Jak Ziets had already started standing up on his boogie board when he caught his first wave on a soft-top surfboard at Leadbetter at just 6 years old. The Mesa native found his calling that day and has been hooked on the sport ever since.
Last month, Ziets, now 13, took home two national surfing titles in an eight-day competition at the NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) National Championships in Huntington Beach. His wins came in the Open Boys Division and Explorer Menehune Division, which culminated a “Grand Slam” for Ziets, who also won both titles at the West Coast Regional championships in mid-May. He beat out the best young surfers the country has to offer, including competitors from New England, Texas, and Hawai‘i.
Ziets’s early start helped him develop strong fundamentals. Where most teens his age focus on tricks and catching air for the majority of their points in competitions, Ziets naturally excels on the bottom-up basics to grab the judges’ attention. (He still likes to get a lot of air, too.) “I want to be a pro surfer when I’m older, for sure,” he said of his budding career. “I’ll probably live in Santa Barbara part of the time and San Clemente a little bit too, but I hope that, mainly, I’ll just be traveling the world for contests.”
Ziets is definitely headed in the right direction. Such exceptional achievements are rare for Santa Barbara, despite its large surfing community. The Coffin brothers, Lakey Peterson, Tom Curren, and Bobby Martinez are some of the few who found as much success as Ziets at such an early age. All have gone on to surf professionally as adults.
Keep an eye out for the talented teen at some of his favorite Santa Barbara breaks, including Sandspit, Rincon, and Lowers.