back!” Seabass says. “And I swear I surfed more than anybody—all day long, no sunblock. Dustin Barca got me sponsored, bought me a board, and totally took me under his wing. He taught me about respect, hounded me to clean, and hyped me up to sponsors, so I couldn’t let him down. At 16 I moved into his closet, worked as a dishwasher/busboy at night, and every day Billy was drilling into my head: ‘You’re gonna f—king rip! I didn’t take you for nothing.’”
With Billy in his ear and Barca in the industry’s ear, the grom soon earned sponsorship from Oakley, who sought to step up his contract with some high-profile trips. Seabass couldn’t stall any longer. A frantic bureaucratic race resulted in a passport six months after his 18th birthday, initiating a legendary house party with Seabass’ favorite people singing and dancing around the shiny, blue booklet. A jarring trip to 30-foot Mexican beachbreak with Oakley masochist Brian Conley immediately resumed. Then Tahiti, an Indo boat trip… And Sebastian Zietz was off to the races.