Editor’s Note: This feature is sponsored by VAST Life.
There are several snapshots of complete joy that comprise my first memories of the beach. Tasting that salty air, feeling that silty sand between my toes, the way a splash of saltwater stung my eyes, or laughing as my grandpa chased after me. I can’t recall exactly how old I was — maybe two or three — but I do remember I was still living with my grandparents in Tainan, Southern Taiwan, those first memories framed by the black-sand beach of Mashagou.
I was born in Taiwan, moved to Perth, Western Australia when I was eight, and then emigrated to the United States when I was 12. Although I travel often between the U.S. and Asia these days, I still consider Los Angeles home. It’s a big, bubbling melting pot of different cultures and lifestyles. L.A.’s vibrant, delicious mixture shaped many of my passions: from music to food, cars to nature. But mostly, the ocean was at the center of it all. Indeed, the thought of being able to wake up for an early surf, head into the office for a few hours, pretend to be a grown up, and then maybe jam out to the mountains, is all pretty out of this world. And it’s totally feasible living in Los Angeles.
My parents started an apparel factory in the early eighties, making swim trunks and board shorts, owning the Hobie license for a good while and still manufacturing all categories of active/outdoor apparel. While I’ve always fought the idea of one day working at one of the factories, growing up around it taught me the ins and outs of the business. While other kids were taking karate or painting classes, I was getting quizzed on types of fabric, guessing the fabric content by touch, or memorizing what machinery was used for various types of sewing and construction techniques. Surely, being a part of design and development meetings with international brands at a young age made recognizing trends and designs second nature. While I hated the idea of working at a factory, it gave me the skills to conceptualize and build a solid pair of trunks (and more).
But aside from the “factory-training,” I loved music, was into cars, enjoyed the outdoors and spent a lot of time at the beach. It was always a struggle with my parents, though: there was doing the things they thought best for me versus doing what I truly enjoyed.
Looking back, I’m glad I stuck with both. I realize there’s a common thread between those things “that I enjoyed.” Whether it’s making up lyrics and melodies while driving through empty mountains and canyons close to home, or drawing lines on waves and down slopes — they are all outlets to create.
And it’s that creative mindset–mixed with my family’s background–that helped to naturally propel my own surf lifestyle brand into existence. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a factory, yet I had built the skills and collected the resources to make apparel. I think my drive to create and build needed an outlet and I wanted to do something I was passionate about. Don’t we all? At first, I just needed a reason to stay in LA and not move back to Asia.
So in 2010, we started making technical board shorts that grew into a full lifestyle collection. VAST spends a large amount of time and resources on developing solutions and creating new technologies for surfing and traveling, but the fun part is incorporating the experiences from our actual travels (the foods we eat, people we meet, things we do) and turning them into design inspirations for the things we wear “between waves.”
A big turning point that shaped this work was learning about surfing in Taiwan. I was initially skeptical when a childhood friend told me there were great waves to be found there. I knew there were nice beaches and beautiful coastlines, but I’d never really heard anyone rave about Taiwan’s surf scene. So in 2014, with the help of friends in Taiwan, we organized a surf trip and invited well-traveled surfers to explore the coastline together. What we found was not only surf, but a young and budding surf culture and a new-generation hungry for more. VAST needed to be in Taiwan, we decided, and we needed to bring more and give back.
We’ve organized a series of road trips in Taiwan since then, inviting more surfers to interact with Taiwan’s growing surf scene. We’ve premiered surf movies, organized beach clean-ups, created surf-inspired ocean-trash art exhibits, opened a Cali-inspired organic restaurant called VAST Cali Eatery, and partook in a myriad of contests and other ocean-related events. This year, we will fulfill another dream that will bring more resources to the Taiwanese coastlines: organizing summer camps for children to teach them about ocean safety and environmental awareness. It’s a beginning step to a junior lifeguarding program, and of course, a way for them (and us) to go surfing. In just three to four years, we’ve seen the surf scene grow dramatically and we’re thankful that we were able to be a part of that.
With a solid footing in Taiwan, I hope to be able to do the same back home in LA. What I missed most about LA are the vast open roads and long coastline so last year we took a 14-day road trip from Southern California all the way up to Vancouver, camping and surfing along the way. And now, we kick off a motorcycle road trip in Taiwan, the VAST Moto Diaries, and hope we can start doing more of these things we are so passionate about.
We’re still a young brand with some pretty big ambitions, but mostly we just want to keep it fun. If you see us on one of our road trips, throw us a shaka and let’s share some moments.
Check out more from VAST and see what they’re up to online, here.