CATCH­ING A BREAK

The other side of bil­lion­aire play­ground Mal­ibu.

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Contents - By CANDICE RAINEY

Mal­ibu is less than an hour from LA, up the Pa­cific Coast High­way, yet it has al­ways felt elu­sive to out­siders.that’s a bit un­fair, con­sid­er­ing its mood-al­ter­ing beaches make lay­ing your towel in Santa Mon­ica look like the def­i­ni­tion of set­tling. Even away from the sand, Mal­ibu is a high church of fauna and re­newal with its cragged moun­tains; wind­ing, sage­brush-lined canyons; and shim­mer­ing light that has se­duced film­mak­ers for decades, from Syd­ney Pol­lack, who filmed The Way We Were there (Bar­bra Streisand later be­came one of Mal­ibu’s best-known res­i­dents), to Kathryn Bigelow, whose Point Break, set at Leo Car­rillo State Beach, is the Sis­tine Chapel of surf­ing movies. Far­ther north, Mal­ibu’s lush re­mote­ness un­folds, and it be­comes clear why the lo­cals have wanted to keep this 34-kilo­me­tre stretch of coast­line to them­selves.

The truth is it has never been a par­tic­u­larly great place for vis­i­tors to stay, un­less you have the ex­tra mort­gage pay­ment you need for a week of va­ca­tion detox at a well­ness re­treat such as The Ranch. Devel­op­ment has al­ways been a slightly dirty word in Mal­ibu. And the town’s more Joan Did­ion-minded, eu­ca­lyp­tus-waft­ing boho side doesn’t im­me­di­ately re­veal it­self, while its clichéd trap­pings — pa­parazzi, pre­pos­ter­ously rich en­ter­tain­ment folk, ex­pen­sive sushi — are smack dab in the cen­tre of town.

Dis­creetly, Mal­ibu’s cool is be­com­ing more ac­ces­si­ble, as a hand­ful of smart, stylish bou­tique mo­tels have opened in the past year. The let’s-pack-a-last-minute-bag-and-get-the-hell-out-oftown week­end is fi­nally doable. Some peo­ple think of Mal­ibu as Los An­ge­les’s Mon­tauk, the free-spir­ited ham­let at the east­ern tip of Long Is­land, but the anal­ogy is off.there are no rowdy week­enders here; surfers out­num­ber Range Rovers.

“It re­ally is a bit of an out­post,” says Gre­gory Day, who runs the re­cently ren­o­vated Mal­ibu Beach Inn.“no­body is com­ing here in suits and ties. Mal­ibu has an equal share of celebri­ties and lo­cals — though they can be one and the same. But it’s a sur­pris­ingly friendly beach town.you come here to un­plug, sit on the beach, read your book,go hik­ing,surf­ing,pad­dle­board­ing.it still feels very un­touched.”

Na­tive, a mid­cen­tury mo­tel where the likes of Bob Dy­lan and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe once stayed, ba­si­cally spoon-feeds guests that evoca­tive low-key Cal­i­for­nia we all crave once we’ve cruised

past Topanga Canyon. As soon as you check into one of Na­tive’s 13 rooms, you’ll want to throw on a robe made from African dead­stock cot­ton, crack open a cold one from a vin­tage cooler, sit on your pri­vate pa­tio and ad­mire the pot­ted cacti and hip guests.

When it comes to beach time, the rule of thumb is this: Mal­ibu’s coast gets ever more ethe­real and dra­matic the far­ther north you go, which is why you should make a day of it at El Mata­dor State Beach. It’s only a 10-minute drive from Na­tive and has oth­er­worldly caves, sweep­ing cliffs and chilly tide pools that even the ocean-fear­ing can’t re­sist ex­plor­ing. There are no taco trucks or sou­venir shops hawk­ing over­priced tow­els.are there a few peo­ple tak­ing too many self­ies?yes, but you’ll be hard-pressed to keep your phone in your pocket when you’re hik­ing down a steep stair­case look­ing out at one of the most stun­ning vis­tas on earth bathed in sun­light.

Any­one who knows any­thing about surf­ing or has seen Big Wed­nes­day (an­other surf­ing cult clas­sic) should stay at an­other mo­tel with a back­story, the Surfrider, which sits across the PCH from an iconic beach break.“i love that Neily­oung’s Crazy Horse Sa­loon was right next door, which meant some pretty epic names stayed here at one time,” says Surfrider co-owner Matthew Good­win. “We’ve heard Dy­lan, The Doors — their drum­mer ac­tu­ally popped in re­cently — Jimi Hen­drix.the true Mal­ibu is an eclec­tic mix of so many things: free spir­its, bil­lion­aires, surfers, artists.there’s a wild­ness to this part of the coast.”

Good­win,an ar­chi­tect who grew up in Mal­ibu,and hisaus­tralian wife, Emma Crowther Good­win, have re­mod­elled the di­lap­i­dated road­side mo­tel over the past few years, re­mak­ing it into a kind of Nancy Mey­ers set by way of Françoise Hardy — all teak floors, beige linens, pitched roofs, white­washed walls and end­less sun stream­ing into over­sized ocean-fac­ing win­dows. It’s a soul­ful, surfer-friendly hide­away. There’s wet­suit stor­age, an out­door shower, cus­tom-made surf­boards (for those who can’t haul theirs onto the plane), a guests-only roof-deck bar and break­fast to go, com­plete with a Ther­mos of cof­fee for early birds who want to get out on the wa­ter be­fore the kitchen opens. If you’re think­ing of hop­ping on a board but want a lo­cal to hold your hand, Matthew takes guests out in the mo­tel’s vin­tage Land Rover (the “surf truck”, as he calls it) to find the breaks at Zuma, one of the most fa­mous surf­ing spots in the world, or the va­ri­ety of waves at County Line Beach.“i joke that the rea­son we opened the Surfrider is so I could surf all day with peo­ple from all over the world,” he says.

Of course, there’s an­other Mal­ibu beach fan­tasy, one that’s less about time-trav­el­ling back to some ear­lier, hip­pie-tinged Cal­i­for­nia than about rev­el­ling in this town’s af­flu­ent, let’s-com­pare-yachts as­pect. The Mal­ibu Beach Inn, a formerly for­get­table mo­tel on tony Car­bon Beach, has been un­der­go­ing a much-needed facelift and now re­sem­bles the Dan­ish Modern crash pad of a Neu­tra fan­boy’s dreams. Even if you’re not stay­ing here, make a reser­va­tion at Car­bon Beach Club, snag a spot on the pa­tio, or­der the whole branzino and a bot­tle of wine, and hog the ta­ble for as long as you want, be­cause there are sub­lime ocean views wher­ever you look. And, yes, Nobu Mal­ibu is still very much a thing — ask any lo­cal for din­ing tips and this in­evitably shows up on the list. If you can’t get a reser­va­tion, con­sider stay­ing at the restau­rant’s new ho­tel, the Larry El­li­son-backed Nobu Ryokan, next door. Di­rect beach ac­cess, cus­tom-made fur­ni­ture and Ja­panese soak­ing tubs do not come cheap, but you’ll also have pri­or­ity at the restau­rant.

Mal­ibu isn’t a stan­dard food pil­grim­age des­ti­na­tion, which is re­fresh­ing if you’re tired of plan­ning a whole day around scor­ing the primo ra­men in town but have to eat at five or 11pm to get it.you come to Mal­ibu to be out­doors all day, eat no-frills seafood, have a few cock­tails and gob­ble down meals made with ex­quis­ite or­ganic pro­duce, much of it com­ing from the nearby One Gun Ranch.which is not to say you won’t have some ex­cel­lent food here, start­ing with break­fast. For a pre-hike açai bowl, you’ll want to stop by Sun­life Or­gan­ics, a bas­tion of cold-pressed juices and blended smooth­ies where nei­ther turmeric nor split-open geodes are in short sup­ply.day drink­ing with kids?try Par­adise Cove,where you can sit in an Adiron­dack chair on the beach and drink bloody marys or beers while Ju­nior builds a sand­cas­tle. Or­der fish and chips at Mal­ibu in­sti­tu­tion Nep­tune’s Net and sit at one of the pic­nic ta­bles over­look­ing County Line Beach. Fish shacks are plen­ti­ful here, and you can’t find a bet­ter lunch or din­ner than at Mal­ibu Seafood or Reel Inn, both of which have out­door seat­ing.tav­erna Tony is in a fancy strip mall, but once in­side you feel as if you’ve just landed in Crete.you’ll see old-money Mal­ibu lo­cals drink­ing Cal­i­for­nia chardon­nay and eat­ing spot-on Greek food.

At some point you’ll want to have a meal at Mal­ibu Farm Restau­rant, on the pier. (This is also where you’ll find One Gun Ranch’s ver­sion of a stylish sou­venir shop, Ranch at the Pier.) The views are just a bonus; you come for chef He­lene Hen­der­son’s Cali-in­flected farm-to-ta­ble menu: cauliflower-crust pizza, spaghetti-squash lasagne.this is the kind of de­li­cious surfer fare that will make you re­think how you eat back home. And then, the next day, when you’ve come to your senses and are ready for a big piece of meat, check out the Old Place, a steak­house in the Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains that opened in 1970. Rus­tic would be an apt de­scrip­tion, not a lazy one. Some­times the restau­rant runs out of food, since ev­ery­thing is fresh, hav­ing been pro­cured from nearby Ox­nard, and it doesn’t own a freezer.you’ll likely have to wait out­side, be­cause the place is, as its web­site dead­pans,“the size of a shoe­box”. But mak­ing a night of it is worth it, es­pe­cially if you grab a glass of wine at the nearby Cor­nell Win­ery or go ex­plor­ing in the woods. There are hawks, deer and prob­a­bly ma­raud­ing wild­cats — it feels about as close to LA as the moon.that’s the whole point, af­ter all.

The sig­nage for the pre­served Surfrider ho­tel in Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia. Right: lo­cal surfers in 1950. Above: the path to the beach from the Surfrider.

Emma Crowther Good­win and Matthew Good­win. Above: the rooftop restau­rant and bar at Surfrider.

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