In December Sebastian Zietz ended up on the wrong side of elite requalification. Despite a few flashes of brilliance during the 2015 season the Kauai native couldn't string together enough results to keep himself on the Championship Tour, narrowly missing the cutoff. But Zietz, more commonly known as Seabass, was granted a second chance as an injury replacement spot opened up just before the Gold Coast.
Thinking it might be his only CT shot this year, Seabass had one goal: "Just to put on a better show for fans."
He did just that, taking down local legends Julian Wilson and Mick Fanning on his way to 9th place finish. That standout performance earned him slots at Bells and Margaret River. He made it to Round Three at Bells, the shocked the world at Margaret River, earning his first career victory and rocketed to No. 2 on the Jeep Leaderboard ratings.
Today he's more excited than ever, having already locked roster spots for Brazil, Fiji, and Jeffrey's Bay. And while he's likely to be getting a lot more seeds, the Hawaiian is taking nothing for granted anymore. After all, behaving like an injury replacement with something to prove seems to be working.
WSL: How did it feel to have a shot at redemption as an injury replacement?
Seabass: when I first got the call-up at Snapper I was jumping up and down in my hotel room, freaking out. I've taken the same approach into every contest. I know that I'm not on Tour and I'm going to have to earn my way to get there. So far it's been going good to requalify through the CT. But at any moment everybody could be totally fine and there goes my injury replacement. I'm not taking it for granted and just trying to do my best. I think I've been more focused. My diets been a little better, I've been working out a bit more. It's all paying off.
WSL: Is it more or less pressure?
Seabass: It's way less pressure. I just feel lucky that I'm here and lucky to get the call up. It's more like a vacation than a contest. Before I had to do both Tours and it was grueling and I wasn't enjoying it as much. Now, I just feel really grateful to get into an event. Falling off Tour last year was really hard for me. And you probably learn the most when you get really bummed on yourself. I just wanted to come in and smash the QS this year and that didn't really happen in the first few events, but I've been getting it done on the CT. And I'm stoked to be back on the dream Tour for a little.
WSL: You had some amazing moments last season, but you seem to have tapped into consistency, what's your secret?
Seabass: I've lost a bit of weight, that helps in every aspect. You're not as sore if you don't have as much impact from the weight you're carrying. I'm not as sore and I'm stretching and rolling out a lot more. Mostly it's just a mental thing though, knowing that I'm lucky to even be here. I was really just ready to go and hit the QS. Now that I'm back on the CT, I'm just really grateful to be around so many awesome surfers and want to push them and dig deep and do well.
WSL: You've got a lot going on your plate outside of the water, has that helped you focus also?
Seabass: I've started a gym up and I just started building my house last week, that's all stuff that's helped me grow up a bit and be a little bit more mature. I have something to fight for and things that I need to make money to put into. Just to have a business and have my girlfriend running that back home and to have her doing that and being real successful makes me want to be real successful. Hopefully, we'll just be millionaires and have a big house (laughs).
WSL: Do you think that focus has changed your personality at all?
It's definitely helped me grow up a little bit. I've been more of the happy-go-lucky, have fun and I'm still happy and super stoked and grommed out, but I have a lot more responsibility now with a business and a house. It's a good time to do well and I think it's meant to be.