My favourite places to stay are always on the smaller side, and usually the passion project of someone keen to create an experience and share their love for a place with others.
The Surfrider in Malibu is such a place. Opened in 2017, it’s the baby of husband and wife duo Matthew Goodwin and Emma Crowther. A devoted surfer, he grew up just down the road; she is an Australian-born wanderer with a background in property and a gift for interior design.
The result is sublime: a place where the Californian dream meets farm-to-table food and a roof deck to end all roof decks.
Here’s everything you need to know about staying at the Surfrider:
Where is it?
Owners Emma and Matthew make no bones about it: the Surfrider (previously a motel) sits right on the roadside on the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking Malibu’s iconic Surfrider Beach where, as Emma tells me, Hollywood discovered surfing. ‘My husband grew up surfing this wave,’ says Emma. ‘It’s a mellow, rolly wave which is famous for hotdogging (running up and down the surfboard), like you see in those classic 50s images.’
As soon as you wake up in the morning, you’ll see the surfers already out, bobbing in the water and waiting for the perfect break; a mesmerising sight. From the hotel, you can walk to a few other hotspots such as Soho House’s Malibu outpost and Nobu or be in Santa Monica in 25 minutes
Cross Byron Bay with California and add a dash of Scandinavia and you’re somewhere close to the Surfrider’s aesthetic. But really, what Emma and Matthew most want you to feel is at home. ‘We designed it very much to feel like a California beach house that spoke to a really well travelled audience,’ says Emma. ‘So if you had your own beach in Malibu, what would you need? The surf boards were all shaped by local guys, in a colour palette inspired by vintage surfing magazines; there are paddle boards, beach umbrellas and mini coopers to take out. We say to guests, here’s a picnic, here’s a blanket and towels, go and discover some of Malibu’s secrets.’ The hotel is also designed in a very communal way, encouraging guests to become friends and share experiences.
There are only 20 rooms at the Surfrider, which keeps it feeling intimate, ranging from smaller side rooms (with no ocean view) up to three stunning suites with big Pacific Ocean-facing verandas with hammocks. All of the rooms are lovely, decked out in a neutral, textured tones with lots of bleached woods, white linens and buttery oatmeals, but it’s worth digging a little deeper for one with a Pacific view. Especially handy for soaking up those epic Malibu sunrises, courtesy of the London to LA jet lag.
Food & Drink
Food was one of the most important aspects for Emma and Matthew to get right, especially when ‘hotel food’ often gets such a bad rep. ‘As an Australian raised where farm meets ocean, amazing produce was so important,’ says Emma. ‘Everything is organic and from a local farmer – we only put on the menu what we can literally pick with our own hands from the soil and our fish comes in every single day from a guy who catches off the island opposite.’ Their chef worked under Thomas Keller at French Laundry and Per Se, so you’re in very good hands with the menu that features super fresh plates like ceviche – no steak and chips in sight.
In the mornings, breakfast options include bread and pastries from everyone’s favourite Venice bakery, Gjusta,as well as acai bowls. At sunset, it’s all about spicy margs with crudites and dip as the sun dips below Malibu.
‘Facilities’ feels like a misnomer for a hotel which identifies more as a chilled beach house, but the roof deck, where all the eating and drinking above takes place, has to be its greatest asset. It has one of the most special views and the friendliest staff, all from and passionate about the local area, that you might hope for. Sitting up there, your eyeline sweeps from the curving coastline left towards Santa Monica, before skipping over Malibu Pier and settling on the main event: Surfrider Beach. Heaven.
Emma and Matt really understand how to surprise and delight their guests, so your extra-curricular activities are all taken care of. The surf boards and stand up paddles are complimentary, and they can arrange lessons if you wish. Ask any member of staff and they’ll recommend gorgeous local beaches to soak up some rays at. But the real beauty are those unexpected experiences that happen serendipitously at Surfrider.
‘One of our guys, Ryan, got chatting to a guest one day about lobster diving and all of a sudden he’s finished his shift and I see them [coming back] with a bunch of surfboards under one arm and lobsters in the other, which the chef cooked up and handed around the roof deck,’ says Emma.
Couples and pairs of friends. The beds are Queen-sized so definitely geared towards those willing to get close. But as long as you have an open mind, are looking for an experience and like meeting other people, Surfrider is for you. It’s also the ideal pit-stop for your Californian road trip from San Fran to LA.
How to get there
Fly to LAX airport, from which Malibu and The Surfrider are a 50-minute drive (depending on traffic). Renting a car is recommended, although the Surfrider does have its mini fleet of Mini Coopers for guests to borrow to make tracking down those local beaches that bit easier.
Rooms from £300, thesurfridermalibu.com