An Homage to Malibu
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For beach bums slipping out of their wet suits, coastal casual also prevails: Since 1958 old-school beach shack Neptune’s Net has served live-welled crustaceans, fried fish, icy brewskis and its famed clam chowder to the tune of revving Harleymotors. Diehards love debating the merits of the Net versus Malibu Seafood, a picnic-y, BYOB hangout with its own fresh fish market, and the Reel Inn, which is as beloved for its silly signage as for its deep-fried delights.
Nightlife has never been Malibu’s forte—Mel Gibson proved that may be a good thing—but a few welcoming watering holes exist. Moonshadows Blue Lounge is a Malibu meeting ground for drinks and DJ beats on the deck. Mai tai one on at surfer shrine Duke’s Barefoot Bar (where the real-life Gidget, Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, works as the “ambassador of aloha”), especially on Fridays, when liveHawaiian hula girls shake their grasses off. Sure, the patio at Gladstone’s Malibu can be touristy, but oh, that mojito menu! For more upscale imbibing, sample Malibu Wines’ tasting room or join one of Malibu Family Wines’ elite wine clubs at the Saddlerock Ranch vineyards. Can’t control your consumption? Despite its low-wattage nightlife, Malibu offers several high-end rehab facilities like Promises Treatment Centers and Passages Malibu. Just have someone else drive you.
Or indulge in a retail high instead: Why trek all the way to Rodeo or Robertson when the Malibu Country Mart and adjacent Malibu Lumber Yard provide a plethora of chic shopping? Planet Blue, Ralph Lauren, Ron Herman, Chrome Hearts, MAC, Juicy Couture, John Varvatos, L’Occitane, 7 For All Mankind and many more moda meccas at Country Mart (even Sotheby’s International Realty, if you’re feeling particularly big spender-ish), while Lumber Yard offers Kitson, Intermix, Tory Burch, James Perse, Alice + Olivia, Maxfield, J.Crew, and more— you should probably pick one between La Perla or Crumbs Bake Shop.
If you chose lingerie over cupcakes, you may be ready for an overnight stay at the Malibu Beach Inn, Mr. Geffen’s 47-room hotel with a masculine-mellow, surf-chic design scheme and Carbon Beach cachet—the shoreline is just steps away. And don’t let Casa Malibu Inn on the Beach’s modest façade fool you: The vine-covered, villa-esque retreat is coastline-chic with a palm tree-studded brick courtyard leading to a private beach raked smooth at sunrise.
How about a little ’Bu culture? The glorious grounds of the Getty Villa are a must-see, housing priceless Greek, Roman and Etruscan artifacts. Or tour Adamson House, a 1929 Mission Revival home of the family who originally owned Malibu’s lands, replete with exquisite tiles from their famed Malibu Potteries. For a more contemporary glimpse of local living, visit Ramirez Canyon Park’s 22.5-acre estate, where Barbra Streisand resided for nearly two decades—the tour covering four of her architecturally significant showplace homes is something to sing about.
Ultimately, though, Malibu culture begins and ends at the beach. Third Point, near Malibu Lagoon, is a sweet spot for serious surfers looking for high-speed shortboarding; intermediates stick to longboarding at Surfrider, while rookies should consider lessons from Malibu Mike, who guarantees you’ll stand on the first day or you won’t pay. As the “Gold Coast” stretches northward, the beaches become even more beautiful and the water cleaner. The imagery couldn’t get more SoCal iconic—from tide pool-dotted Paradise Cove (where Frankie and Annette frolicked for all those 60s beach-party flicks), beyond the soaring promontory of Point Dume, past the riptides and lifeguard towers of Zuma Beach’s sprawling surf central (The Hoff oft Baywatch-ed there), onward to the southwest higher-impact pipeline of Westward Beach, the westernmost part of Malibu, where Charlton Heston found the Statue of Liberty in the movie Planet of the Apes.
Freedom, in fact, is part of the promise of Malibu, even if you don’t live there. Beach lovers—like those entering via the Zonker Harris Access Way, honoring the champion-tanning “Doonesbury” character—might discover the owners of posh beachfront pads crave privacy to the point of hiring security to warn people away from the beach. But legally, everything below the wet-tide line belongs just as much to the public as to the millionaires. So stroll on and enjoy leaving your own sandy footprints on Malibu as it makes its mark on you.
Photographs by Ulrica Wihlborg
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.