Zac West turned a global pandemic into an opportunity to start Southern Pine Swing Company.

By Marisa Spyker
June 18, 2021
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Zac West and his family
Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

When Zac West first moved to Jacksonville following a five-year stay in Tanzania, he quickly learned a secret to making friends in a new neighborhood: If you build it, they will come. While seeking a way to make his daughter, whom he and his wife had adopted overseas, comfortable in her new home, West noticed the towering oaks in his yard, rough-cut some wood, and strung up a pair of ho-hum tree swings. His daughter was thrilled, and she wasn't the only one. "Everybody who came to our house-whether young children, older kids, or even adults-wanted to be on those swings," he recalls. "They brought so much joy."

Fast-forward to 2020, when a pandemic kept many people at home and in need of a little happiness booster. To busy his hands and mind through it all, West started tinkering in his yard again under the oaks. There, he had an epiphany: He was going to spread that joy by building and selling the best tree swing he could.

So he found some quality Southern pine and started shaping one-rounding every edge until smooth, sanding the sides, staining the surface. Then he turned to YouTube to teach himself the laborious art of hand splicing, a technique that makes ropes so tough that they're often used to secure anchors to ships. With his daughter and his twin sons in charge of quality control-West says they had input into the swing's aesthetics and "whether the rope hurt their hands"-he crafted a final product that is sleek, sturdy, and sizable. He believes that his swings are bigger and far better than anything else out there.

Southern Pine Swing Company
Credit: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Mary Beth Wetzel

Now, he builds and sells those swings with the same exacting approach to quality and appearance. His business, Southern Pine Swing Company, offers varieties in both pine and Georgia-grown cypress, with single- and double-seater versions. (The 42-inch twin, which can fit up to four kids, is his best seller.) Although the company is barely a year old, he has sold to homes and businesses across the country. His swings have starred in wedding photos and countless Instagram posts.

Despite the quick success, West certainly hasn't gotten too big for his britches. He still works his day job as a youth mentor at the nonprofit Young Life, and every order that comes through is handcrafted under the oaks in his own yard-where the light bulb for that first joy-bringing seat originally turned on. "I just love to see my own kids on the swings smiling," he says.