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COLLECTORS' CHRONICLES

Tommy Zung, Surfboards


Tommy Zung, shown here at his house in Montauk, NY, has a collection of boards that are shaped anywhere from ​the North Shore of Oahu to Biarritz, France. “I keep some in my New York apartment, some in my houses in The Hamptons, Malibu, and Oahu’s North Shore. Depending on the season, I’m surfing anywhere from New York to Bali, France, New Zealand, or Mexico.”

Tread lightly, and know when to adapt. That’s how Tommy Zung balances a holistic lifestyle, a globally recognized design studio, and a collection of surfboards so large it has to be stored on different continents. As the owner of Studio Zung, an eco-luxury architecture, design and lifestyle group, his background in modernism and sustainable living both informs and is informed by his life as a surfer, and incidentally, justifies his over 25 piece collection – every single board was shaped for a unique and specific set of purposes, locations, and waves.

“There can’t be a favorite,” explains Zung. ​”Different boards work in different waves.” Hence, why his collection is scattered across the globe. “I surf the summer in the Hamptons, and New York during hurricane season. Then towards early October, I go to Biarritz, Hossegor and San Sebastián. Throughout the winter I surf Malibu before going to Hawaii. Typically in spring, it’s either Bali, Australia or New Zealand because the seasons are opposite.”

The ability to understand, navigate, respect and negotiate weather patterns, geography, ocean conditions and different world cultures is not only part of his skillset as an experienced surfer, but also plays a role in how he approaches architecture and design.

Travertine Top Surfboard Dining Table
Pickup Available
Chicago, IL

Travertine Top Surfboard Dining Table

Current Bid:
$1
1960s Molokai Surf Skateboard with Clay Wheels
Pickup Available
BLUE ASH, OH

1960s Molokai Surf Skateboard with Clay Wheels

Current Bid:
$37
Comic Books including Silver Surfer
Pickup Available
Fort Worth, TX

Comic Books including Silver Surfer

Current Bid:
$1
Rip Curl Oceantech Leather Wristwatch

Rip Curl Oceantech Leather Wristwatch

Current Bid:
$22
Zung’s projects always use materials that are natural, have high energetic qualities, or are sustainable in terms of how local they are to the area and if they wear well over time.
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For about 15 or 17 years we’ve made bespoke furniture for clients,” says Zung. More recently, we’ve been working on one-off lines that will be sold in Copenhagen. I’m collaborating with some Danish furniture makers to deliver their craftsmanship with our materials and merging those together.

“There are two pillars that inform the way we work,” Zung explains. “One is understanding how to tread lightly in another environment.” This philosophy can be traced directly to his upbringing, traveling to different surf destinations in all corners of the world. “Whether you’re in Tahiti, Mexico, Costa Rica, or Hawaii, you’re integrated into their way of life, way of being, their land. So, you most definitely have to be sustainable and adopt a less-is-more mindset. Otherwise, you probably won’t be allowed back in the ocean.”

The other design pillar can be linked to Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, the great American design giant and Zung’s great godfather. “Bucky was my father’s architectural partner and obviously a huge sustainable forward-thinking guru, ahead of his time.” Fuller’s influence played a part in Zung’s metaphysical level of design and thinking. He also introduced Zung to George Nakashima and Isamu Noguchi – two of the most important designers and artists of the 20th-century modernist movement.

“At my Hamptons home, I keep boards all over: bedrooms, living rooms, in the lower level studio, outside, in a shed. The rest I keep on a surf rack I designed.”
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Boards are shaped according to the environment and elements to which they’ll be exposed. It’s a simple philosophy that carries over to Zung’s design philosophy and vision. “Simplicity resonated in terms of sustainability and one’s way of life – surfing is that same thing,” says Zung. “It doesn’t necessarily need to look sustainable aesthetically, but it has to have that honesty and quality.”

For Zung, the collecting began at age 21. “Friends like Cordell Miller, Akila Aipa, Kyle Bernhardt among others started to become shapers, and I would work with them to shape custom boards​ for waves I was riding at the time.”
“Where I want to go surf informs my location. I typically choose clients whose projects are near the water.”
“All the outdoor wooden tables and benches at my home are made from recycled building studs,” notes the designer. "They’re common Douglas two-by-fours that I reclaimed, either leftover from temporary walls or extra construction material."
Zung’s appreciation for aesthetics extends, of course, to his automobiles of choice. “Of course I like vintage cars. I think the craftsmanship of older cars is a testimony to the design world in the sense that they have to work mechanically, but at the end of the day you’re sitting in an image of what you want to feel like when you’re driving it.”
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Cadillac

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