This 21 year old out of North Carolina has a bright future ahead of him. Zach Smith has a been wakesurfing since his teenage years as way to stick close to his passion of ocean surfing while being located so far inland. He took his passion of board sports all the way to Nationals in 2014 where he was awarded the Male Breakout Rider of the Year. His love of life, of water, and his overall sense of purpose and happiness make it a pleasure to interview him, even though he has announced he will not be competing professionally this year!
BM: Who are all of your current sponsors?
ZS: No one! I’m a free man, but I would consider myself and my dad strong representatives of Nautique and Phase 5!
BM: What has been your best event so far?
ZS: Best even would be 2014 USA Nationals, where I got 1st in outlaw skim and 2nd in outlaw surf.
BM: Who has been your biggest inspiration in wakesurfing?
ZS: When I started wakesurfing 6 years ago, it was Keenan without a doubt. I didn’t know what was possible, and when looking up videos I found Keenan ripping and was like woah I wanna do that one day! His videos gave me a vision for what was actually doable on a wave, and something to strive for while surfing.
After getting into the competitive scene, Drew Danielo has been a great inspiration. He has helped me out with so much, and seeing how he handles himself and deals with other people with so much respect and love is awesome.
BM: You compete in both Surf and Skim style events. What is the hardest thing about transitioning between both? Is it the pumping, the airs, the landing?
ZS: Tough questions, I would say the hardest for me would be the style of riding in the divisions. My approach to skim this past year has been to ride smooth and clean while linking tricks together. I think with skim it is easier to transition from trick to trick and make combos look effortless, while surfing is a little more difficult. I have a lot less surf style tricks, so it came down to really dialing in the intensity and height of what I had.
BM: Are they both Phase 5 boards? What models if so?
ZS: Yes, they are. I ride the Phase 5 Hammerhead (skim) and the wire (surf)
BM: What is your favorite thing about Phase 5 boards?
ZS: There are a lot of things that I love about Phase 5, but If I had to choose one it would that the boards are made in the USA. There is nothing like using a product that was made by hard working people in America, not machines overseas.
BM: What are your top 3 tricks?
ZS: 3 shuv, back big, switch front big
BM: What other boards do you ride/ have you ridden?
ZS: Two years ago I rode the Danielo diamond, and before that I started landing 360s on a Soulcraft surf style board. Now, we pretty much only ride Phase 5
BM: What other boardsports are you in to?
ZS: I have been skateboarding since I was a little kid, and remember doing my first ollie in my parent’s garage a long time ago. I have also been snowboarding and ocean surfing for a pretty long time.
BM: What has made surfing become your number 1 board sport?
ZS: Surfing in the ocean really became something that I loved. Living pretty far inland in North Carolina, surfing behind a boat was pretty appealing. This was a great way that I could get my surfing fix, and my total wave time was exponentially higher than in the ocean. With that being said, there is currently nothing behind a boat that really compared to the ocean. There is something so humbling and adventurous about surfing waves in the ocean that I really love.
BM: Have you held any other jobs prior to your surf career?
ZS: Before I got into wakesurfing, I started shooting weddings (photos). This was two summers ago, and this summer it is really picking up. Kasey and I have 6 weddings booked for the summer of 2016. I also have a job this year as a videographer with a wedding film company, so I will be learning and starting to shoot wedding videos, which I am really excited about.
BM: What is your favorite thing about the boat?
ZS: So many incredible things to say, but I would say my favorite is how good the surf wave is stock. If you watch my video, that entire video is shot with factory ballast, dad driving, Kasey filming and my grandpa watching. No need for moving people around, or adding any extra weight, EVER.
BM: How many videos do you have out right now?
ZS: 3 or 4, but the last one is much better than the rest
BM: Who does the majority of your video filming and photography?
ZS: This is where it gets hard. I have been into filming and taking photos for a few years, so often I wish I could just duplicate myself. Luckily, I have an incredible girlfriend (Kasey) who is extremely talented. She shoots just about everything from a legit video to a iphone clip on my Instagram.
BM: What type of camera/cameras?
ZS: You really can't beat the practicality of an iPhone or GoPro when just messing around, but when we filmed my last video we shot it all on my sony A6000 with a sony 35mm f/1.8 lens. Kasey and I have a Canon 5D Mark ii with an assortment of canon lenses, but with a low frame rate that is pretty much only for shooting photos.
BM: What music do you typically have with the videos?
ZS: It really depends on what kind of video I want to have as an end result. Sometimes I sit down and find a song, others I already have one ready.
BM: Which of your videos was your favorite to shoot?
No doubt the last one at the end of 2015. We had some friends come out and were generous enough to drive Kasey in their boat to film some chase footage, and it was just a really fun day on the lake. When filming, I really like to have other people surf while filming so that I keeps everyone relaxed and having fun on the water.
BM: Are you still in school? If so where?
ZS: I am a junior at North Carolina State University, home of the Wolfpack. I’m studying Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. I have to do an internship this summer, which is why I won't be travel and competing. I will be living in Hatteras, NC working at a surf camp called Surf Hatteras doing video production and surf instruction.
BM: What would your ideal vacation be and where?
ZS: Somewhere in Costa Rica or Central America, show up and turn my phone off, chill and surf really good waves all day without a worry in the world. I should probably say a close second is what I’m doing right now, on my way to Prague, CZ to visit my girlfriend who is studying abroad for the semester.
BM: What is the most awesome, and the most awful thing that has happened to you since you started traveling for events?
ZS: In the summer of 2014 I was in Texas with the Centurion team and we stopped to eat somewhere (I can't remember the name). Being the new guy I got volunteered into trying their habanero pepper challenge. I had to eat 5 habanero peppers stuffed with pepper jack cheese and cream cheese, deep fried in less than 5 minutes. I have no idea how, but I finished them (Ask Todd, Taylor, Kaley). Eating them sucked, the next 10 minutes were awful but worst was yet to come. Let just say I got “cleaned out” but I ended up surfing pretty good at the comp we were driving to at TSR.
BM: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
ZS: I really don’t know, but I can’t wait to see where I will be! I currently spend a lot of time as a volunteer leader with an organization called YoungLife. Sharing life and Jesus with other people is something I am really passionate about, and I am thinking about going on staff with YoungLife when I graduate next year.
Kasey and I have 6 weddings to shoot this summer, which is more than double our last two years. Starting a photography company would be really awesome and something that I’ve thought of and I think I would enjoy.
As for where I will end up, who knows? I really love North Carolina, but I want to take the opportunity while I’m young to go, and live somewhere new. Maybe somewhere like Oregon/Washington or even overseas in Europe.