Spencer Hayes is a California surfer and the operations manager of Deus Ex Machina in Venice, California. Deus is part of the new breed of retailer, like Lizard Lounge in Portland or Mollusk in San Francisco or Thalia Street in Laguna Beach, that have successfully translated their passions into retail cultural centers — stores that aren’t just about buying stuff, but about the world view that’s expressed through the store’s wares, environment, events, and social outreach.
We caught up with Hayes to learn more.
Tell us a bit about Deus Ex Machina. How do motorcycles and surfing mix?
Deus Ex Machina is the Latin phrase for “god from the machine” and stems from classical Greek theater. The idea behind Deus Ex Machina comes from owner/partner Dare Jenning’s experiences growing up in South Sydney, Australia. The mix is pretty much a result of keeping yourself busy. You surf in the morning, the waves get blown out, and you want to have something to do in the afternoon. Similar to how the Dogtown guys started skating, Dare and his mates would surf in the morning then putt around on motorcycles all afternoon.
Bruce Brown, after making the film The Endless Summer, created On Any Sunday, a movie about riding dirt bikes. As the idea and ability of exploration came into view, and with the addition of surf racks attached to motorcycles, the original guys could get to different surf spots that were previously inaccessible and have more fun doing it. This surf/bike concept is very evident in Bali, as pretty much every two-wheeled transportation mechanism has a rusty surf rack welded to it, and when you pull up to the beach you park your motorcycle or scooter next to ten other rusty surf-racked scooters.
A further tie between the two sports is evident in the lifestyle and attitude they produce. Surfing and riding motorcycles are individual experiences that represent freedom, excitement, exploration, and foster more of an alternative lifestyle than what society might push on you. Deus Ex Machina in my eyes, is an idea that represents freedom, exploration, individuality, and having a grand ol’ time doing whatever it is you are doing – and doing it well.
How did you get involved with Deus?
I graduated college in 2010 with not a cent to my name. I had visited Australia and had done an exchange program at one of the universities in Sydney during my junior year of college. After graduation, I was really focused on the idea of going back to Australia to set up and begin my “career” as there seemed to be a lot of opportunity there. After working all summer and selling all of my boards, my clothes, my car (and my soul), I got a one way ticket to Sydney. I went with a good friend who ended up getting a job at Deus HQ in Sydney, and after walking into the store for the first time I was very impressed and caught the bug. I made good friends with the Deus Sydney guys and with my visa about to expire, I had to return to the States. Around this time, some of the guys from Australia were being sent out to open up Deus Venice. I kept showing up, and eventually started trimming weeds and doing basic construction on Deus USA. After a few weeks of jackhammering concrete, grinding iron beams, and sleeping in the parking lot, I was offered a position to help out with the new enterprise. All smiles from then on!
What is your background in surfing? What are you riding?
I am from Newbury Park, a small little suburb of Ventura, and grew up surfing the points in Ventura and Malibu. As our coastline sits, it is pretty blocked from swell, so naturally a longboard was the best choice to get in the water. My small group of friends and I grew up surfing logs and got really into the longboard scene. This was right about the time that the film The Seedling came out so it seemed to me that we were in the right place at the right time. Eventually we got shorter boards as the winters would come, and a typical day trip to the beach would include a log or two, a fish, a thruster, and even a boogie board or lunch tray to body surf with. I then went to college in San Diego, which was much more open to swell, and got bit more comfortable on a standard shortboard. After having traveled to Australia, Bali, and Mexico, I feel pretty comfortable on a log or shortboard, and even an alaia from time to time. Lately I have been really into these 7′-7’6″ single fin tracker style models that we are making in Bali. I have a 7’2″ stringerless shaped by Ellis Ericson, with a massive glass-on flex fin. The thing turns on a dime and is super loose, and perfect for all of the points in the area. I am looking forward to some green room action on this baby this winter!
What are your responsibilities?
At Deus, there is a small team in place to handle many responsibilities. I would say that to work at Deus you must be able to do a little bit of everything. Being on the floor, my main responsibility is to inform customers that the name is pronounced “Day-us” and not “Doose” as the majority assume. Other than that I assistant manage the venue and handle all of the surf stuff and correspond between Bali, Sydney, and our location to determine which boards to get in, what wetties people should be wearing, and who the upcoming movers and shakers are in the industry. Pretty much it is a dream to have some sort of control as to what boards people are riding and to be able to open peoples’ minds and make them realize that a 6’0″ thruster isn’t the best board for waist-high Malibu.
Explain the board building process and the ideas behind the Bali shop.
To call our Bali location a store is a huge understatement. The place is friggin’ huge and houses a retail space, a restaurant, a stage, three admin buildings, a photo studio, a garage to build, paint, and fix motorcycles, and, lastly, a shaping and glassing bay. Our board process is set up so that a shaper can go out to the Bali location, knock out some boards for Australia, Bali, America, and Japan, and have the creative space to experiment and try new boards. Furthermore, there is a beach just two minutes away, a fun right that is the perfect testing grounds for new boards. Because we don’t have a ghost shaper knocking out boards and slapping a logo on them, we are able to constantly have new and innovative shapes come through the doors.
This past summer alone we have had Tyler Warren, Ellis Ericson, Jeff McCallum, Bob McTavish, Rich Pavell, Thomas Bexon, Chris Garett, and Neal Purchase Jr. mow down some foam. In the next few weeks Josh Hall and Ryan Lovelace will be headed out to come up with some new designs for old waves. Having this collab style of boards really keeps things interesting and we have the ability and inspiration to get some very different and functional shapes in the water. It is not uncommon to walk through our shop and see multiple designs you have never imagined before, and people are constantly picking up boards asking, “How does this thing actually ride?”
What are some of your goals for the Venice store?
The Deus USA enterprise will serve as the anchor and HQ for all of our domestic operations. Basically we want to use the space to build our presence in the community. We host two free events each month. The first Saturday of the month is based off of a theme, while the third Sunday is a BBQ with drinks and live music. Aside from building a presence in the community, we wish to support other events that we are into, such as the MSA Classic, and various motorcycle events around the country.