Surf Shack: A Lifestyle and Inspiration

Ger and I were staying at an adorable Airbnb earlier this year in the outer banks: the Live Swell Avalon Bungalow. During our stay, we became enamored by the surf-style décor. Neither of us surf, but there is something about the mystique of those who live by the ocean, waiting for their next big wave, not caring so much about their next Zoom meeting, or deadline, but making just enough money so that they can get home, grab their surfboard, and head back to the beach. Now, that description may be false, a glamourized figment of my imagination, but it seems absolutely wonderful to me, and that is the picture I would like to continue imagining.

During our stay, not only did we enjoy the way that the bungalow was set-up, as a surfer’s paradise, but I started reading a coffee table book that was there, Surf Shack: Laid Back Living by the Water by Nina Freudenberger.  I could not put this book down. I thumbed through it, admiring the low-key ambiance each “surf shack” exuded through the pages, and then at night, by the fire, read the stories of each of those who lived in their lovely little abodes by the water. Their lifestyles mimic our own- most live minimally, not concentrating as much on materialistic things, but moreso looking forward to their next adventure, either surfing the waters closest to their bedside, or indulging in what the ocean, or body of water has to offer them- living that surfer lifestyle.

Inspo for our “laid back living by the water.”

When I left that beach bungalow, I immediately went out to purchase Freudenberger’s book. To date, it is the one book that I own, that I open at least twice/week, sometimes more, reading the same stories, over and over again. My favorite thing to do is to sit on our front porch on Saturday mornings, turning the pages, looking for more inspiration for not only that lifestyle, but the comfort that the coastal living experience allows. It presents a sort of calm and ease, the way that others enjoy soft classical music. It’s just good for my soul.

Nina’s book is divided into sections, according to the people and the homes she featured, ‘The Newbies,’ ‘The Seekers,’ ‘The Riders,’ and ‘The Lifers.’ We feel that our lives sort of follow this same path. When we downsized and sold our home, converting to a minimal lifestyle so we could live and experience bigger, we were ‘The Newbies.’ Then, we were ‘The Seekers’ as we continued to find the area that spoke to us, which of course, is by the ocean. ‘The Riders’ is the stage we are in now. We cultivate the lifestyle we want, but we are also trying to enjoy the ride, each moment that is presented to us, in the best way possible. One day, we will be ‘The Lifers’ and that will be one hell of an accomplishment.

Here we are, now living that life that the book portrays with each of its dwellings. “Surf Shack” has become my bible of sorts, for not only our little bungalow by the sea, but our backyard oasis. Our backyard needed some work when we moved in, but we were up for the challenge. We knew a few things were important to us, (1) utilizing the outdoor space as a livable area since we love being outdoors and smelling the salt air, (2) a space to enjoy our fire pit, sitting beside it with Betty White, and (3) we wanted it to bring us a sense of surfer mentality- not so much by grabbing a board and making our best attempt at catching a wave, that would be hilarious to watch, but to remind us of what is important, and not important in our lives.

The longboard is heavy enough to be stable, but we dug some space at the bottom for more security.

We used a longboard that my brother once used, as the focal point of the backyard. Once that found it’s home, propped by the back porch, we then hung Edison-style string lights a few times across the yard, from the house to the storage building that houses our lawnmower, yard tools, and NOTHING ELSE. We surely don’t need to accumulate stuff, simply because we have the room for it.

Next, we used pea gravel to surround the concrete block patio, and our firepit, so it is stationary, and safe. Fresh pine straw, seasonal plants and flowers, a patio palm, and a hibiscus plant adorns our minimal approach to a surfer’s backyard oasis. A necessary addition, were two tiki torches, filled with citronella oil, to keep the abnormal-sized Crystal Coast mosquitoes away.

Lastly, not as fitting to our minimalist lifestyle, but guess what, it brings joy and that is what matters, is our Caribbean-style directional signs, pointing to our favorite places across the nation, and world, since we have Paris, France on it.

The Caribbean-style directional signs were inspired by those that we see so often in the Florida Keys.

With Covid, and our limited ability to travel, we have created this little spot, at our own surf shack, where we can sit, have a glass of wine, or bottle of beer, and enjoy the smell of the saltwater, the fresh air, the warmth of the fire, under a sky full of stars (and our string lights). Since we now live steps away from ocean water, we feel like those folks Freudenberger features in her book, and can relate to this new way of life as she so eloquently describes:

“All of a sudden everything I ever pictured a morning commute to be was turned inside out—it was untucked and wearing flip flops. No longer was I sharing a sidewalk with half-frantic business types speed-walking to their first meetings. Instead, morning after morning, I watched as my new neighbors meandered their way to the beach with surfboards strapped to bicycles, belted to cars, or tucked under arms. The contradiction was fascinating.”

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