Hometown: Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California
Zach Miller zigs when others zag. From his skating heritage and talent, to his craftsmanship when shaping his own surfboards, Zach has established himself as one of SoCal’s most influential creators. Rooted in California culture with a focus on championing positive action and creative originality, Zach marches to the beat of his own drum, just like the glasses on his face.
A Deep Dive with Zach Miller
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from and how has that played into your career path and lifestyle?
So, my dad was a pro skateboarder in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. He never really pushed skating on me, but just growing up around him and around other pro skaters was definitely an influence, you know, like just being around it my whole life. He had me really young too, so when I was a baby, I was fully on tour with him all around the world. My dad was on a bus with a bunch of skaters, going to contests and stuff and it was basically me and him just in the back of the bus. I don't remember any of that, but supposedly I was there. There's photo evidence of me as a baby just sitting there at the skate contest. Just probably thinking it's super loud. And so, it's just kind of your surroundings. I think that you either become part of your surroundings or you kind of rebel against them. I didn't rebel, I did it all.
Q: What was your first skateboard?
It was my dad's board that he cut out with a jigsaw and redrilled the holes. The deck is Astrodeck which is like old school surf traction instead of grip tape. I was so little that he put it on there so I could push on my knees and it wouldn't scrape me up. It has 41-millimeter Planet Earth wheels on it and Tracker Freestyle Trucks. It looks like a giant Tech Deck.
Q: Tell us about your creative side. What inspired you to get into photography?
My mom was a professional photographer, so I grew up watching her shoot photos a lot. My dad always worked closely with Grant Britain and Grant would babysit me all the time, so I just ended up around extremely talented photographers. Then in high school I ended up taking a photography class and I was psyched on it.
Q: What inspires you to create? Tell us about your creative process.
I think it started with going to skate contests and on skate trips where I'm with photographers that are there to document the skating. But I think part of the whole experience, and what makes being a pro skater or pro surfer (or anyone who gets to travel for a living) really cool is all the stuff that happens besides the reason you're going. Like the actual trip itself, what your friends are doing, that cool building or location, this country, or just the random stuff that happens out on the street. I was more inspired by having a camera with me all the time and shooting this stuff almost behind the scenes because it was the stuff that wasn't typically shot by the professional photographers that were there to shoot the skating or the event or whatever it is. So that was kind of how I ended up shooting more portraits, locations and settings.
Q: How have your recent health issues affected your active lifestyle?
Yeah, so in the last six months I started having several autoimmune disorders. Long story short is they cause me to be kind of either too exhausted to function or too wired like almost like super high anxiety like you drank like 30 coffees. Basically, you're either really low or really high, and not at a healthy level, so that causes all sorts of other issues. Which you know, just ends up kind of combatting your health and then at a certain point in time I started losing my hair as well. Along with feeling super sick, you have this like kind of mental battle that's going on and yeah that combined with COVID and the whole world being shut down all at the same time was a lot.
So now I’m physically trying to get my body to level out and just get back to being normal and healthy, and then mentally get to normal health and then from there try and build back up to where I would want to be as someone who's essentially a professional athlete. And in the last like two months, I feel like I've done that. Yeah, I still don't have hair, which that's just a process that will happen. It will come back eventually. So that's just a part of the process of healing. But internally, my health is back to normal. I definitely changed a lot of things. I've shifted my life in a lot of ways to be extremely health focused.
Q: What helps you to remain positive throughout life obstacles like this?
I think staying positive really comes down to the fact that the only person that can keep you positive is yourself. With that being said, also having appreciation and staying connected with people that you enjoy being around who are also positive. Whether it's friends or family members, loved ones, your dog… Anyone who is positive is super important in maintaining your own positivity, but at the end of the day the only person that can be positive is you.
That's not to say I'm positive all the time. I have plenty of days where I'm a complete mental disaster, but you just have to find reasons to be positive. I recently started meditating because I basically felt like if I didn't do that, I wasn't healthy enough to go skate or surf, which essentially was my meditation. You have to figure out some other outlet. For some people it's art, writing or making music, whatever it is.
Q: You have done a great job differentiating yourself in your space. You have so many unique passions, between skating, surfing, shaping boards, and photography. What advice would you give to others who want to expand their passions and take a unique approach to their career?
I don't think I ever intentionally planned on doing a bunch of different things. I just did them because I thought they were cool. I started skating pro contests and traveling and stuff. That's what I did and then it was like through traveling I got interested in photography and then through that I became more interested in other things. I grew up surfing and talking to the old guys that have been surfing since the ‘60s and they have all this knowledge about craftsmanship of surfboards and it's really just you encounter different things in life and you become interested in different things and I don't think that there's any reason why you can't do more than one thing. Yeah, and I don't think there's anything wrong with being super highly focused on one objective or one activity or whatever. I have plenty of friends that are.
I never had the intent of like “I'm going to be the best skateboarder of all time.” I was like “I want to skate good enough to make people psyched on skating and I want to surf good enough to make people psyched on surfing.” And I think that shaping surfboards looks cool and I tried it out one time and it's basically this art project that you get to use afterwards. So, I like doing that and photography just because I want to take pictures of my friends.
Q: You’ve been rocking the Discord Lite lately. What do you like about this new style?
I think it’s an iconic style that translates through the different fashion trends and kind of can stay consistent through everything. I think that simplicity and style is really important. So, I really appreciate a simple classic look.
Q: What made you excited to join the Change Agent Program at SPY+?
I appreciate people who appreciate diversity and uniqueness, and I've always been really inspired by people who do more than one thing and do things in a unique way, whether it's art or surfing or skating or really whatever it is. I just think that people who create in a unique way are inspiring, and I think that's what the team represents.