In the Fifties and Sixties, Malibu’s Surfrider Beach was home to the golden era of surfing. It’s where the first surfboard was brought to mainland America, where Hollywood discovered the sport, and where Neil Young and his fellow musicians would end up after playing at his neighboring Crazy Horse Saloon. Ironically, in a town associated with famously luxurious homes, the only place to stay around Malibu’s most famous beach over the last half-century was a motel. That changed in 2014 when Matthew Goodwin, Emma Crowther, and Alessandro Zampedri decided to take over the space to develop the Surfrider. Now after four years of renovations, the Surfrider is officially open, and it’s putting a spotlight on the iconic beach once again.

“I’ve never been in hospitality, I’ve never so much even worked in a bar,” says creative director Crowther, noting that both she and her husband Goodwin—an architect by trade—had never worked in the industry before. When the opportunity to purchase the Surfrider was presented to Crowther, Goodwin, and Zampedri—a former race car driver who has developed New York restaurants Pearl & Ash and the late Michelin-starred Rebelle—they couldn’t pass it up. For Crowther, hospitality made perfect sense. “It’s pretty innate, hospitality,” she says. “It’s essentially just the grandest scale of hosting. That to me is based on emotional intelligence and the ability to anticipate guests’ needs before they do.”

That innate feeling transferred to their design approach as well. “We created this space based around what we would want if we were going to a California beach house,” Crowther explains. Transitioning from a motel doesn’t immediately scream out, “Malibu beach house,” especially considering they weren’t allowed to alter the size of the property, but their perspective gave them some license to play around unencumbered by industry conventions. “We took the entrances to the rooms to the back of the building, we blew out the front of the building so the entire front wall was a glass sliding door with a private balcony, so every single room has an epic view of the ocean and private balcony,” she continues. “We blew out the ceiling so that the upstairs rooms are all pitched ceilings so it feels like your own beach cottage.”


With only twenty rooms, the Surfrider offers guests an intimate experience; every room even has its own personal staff member. There are common rooms including the library, the lobby which they call a ‘living room,’ and a rooftop deck which features a bar and restaurant overlooking the ocean. Naturally, surfing is a draw here and the hotel provides guests with complimentary surf and paddle boards crafted by local board shapers. The vibe is elegant but free-spirited, largely influenced by Crowther’s stays at European hotels. “The American approach to hospitality is a lot more structured, a lot more focused on high-end service that’s all about guest privacy,” she says. “The European approach is very localized—you feel like a guest in someone’s home. You feel like you’re having a local experience a little but more rough around the edges.”

That’s the kind of personal experience Crowther wants to provide, regardless of whether guests are coming from abroad or taking a retreat from Hollywood. “It’s curated to your personal style,” she explains. “If you want to go on a hike around the Surfrider, we pack you a picnic and give you a hand-drawn map so it’s just a little bit more personal and local focused, and just a bit more relaxed.” To Crowther, this is what the authentic Malibu is like, and the Surfrider is making that experience more accessible: “We try to pull down the façade of the guarded approach to life that we all have these days and just let people chill out for a second. That goes back to the ‘California dream’ which the whole thing was built on from the beginning when people felt a little bit freer.”

For more information, please visit The Surfrider is now open at 23033 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu.

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