Not Just Another SxS Guy: Zach Jeffers
In this interview, we take a deep dive into who is Zach Jeffers (@sxsguys). Then, we find out why Full Throttle batteries are the perfect fit for an adventurous podcaster, filmmaker, and photographer.
Let us start off by getting to know you. Where did you get your start in the off-road scene? And how long have you been riding?
So I traditionally have been in IT for the last 25 years. I started my first commercial website that was an actual paid gig when I was in junior high. I have been behind a desk most of my life, but I enjoyed the outdoors. I would recreate, mountain bike - all that stuff. And I always figured the off-road scene was something that was unattainable in my economic stature. You can’t just jump into a three-quarter million-dollar trophy truck, right?
In 2016, the company I worked for, 509, was bought out by Polaris. Polaris obviously makes the RZR UTVs. I was afforded basically a company vehicle and I had the option of a various group of things which included RZRs. At the time, I jumped into the Polaris RZR Turbo, the initial 2016 launch vehicle. And since that day, there has been a passion to be riding or filming off-road. I knew it as soon as I got it into a garage. From that day forward, I had a subconscious motivation to move away from a desk job and towards doing what I am passionate about. Something that doesn’t stress you out every day and linger in the back of your mind when you go to bed. I have a background in IT, but also my family has always been big into photography. Over the last 10 years, video has really taken over the media markets base. So I have really got into that these last few years. Now I'm basically trying to generate a career path that involves passion, what I love doing in all angles, and doesn't bring home any stress at the end of the day.
I am in that generation where we grew up without internet. Then, as I was growing through my pre-teen and teenage years, we started understanding what internet was and the benefits of it. So it really transformed the landscape for my family. I’m not from a wealthy family. I wasn’t able to even think about college without some sort of huge amount of debt. I’ve never liked the idea of debt. The internet provides everybody such an opportunity. If you have a good idea and the motivation to pursue it, pretty much, the world is your oyster. You just have to find people that are willing to jump onboard with you. I went to college - about 2 months into it, realized it wasn’t for me. I followed my IT passions at the time and that got me to a point where I could then follow my off-road passions.
You have a successful podcast called, SxS Guys, where you interview other off-road personalities. You also cover off-road news, first look product announcements, and post informational videos. How did creating a podcast come about? Was it something you always wanted to do?
Growing up, I was always the kid who made fun of my parents for listening to AM radio and said that is where all the “old people” are. In my young adulthood days through my IT connections, I had helped facilitate a couple guys run AM shows out of their home or out of a building. It really intrigued me that this was really a thing. It’s not just these old people playing records on the AM radio. It was an information system and a discussion system that people actually engage in.
Obviously, AM’s really not the big thing anymore. Podcasting really took the place of that. I first realized the podcast scene was taking off was when I started getting more aware of Joe Rogan’s podcast. That’s kind of the gold standard for everybody’s aspirations for a podcast. I didn’t really see it as I want to be as successful as him. It was that I recognized that he was simply discussing things he was passionate about with people he was interested in. Since my passion is all around this UTV off-road scene, I always had this idea in the back of my head that our industry, while big, is still in its infancy and has a lot of room to grow. One of the ways that it can grow and needs to grow is in the media coverage space.
I’ve always had this idea in the back of my head that I’m technically capable. I’m proficient in all these different productions systems. So I could do a good job doing a podcast. It was never really an idea that I needed to be in front of a camera or I needed to be behind a mic. It was never that approach. It was a mechanism for me to discuss things that I’m interested in and share with people. That is really the motivation behind it - to involve the community in a new platform that they are not used while using it in a way that allows me to be mentally stimulated, but also further my off-road passion.
The off-road scene, if you look back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, was growing pretty fast. But it only grew in regional areas that facilitated it. We are talking Glamis, Southern California, and more along the desert areas. It was kind of a niche thing. When something is niche like that as an industry and no one is pushing it to grow, it kind of dies out. The interesting thing is that these manufacturers like Polaris, Kawasaki, and Yamaha - all those guys are coming out with these UTVs. And in 2001/2003 is when it started to start an upward trajectory again, which prepared itself to really take off in 2015. And the industry has exploded ever since then.
We’re at a point now where everybody’s passion for off-road is being realized because they’re so used to just grinding everyday out at the office. They’re used to being surrounded by brick-and-mortar downtown. They have lost a little bit of that touch. You look back at the Jeep Cherokees and all these other things that were huge in the 80’s and 90’s. Everybody was about camping and there was a big push to get everyone into national parks. Then, suddenly, all these eco guys came in and said, “Hey stay away from our national parks!” So everybody stayed home. Now were seeing the opportunity that we can go further and faster. We can be more capable in the forest, down the trail, on the desert. People are realizing there is so much to be seen and experience. They are willing to invest in it. We are seeing with this last year during COVID. Everybody’s reserved money for that big vacation or that house upgrade - pretty much into "what kind of memories are we going to take away from this year?" We do not want to sit here and remember all the bad things. We want to go out and experience something and have a good memory.
There is this influx of this new generation of off-roaders that are going out to experience something with a bunch of other people. There is a ton of interest in being with people and experiencing something awesome. I think that goes for everything right? Everybody wants to go to a 10,000-person concert. This is a new dynamic because you have a personal experience shared with a bunch of different people. So you share a communal experience. UTV or off-roading, in general, is becoming the new car club.
What would you say was the most awesome episode or interview that you have had on your podcast?
Because we don’t stick to one topic, I think it’s hard to judge. I find a lot of value in getting interesting and unique personalities on the show. Whether that be everybody’s favorite redneck, Hubert Rowland, or some of these off-road guys that people know in the industry. It’s more about getting new people that I haven’t met and hearing their stories, what makes them unique, or what makes them tick.
For example, we have been planning for a while now trying to get a couple people on the show. We were going to be doing the Paqui One Chip Challenge. It is not off-road, but it’s with an off-road person and three completely different personality types all doing something extreme together and talking shop while doing it. That is probably going to be my favorite episode of the year. It goes back to the experience and the memories that you are making while doing something. That is really what we are trying to follow. How can we have a memorable experience just for myself as a selfish ambition, but also communicate that to our audience? It is going to be a lot of fun.
Not only are you an amazing podcast host, but you are also an Editor, Filmer and a phenomenal photographer. What drew your interest in capturing the UTV/SxS lifestyle?
It’s about telling my story through other people’s experiences. It’s a hard thing to do when you have a certain feeling or mental picture. It is hard to translate that into something that other people can consume. In 2016, I was burnt out on technology. I wanted to jump into something different and my passion just got sparked there. Now I have a passion to explore every avenue I can. With our culture being socially driven with social media, it is a perfect platform to express that.
I’m not on Instagram to become an influencer. I’m not on YouTube to have the biggest subscriber count. I’m not on Facebook to pump as many ads as I can. Every platform is different. They all have a different reason to be there and they have a different community around them. I think that is very interesting. I love interacting and experimenting. Everything I do is an experiment of how can I reach more people that are interested in it? Not just how can I reach more people so I can get paid? That is what makes us different. I’m way more interested in telling an interesting story or capturing a moment and having somebody else react to it.
Our community is so grass roots and honor based. You go into an off-road ride with 20 other people, all 20 are willing to give you the parts they have bought with their money. They are the ones who are going to save your butt when you crash and get a stick through the leg. You are going out with a community of people who are equally invested in this experience.
In our industry, there is a TON of competition. But it is more of, "I want to edge you out" and hold that over your head; while, at the same time, making sure you got as close as you possibly could of. When you're off road and you are with a guy, then you remember that person almost rolling his rig over an obstacle. Or you remember that guy you pulled out of a mud hole. You may have never known that person before that trip but after that trip you can’t wait to go out with that person again.
You look at something like UTV Takeover. We have a unique situation where we have tens of thousands of people joining together to do one thing: to have fun. Fun is different to everybody. Everyone has a different way of doing that. You can come and enjoy an activity, play a game, race, jump, wheelie, or you can just hang back and watch everybody else go crazy. The whole family can have memories that, otherwise, would not even be comprehensible in any other mechanism. You go to a UTV Takeover in Oregon where there are over 10,000 people congregating on this dune. You don’t see those people ever - except maybe on social media. Then, you join with them and you can talk shop, look at your upgrades, throw ideas back and forth, and then you can go rip with them.
There is a lot of community building that happens at these events. That community evolves to being outside of the events. These things keep evolving and changing to become a year-round community of people that want to support it and be together.
How did Full Throttle Battery integrate into your life?
When we are talking about off-road, there is an inevitable path that every single UTV owner or off-roader takes. And that is beyond the ignition of the vehicle. They are going to start plugging in more and more things. When you are going on some long expeditions where you are overlanding for multiple days at a time, you don’t have resources like a tire shop, or a battery store, or any kind of repair shop of any sort. You’re out in the middle of the woods relying on yourself, the equipment, and tools you take with you. We have so many things tied into the electrical system. You have your GPS and comms. You have so many things that you tie into your experience that are life requirements. They are going to be part of what is going to keep you alive during this adventure. You can’t second guess the heart of that whole system.
There are two parts of that. There is the generative power and then there is the storing of the power. The generation of power is your vehicle. The storing of power is your battery. Full Throttle Battery has, time after time, become the most reliable platform to integrate. You have exponentially more battery capacity and that returns to cranking whenever you need it. When you are out in the middle of the forest 100+ miles away from civilization, you do not want to be figuring out how to start your car on a downhill - with a car that doesn’t have a pop clutch. You want to make sure your car starts at the end of the day and Full Throttle Battery is what gets it done.
Last question for you, what goals do you have for the future, anything you are looking forward to doing?
With my foray into the marketing media side of UTV Takeover, I am looking forward to surviving this year. That would be a good start. This year, I have been investing heavily into finding tools that enable me to do more. That includes completely changing camera system platforms and software changes. I am relearning a lot of things to step up our quality game so we can tell our stories better. The hardest thing in any kind of media platform is opportunity.
I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to experience and convey story telling and experiences that people stuck at work, at home, or on a different side of the country can tune into and experience through what were doing. I am looking forward to meeting more people, more brands, and doing more and going further. So that next year, we can pick a handful of major topics to cover and really knock them out of the park. This year is all about community building, platform building, and tooling. This year is really kind of the nose to the grindstone - get things done and figure out what works. 2022 is really the year that I think we are really going to blow up and make an impact in our industry.
Interviewed by: Alexis Moore // Photo credit: Zach Jeffers (@sxsguys)