Surf Shacks 096

Andrew Park + Grace Hsiang
Aptos, CA

Matt Titone

Grace and Andrew are makers of the highest quality wetsuits on earth. 7till8 is an all custom wetsuit brand (which just makes perfect sense btw) that first caught my attention after they won the coveted Stab “World’s Best Wetsuit” in 2021. After sporting a couple of their designs now I can honestly say they live up to the hype, and then some. Andrew first started the brand out of a passion for surfing, diving, and engineering. He made his partner, Grace CEO when he witnessed her surf progression take hold later in life. That fresh perspective has helped give 7till8 an approachable voice that speaks to a diverse range of surfers. The couple moved to the quaint central coast town of Aptos to slow down, surf more, and test their products in colder waters. With the 7till8 headquarters still based in Torrance, they spend quite a bit of time road tripping up and down the California coast, curating the best places to eat along the way.

Matt Titone

How did you come to find this amazing property in Aptos and how long have you been living here?

G: We moved from Los Angeles two years ago to be closer to cold water, so we could better test our wetsuits. We knew practically nothing about the area and so we looked for listings located within 10 minutes of a surf break. We couldn’t believe it when we found this coastal town in Santa Cruz County with less than 10,000 people. This place is a gem, isn’t it? We got so lucky. There’s a whole story behind how we got the spot, but let’s just say, don’t underestimate the power of good human connection.

What are your favorite parts of your home?

G: There is an incredibly peaceful energy here. Everyone that visits notices and comments on that. Also, the natural light and the quiet. We’re a mile away from the ocean and sometimes you can hear the waves crashing from our house. It’s a great space to think and create.

What are your favorite parts about Aptos and the area in which you live?

A: My favorite part of Aptos is its central location to some of the best environments a wetsuit maker can ask for. There is a wide and diverse range. North in Santa Cruz, there are plenty of world class point breaks. A little further down South in Monterey, there are world class dive spots.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone

How did you find your way into a career in the surf industry? What is the origin story of 7till8?

A: I fell into making wetsuits. I grew up surfing and diving, but I never had any ambitions to start a surf company or be in the industry. I was an LA City Lifeguard when I was approached with an opportunity to try and make a wetsuit, based only on the fact that I already used the products often and had a reputation for being mechanically inclined. I had no experience, but I was really intrigued and in the process of trying to start a business. I always thought wetsuits were interesting because you’re building a three-dimensional product using two-dimensional materials.

I got paired with Mark Malinski, a former General Manager at Body Glove, and he showed me how to build a wetsuit. I started making wetsuits and it became really fascinating to me, especially fitted wetsuits. The process was kind of like sculpting. It’s just been an improvement my entire career, trying to get to a perfect fit.

What are your favorite parts of surf culture in general these days and why – what is exciting and inspiring to you?

G: We’ve been inspired by the new and diverse surf brands that are emerging overseas. Lately, we’ve seen great creativity from independent brands out of Korea, South Africa, and Australia. They each have their own point of views on surf culture, which feel both fresh and distinctly theirs. Seeing that level of expression pushes us to set the bar higher for ourselves.

What about surfing and surf culture do you wish you could change?

A: I feel like the surf industry has grown so much and created so much waste, that it’s encouraged this part of surf culture to be really cheap. Where people purposely get products that they know won’t last and treat their surf products like throwaways.

There’s the Wavestorm. Say what you will about it, whatever, but it’s still a hundred dollar board that doesn’t last that long. And people buy them over and over again, expecting them to end up in the garbage soon. Those things are meant to be sold in volume at places like Costco. Think about how many don’t get sold, how much packaging and material is left over. Holy shit, it’s so much waste.

Or you could get a PU board that could last for years and decades. You could pass it onto your kids.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

What have been the biggest challenges running your own businesses over the years?

A: The toughest part of our business is fit. It’s so difficult because of the diversity of bodies out there in the world. From what I’ve seen, each body truly is unique and it’s not common to have one be the same as the other. Understanding that, it feels like the amount of custom fits out there is infinite.

On the other hand, what have been the greatest rewards?

G: The opportunity to meet incredible people. We’ve connected with people leading totally different lifestyles from ours and that’s really opened up our worldviews. 7TILL8 has taken us on the most unexpected adventures and those experiences have really opened up our imaginations. It showed us what was possible and allowed us to keep dreaming, which is something we’re both so grateful for.

What are your goals for the 7till8 brand?

G: Growing the business while staying on a path that aligns with our values. Staying true.

What is it like being partners in life and in business? What are the pros and cons?

G: Both our lives and careers are enmeshed. The lines are fully blurred – even the pros and cons. My business partner is also my best friend and my husband. Our passions and accomplishments co-exist with our stressors and failures. A week after we got married, we traveled to Thailand and Japan for two and a half weeks to go visit our partners and explore these countries. Would you call that a honeymoon or a business trip?

A: Our business and our partnership has taken us to some of the most incredible places. We see our products in the water in places we would never imagine. It’s exciting to see our products being used in such diverse locations. We are constantly ruminating and ideating and sometimes it is hard to turn off when life is in front of us.

Matt Titone

Where / when / how did you learn to surf?

A: It was totally by chance. One summer, when I was 12, my mom bought me a surfboard and dropped me off at Torrance Beach every day to figure out how to use it. I would just watch other surfers and try to mimic them over and over again. I learned how to surf through trial and error.

G: I started surfing when I met Andrew in my mid-20s. Until then, I had these preconceived notions about who was allowed to surf and it never occurred to me to learn.

Dating Andrew made me curious. I wanted to understand this world he was so into and to try it out, but he wasn’t exactly eager to play instructor. My first year surfing in Los Angeles was a huge struggle, nothing was clicking, and to make it worse, I  remember telling my dad (who knows nothing about surfing) about it. He responded jokingly with “You’re not strong enough to surf!”. That’s when I decided I was going to stop asking the men in my life for validation and go figure it out for myself.

I signed up for an all-women’s surf camp in Costa Rica. Getting proper instruction showed me how capable I was. That was the best decision I could have made for myself. Meeting these confident women from all over the world, many of them older than me, really inspired me to take my surfing (and myself) seriously once I got back. And that led me to 7till8.

How has your personal relationship and experience with surfing helped influence your brand 7till8?

A: Once I got into surfing, I still didn’t know anyone else who did, so I surfed alone most of the time. It’s funny to think that I started a surf company when I didn’t even grow up feeling accepted as a surfer. There’s the lone wolf aspect of surfing that I relate to, the feeling of not being part of a pack and a yearning to figure out things for myself. That’s probably what led me to want to solve this challenge with custom wetsuits. You can see that sense of individualism in the brand – our surfer is usually breaking away from the pack and exploring on their own to find their way.

G: I understand how important representation and inclusivity are because it’s shaped my entire relationship to surfing. I’m ultimately chasing the sense of peace and connection I get from being in the water. Surfing is really just a conduit for that.

And then there’s times where I’m in an unfamiliar lineup and I spend the whole session feeling discouraged. That’s when surfing feels paradoxical and I lose track of why I got in. And usually that’s when I’m the only female and/or non-white person there and nobody looks familiar, which only makes me more self-conscious. I’m subconsciously wondering if I’m allowed to be in the water and without realizing it, I’m now looking at a bunch of strangers to signal if it’s ok to stay when I have just as much right to be there. It becomes about getting permission and when I think about those implications, it is crushing.

7till8 is an expression of our hope to alleviate some of that for others by trying to alchemize insecurity into empowerment. I want people of different backgrounds to feel more welcome in the water and get their peace too. We often say that the brand exists to give people permission, the kind we thought we needed. It’s been the most fulfilling to see that we can facilitate that through something as utilitarian as a custom wetsuit.

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, or sage advice?

A: There is no vision without velocity.

Discover more creative surfers’ homes in our books; Surf Shacks® Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 available now!


Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio and now resides a bit further north in Oxnard.

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