Meet Quiksilver’s newest Young Gun
Portrait by Ricardo Bravo
Back in September, Stab posted a clip starring who we believed to be the best unsponsored 15-year-old in the world: Sebastian Williams. Seb’s the kind of kid that challenges your notions of how someone his age should surf. Stab’s thoughts about his talents were justified when he won the final of the 2015 King Of The Groms, held on the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha.
And not only did Seb win the event, but he’s also just signed a contract with Quiksilver. And it’s about time – it’s bizarre that the kid’s been unsponsored for this long. Stab spoke with yung Williams post-victory, to learn a little more about someone who’ll undoubtedly do World Tour damage in the coming years…
Stab: Your upbringing was quite unique, yes?
Sebastian Williams: My mum is from Puerto Escondido in Mexico, and my dad is from Durban in South Africa. I was born in Puerto Escondido, but I hold a South African passport as well as a Mexican one. Which one I’m using depends on where I’m going. We used the South African one to come into the US. Then we used the Mexican one to go to Brazil for the contest, ‘cause we wouldn’t need visas. I grew up in California and my dad used to judge on the CT, so we used to do trips over here to Hawaii quite often. I actually learnt how to surf here. I rode my first wave, with my dad, at six months old at Sunset.
Your dad was a World Tour judge? No wonder you can win heats. He was the first travelling World Tour judge. He’s always teaching me things about how to surf a heat, pretty much every time I surf a heat. I come in and afterwards we talk about what I should have done or what I could do differently. Mainly, recently, the advice has been for me to not go for every wave, but rather wait and get the right wave. We’ve been working on that a lot because wave selection counts for so much. I just want to go on everything and froth, but I’ve got to learn some patience and chose the right ones.
Tell me about Brazil. Fernando de Noronha was amazing. The waves were really fun, not too big but never too small either. We surfed the beachie, which was super fun in the morning, then when the tide was a little lower we’d surf the reefbreak, which was my favourite. The whole crew there was so sick. In the water, the heats were more like sessions, or freesurfs that we were getting scored on. It just released all that tension that you’d have in a normal heat. We’d just have fun and get a score. I really enjoyed that. The way they were scoring was based on individual moves. Say, they’d score your carve out of 10, or your air out of 10, then your combo out of 10. So you could take one wave, and try one big move to get the score you needed. Whereas in a normal contest you’d be doing a bunch of half turns to get the score you needed. It encourages way more radical surfing. I loved that particular format.
Who does a kid like you look up to? Jordy Smith is my favourite surfer. I love watching John John Florence too, his new movie psyched me up just so much. but Jordy’s been my favourite surfer since Frothing came out and he did that rodeo flip right at the end of his section. And then since then, I was like, that’s what I want to do. Then I saw him in Stranger Than Fiction and he just killed that. Since then it’s just been like, I wanna be like Jordy.
What was the best thing you learned at the King Of The Groms final? Because we were having so much fun, I guess appreciating that, not having any stress or tension, I learnt to have fun in heats. I had a revelation like, I should relax more in heats. I realised how much fun I can actually have in a heat. Which is interesting compared to everything I learnt from my dad. When I was in South Africa, we were there for a year, and every month I had a contest. That’s where I got all my contest experience from. Before South Africa I’d spent all my time in Mexico, where there’s only three or four contests a year.
And how the hell have you not had a major sponsor for the last few years? Being that we were in Mexico before South Africa, we lived on an island where there was no internet. We had to go into town to use internet and contact people. We were just surfing most of the time. We’d go a month or two on the island at a time without going into town or getting in contact with any companies or anything. We were in South Africa and I started putting out more videos, and I think I matured my surfing. And with King Of The Groms, I think people recently started to realise that I should maybe have a major sponsor.