The more the mer­rier at this bo­hemian haven in Ojai, Cal­i­for­nia – a foot­loose and fancy-free world unto it­self.

Homestyle New Zealand - - CONTENTS - WORDS Nina Freuden­berger PHOTOGR APHY Brit­tany Am­bridge

The more the mer­rier at this boho haven in Ojai, Cal­i­for­nia.


elu­sive Sasquatch to surfers. Tales of its ex­is­tence are told as lore around bon­fires. But die-hard rid­ers, like Amer­i­can ac­tor/in­te­rior de­signer Chan­non Roe, will chase these myth­i­cal swells to the ends of the earth and back, come hell or high wa­ter. He has dropped in on some of the best breaks in the world, from Hawaii’s North Shore to Raglan. But un­for­tu­nately for him – or rather, his lovely wife Bianca – one of his most epic rides, his first in Aus­tralia’s By­ron Bay, did in fact in­volve high wa­ter… and hail, and frogs (yes, frogs).

It was Chan­non’s first trip to Aus­tralia with Bianca, who’s orig­i­nally from Mel­bourne, and it was Christ­mas. Af­ter do­ing the rounds of fam­ily and friends, they strapped three surf­boards to the roof of their tiny rental car and started the eight-hour trek from Sydney to By­ron with Bianca at the wheel. They were so ex­cited that they didn’t no­tice the rain turn­ing to hail, or the miles of stopped traf­fic head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. It wasn’t un­til it started rain­ing frogs (a phe­nom­e­non that ac­tu­ally hap­pens in Aus­tralia) that they pulled into a small beach town and re­alised they were driv­ing di­rectly into a cy­clone.

Af­ter hun­ker­ing down for the night, they fi­nally made it to their des­ti­na­tion the next day, but much to Chan­non’s sur­prise, the place was empty. “I was out there al­most by my­self, and it was ev­ery­thing I wanted it to be,” he says. “Mother Na­ture can re­ally make you work for the good ones.” •

Chan­non has been in the wa­ter since be­fore he could walk. He’s the prod­uct of a long line of rid­ers and grew up dur­ing the hey­day of Orange County’s surf scene in the mid-’70s and early ’80s. (He’s even named af­ter one of his dad’s favourite lo­cal shapers, Chan­nin Surf­boards.) Any surf his­to­rian will tell you that this pocket of the coast­line at that time – Corona del Mar, San Clemente, New­port Beach, La­guna – was a melt­ing pot of beach cul­ture with a bur­geon­ing life­style scene. It was a mo­ment, just like Lon­don in the ’60s.

“You had these die-hard surfers, who were ba­si­cally rock stars, rolling up to the beach in fur coats and Porsches,” says Chan­non. “Then there were the artists and the shapers, the drug deal­ers and the swingers, the ar­chi­tects and the mu­si­cians. It was a wild time and def­i­nitely left a last­ing im­pres­sion.”

It was this cre­ative, out­doorsy, vagabond spirit that Chan­non and Bianca were af­ter when, six years ago, they tran­si­tioned their sec­ond home in the hippy hide­away of Ojai into their pri­mary one. “Mov­ing was about get­ting back to the Cal­i­for­nia I grew up in,” says Chan­non. In truth, it was also about giv­ing his son Mar­lon a child­hood sim­i­lar to his own. Ojai is known for its rootsy surf com­mu­nity. Rin­con, ar­guably one of the top five point breaks in the world, is 30 min­utes away. So for Chan­non, it feels like La­guna in the ’80s – “mi­nus the flash… and the drugs”.

What Chan­non and Bianca have cre­ated in Ojai, though, is not just a home, but more a mini-bo­hemian uni­verse, of sorts. •

They have a 1976 Airstream trailer per­ma­nently parked in their front yard, which is part mad-sci­en­tist man cave where Chan­non tin­kers away on his lat­est in­te­rior de­sign projects, and part guest quar­ters. There’s a teepee be­hind their mid­cen­tury ranch house. And then there’s the shop, In the Field, a life­style store the cou­ple opened in 2014 that stocks goods from lo­cal mak­ers and friends, as well as trea­sures they’ve picked up on their trav­els.

Life in this hippy utopia is a con­stant ebb and flow of cre­ative crash­ers – friends, fam­ily and strangers who be­come fast friends – which is ex­actly as Chan­non and Bianca al­ways pic­tured it. “Some week­ends, it’s like the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Beg­gars Ban­quet around here,” he jokes. “We’ve got three or four rigs parked in the front yard. We’ve got friends sleep­ing in the Airstream and the teepee. Ev­ery­one’s got kids, so we’re bar­be­cu­ing, camp­ing out and surf­ing. It’s like a mad­house – an amaz­ing, wild, per­fect mad­house.”

TOP LEFT Pot­ted green­ery grows be­side a na­tive Amer­i­can pro­file by Ojai artist Lana Ras­mussen. TOP RIGHT This drift­wood sculp­ture is by a lo­cal who scours the beach for trea­sures, then turns them into art. ABOVE Chan­non traded a vin­tage surf board for...

GOLDEN OLDIES “They don’t make ’em like they used to” is an apt way to sum up Chan­non and Bianca’s beau­ti­ful col­lec­tion of lived-in vin­tage fur­ni­ture. Their over­seas trav­els al­ways end with the same ques­tion: “How are we go­ing to get this home?” They...

Edited ex­tract from Surf Shack, by Nina Freuden­berger. Pub­lished by Hardie Grant, $55.

TOP LEFT Mar­lon and Bianca. TOP RIGHT The framed Dog­town and Z Boys poster in Mar­lon’s room was given to Chan­non at a pre­miere of the cult skate doc­u­men­tary; it’s signed by direc­tor Stacy Per­alta. OP­PO­SITE Mar­lon’s teepee is a kid-sized ver­sion of the...

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