Five Minutes With Zac Arena-Foster (Stilus Surfboards)
A young shaper from WA doing things a bit differently.
Words by Vivien Coombe.
Last year, local surfer Zac Arena-Foster announced he was launching his own line of boards - Stilus. With Stilus well up and running, we couldn’t have been more pumped to find out how it was going and which direction was forwards from here.
Stilus grew from humble beginnings. A young uni student with an empty wallet, Zac was spurred on by his boat building father to shape his own board: “I just sort of thought, why not make my own? It costs about half the price to make than buy and there were quite a few inspiring shapers around; Ryan Birch, Ellis Ericson...and it seemed like the right thing to do for me at the time.”
Stilus translates to style in Latin, an element Zac continuously relates back to in our interview. A business man with an artistic flair, he is all for people using surfing as a mechanism of expression rather than simply a sport with gimmick after gimmick. And since starting surfing from the early age of 5, he has noticed the gradual changes in the surf scene from being about having a laugh and good time with your mates, to moving towards a more competitive and high achieving atmosphere.
“I think surfing is definitely cooler than it was 15 years ago. It’s a growing community, but with that comes intensified marketing and a shift in demographics. I definitely am capitalising on the growing market, but I’d like to think from a different perspective, focusing on a stylish way of riding the waves.”
Having surfed his fair share of competitions, Zac talks about the difference between short and long board cultures. He sees the long boarding culture moving more in the direction that he likes, with the style element that he digs so much being encouraged not only in the media but by the crowd. “I feel like there’s almost a formula you have to tick off in short board performance – speed, power and flow. You gotta have those hack turns and really muscle your way through the wave. With long boarding it’s sort of just ‘look cool’ haha. Like when Ryan Henderson surfed at Whalebone last year and he did something sweet, the whole crowd really got behind him - it was smiles all round.”
And Zac definitely surfs with these values firmly planted in his mind. When you watch the guy on waves, the only word for it is stylish. Check the sleepy front arm, the casual lean back as he hangs ten. He dances on the board, feeling the wave and moving with it, changing up his motions with timing that just makes you sigh in defeat. When we tell the guy, he chuckles and simply says, “well that’s good, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
He has an inarguably kooky, unusual sort of style; but that’s exactly what Zac is chasing. “I like the oddities of surfing; so the stuff that no one thinks is cool, I think it’s cool. I love pulling chop-ups on a short board; they’re almost like a skate move – an ollie-spin combo which might not be a power hack but they look sick. I get inspired a lot by people who are oddballs, people like Ozzie Wright who don’t really care want the status quo is. They normally do a lot of art as well which I really like.”
Aiming to bring the panache back into surfing, the budding entrepreneur has a strong connection with the arts, and the goal of bringing the thoughtful and deep art culture to the surf community. “I sort of like art more than I like surfing in terms of culture. What I think is lacking is a symbiotic relationship between the two, where both give to each other. Surfing is definitely not gearing that way and within art, surfing is almost seen as a pop culture type fad… It would be really cool to have a more textured culture.”
Recently closing a partnership deal with Soggy Bones, Zac is well on the right track to forging an artistic relationship with the surfing world and this clothing line is ready to in the imminent future. He also plans to make his South Freo-based warehouse into an art space; a place for music and an art gallery. “I’m always looking for mentors and always looking for someone to help, because there’s not a lot of it in WA… but that makes things interesting at the same time. So it’s definitely all happening for me, but you just have to remember to have fun with it. When you want to do something and you’re smiling, you can do it with style, and that’s what I’m into.”
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