The handsome, wholesome and kind-hearted new Bachelor admires his parents for many things.
His father Wayne taught him patience and persistence, and was his rock throughout his challenging days of competitive sport, while his mum Debbie showed him care and compassion, making him believe he could always achieve his dreams.
But most importantly, The Bachelor New Zealand’s new leading man Zac Franich credits his parents for showing him the perfect example of everlasting love. “They’ve been married 28 years,” smiles the surf-lifesaving coach. “We live in different times and relationships these days face different struggles to what our parents did, but your mum and dad are your first role models, and they’ve set a great example. If I could find a relationship that even comes close to what they have, then I’d be a really happy man.”
Zac’s sweet confession is enough to make any woman go weak at the knees, but there are plenty of other reasons for the 19 lucky Bachelorettes on the Three reality series to swoon. Easy on the eye and with a pearly-white smile to die for, the adventurous and athletic 28-year-old, who has represented NZ in the sport of sprint kayaking, is all brawn at our exclusive shoot, where he dishes the dirt on online dating, sex and settling down with Miss Right.
“There are qualities that I look for in a partner, for sure, but in saying that, there are certain intangibles that I can’t quite put my finger on,” he says.
“Of course, I’d love to date someone who’s intelligent, independent, caring, friendly and approachable, and someone who has a good sense of humour. But it’s that something, that spark, that when someone possesses it, you can’t help but be attracted to them. When I find it, I’ll know exactly what it is.”
Born and raised on Auckland’s Hibiscus Coast, Zac was never far from the ocean as a child. He has fond memories of barefoot barbecue dinners, learning to catch the waves with his surfie father and joining his local surf-lifesaving club at Red Beach, just a five-minute stroll from his family home, at age four.
Now a qualified full-time coach in the same discipline, Zac’s love of the sport – and the beach – has never waned, but before going professional, he was an accomplished kayaker who travelled to Milan with the likes of Olympic gold medallist Lisa Carrington to represent Aotearoa at the 2015 World Championships.
“It’s definitely my proudest moment,” beams Zac. “Not everyone can say they’ve had the honour of racing for their country and no-one can take that away from you either.
“When I’m training my kids, I’ll often wear tops that I’ve got from my rep teams and they give me stick like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we get it – you’ve represented NZ!’ And every time I say, ‘You bet I have, and I’m going to keep wearing this top until it’s old and tattered. I’m proud of the fact that I got to that level and you should be too!’”
The fitness junkie has recently retired from pro kayaking and competitive surf lifesaving, but in his heyday, he’d train three times a day, seven days a week. With early-morning starts on the water his top priority, Zac’s passion kept him out of trouble at high school. But the older he got, the challenges got harder.
Tears and Tinder
“I set my sights on the Olympics when I was about 20,” he tells. “When you’re competitive and you’ve a goal in mind, you have to make sacrifices. I’d often be the sober driver and take the boys into town or I’d turn in at 11.30pm instead of staying out till 3am. Everything boiled down to, ‘Is this going to benefit me? Does getting on the hammer every weekend help me out? Probably not.’
“If I’m being completely honest, it was difficult to be the kind of boyfriend I wanted to be when I was trying to compete to a goal of that level. I knew I couldn’t give 100% of myself. I never wanted to walk into a relationship and do it half-hearted, and sometimes it felt like I was burning the candle at both ends.”
But after years of pushing romance aside, Zac – who separated from his last girlfriend over a year ago – finally feels ready to open his heart to the “incredible highs and crushing lows” that come with being in a committed relationship.
“I’ve learnt a lot about myself from my previous relationship and there’s still a lot of respect for each other on both sides,” he tells. “I’ve also done a lot of growing since then and I’m excited to have more of myself to give to somebody.”
Zac would be lying if he said he hadn’t dabbled with Tinder since the break-up, but his short stint on the dating app confirmed what he already knew – when it comes to romance, he’s a traditionalist.
“The thing that annoys me about those apps is the small talk, which I hate. I’d prefer to meet someone the old-fashioned way and get to know them over a good old chat, rather than messaging for four days straight, then having nothing to talk about when you finally meet up for a drink ... if they even turn up. I’m just not into the games.”
Confessing that he has been stood up by a Tinder date, Zac continues, “My ideal date would consist of some sort of activity followed by some chill time. For instance, a hike or a boat ride somewhere nice, with drinks at the destination. I like to be able to enjoy a good conversation with whoever I’m with.”
Indeed, Zac believes communication is fundamental to a healthy relationship, but above all else, he just wants the chance to make a woman feel loved.
“I was 16 when my mum’s friend gave me a piece of advice that’s really stuck with me. She said I must always remember to make a girl feel like she’s special and wanted. That’s what every girl wants, right?
“The fun part of this whole experience is you do get to let your feelings run away with you. Of course, I see myself getting married and having a young family of my own one day – and I’m hoping to find the girl I can share my future with.”
And should Zac meet his special someone, has he cleared it with his flatties to bring a girl home? “My flatmates are pretty good people and I know they’d be happy to meet anyone I really care about,” he says. “However, our house does have pretty thin walls.”