Have you ever visited a new city or town and immediately felt at home? Everything feels right. Everything feels easy. You fall in love with the food, you can pinpoint what your go-to spots would be, you make friends with the locals and you blend in with the scene. It’s almost like you’ve been there forever.
These are the places that throw wrenches in the most impeccably laid plans, turn perfect couples into long distance acquaintances, chose colleges, prompt career changes and turn homebodies into transplants. For me, Malibu did just that. In 24 hours I was convinced this was where I needed to be, until a quick Zillow search combined with a recent bank statement snapped me back to reality and back to my shoebox in Manhattan. But a girl can dream and even better, a girl can go for a long weekend getaway.
As a first timer whose previous experience with Los Angeles’ tony beach town consisted mainly of Malibu Barbie’s convertible and Jackie Treehorn’s house, I expected celebrities and socialites wandering around in flawlessly coordinated outfits hiding behind the latest sunglass trend, glamourous houses on the beach and Michelin star “wow”-factor restaurants, chic boutiques with price tags comparable to my college tuition, and expensive convertibles cruising along Pacific Coast Highway. Maybe pink ones.
Wetsuits flurry in and out of the water like penguins
Turns out I was a little right and plenty wrong. Malibu does have all that, an extension of Beverly Hills if you wish. The homes are beautiful, Nobu is a masterpiece, Lana Del Rey did film a video here where she shoots a paparazzi-ferrying helicopter out the sky with a rocket launcher (and probably this one with Father John Misty, too) and there are many, many Chanel bags and Gucci loafers. But even more prominent than that are hole-in-the-wall fish and chip joints, socks and Birkenstocks schlepping around the pier with bait and tackle boxes, mobile homes turned artsy surf shacks and of course, wetsuits flurrying in and out of the water like penguins. Malibu has a vibe alright, but it isn’t that of Beverly Hills on the sand—in fact it’s much more akin to a West Coast Montauk.
While you might sit down at an empty restaurant beside the lead singer of your favorite band who’s out with his new model/actress girlfriend you have been reading about in People magazine… maybe, how would I know… You are equally likely to meet some of the nicest people on the West Coast who are happy to share their surf and their laid-back culture.
Don’t Call it a Hotel
You’ll find the latter at the Surfrider Malibu, which may be the coast’s coziest hotel. Actually, to call it a hotel is an almost-offensive diservice, it is a Beach House. The Surfrider team is unique to any other. While I’m convinced they are screened first for California’s biggest smiles, the team in its entirety welcomes you with open arms and it feels like coming home for summer break. The impeccable decor, beautiful views and comfy beds are accompanied by a premium quiver, amazing food and cocktails, and an ideal location. It even smells heavenly.
Just a tip-toe across the street and you are back at your Beach House.
Imagine your day starts after a good night’s rest with a paddle out at the famous Surfrider Beach, if you’re lucky maybe Helen from the Surfrider team will come with you and give you all the tips and tricks on the break. If you didn’t lug your board to Cali, you can borrow one of Surfrider’s complementary ones by Dead Kooks or Keegan Gibbs. Then just a tip-toe across the street and you are back at your Beach House and rewarded with a hot outdoor shower followed by a cup of joe and an açai bowl or avocado toast (maybe both—you are on vacation). From here the 27 miles or so of coastal bliss is your oyster. You can hike Point Dume or El Matador State Park to admire the ocean and its wildlife from the cliffs, go shopping at the Malibu Country Mart if your wallet allows, or my personal favourite, grab an umbrella and beach towel from Surfrider and go beach hopping to Topanga, Zuma, Sunset Point and Carbon Beach, surfboard in tow.
After the too-short-long weekend, I was left with only memories and the Surfrider’s signature candle. So while I keep buying Powerball and Mega Millions tickets with the hopes of one day moving to Malibu, in the meantime, I’ll light my little candle and transcend back “home” again, at least until my neighbor starts his drum lessons.