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As founder of iconic surfing mag, Stab, Sam McIntosh is one rad-dad who’s always captivated us. This charismatic figure and his equally talented interior stylist wife, Arabella, form a creative duo who packed up their Bondi pad and relocated to California, with little ones Bobby and Willa in tow. They spoke to Children of the Tribe about what’s to love about life in Venice Beach, the stratospheric feel-good jolts of parenthood, and how living with spontaneity can see you find adventure in any situation.
Sam, you were 13 when your parents bought the Pacific Hotel in Yamba so the north coast of NSW was home for so much of your life. How did growing up here shape your life?
We lived in Casino about 45 minutes from the beach and I was already heavily obsessed about surfing. That made me way more fanatical than I probably should be. I worked a paper run for a newsagent and had hundreds of surf magazines after the mastheads were ripped off and returned. Growing up on the Lower Clarence was an extraordinary childhood. Perfect beaches, camping in the national park, and a high school that had kids funneling in from all different walks of life. The way it shaped me? Hmmmm, I was pretty sheltered. I had only been to Sydney once on a school excursion before I packed up my car and drove there. My eyes were opened. I think today social media and being connected has a lot of downside but I think it also allows kids to dream a little more and see what’s achievable in the world. I guess it has made me realise that my family (and most of us I think) are happiest when we’re out and about in nature, mostly when near large bodies of water.
You’ve been somewhat of a trail blazer in the world of surfing with Stab Magazine. When are you the most inspired?
I’ve have more luck of happy accidents then trails set alight, but I’m most inspired when I’m working on projects that might not work. And, seeing those things come to life. Plus, I love seeing growth of the people we work with. I have a sinking feeling when a really good employee (who has only ever worked at Stab after uni) says they’re leaving but I get a parental-like sense of pride when they’re moving on to something bigger and better.
Commonly a question asked of mums, we're going to ask it of you Sam. Now that you have two little ones, Bobby and Willa, how do you find the juggle of work and family life?
We’ve just hit the 18 months on our youngest so it’s getting easier but no one tells you you’re pretty much a slave to your kids. Before I had kids and saw offspring having tantrums, I thought they were the shittiest parents ever. Now I see people who don’t have kids looking at me when my kids melt down like I am the biggest piece of shit parent who ever walked the earth.
The juggle means you have zero downtime. The smartest thing I did was marry well. I think you need a partner who understands that you need those personal blocks of time to do your thing. Every minute is filled ticking off an endless to-do list, so reading a book or newspaper is life’s greatest luxury.
But, ready yourself for the inevitable cliche now: the unexpected upsides of parenthood give you these stratospheric feel-good jolts to your system. It’s hard to explain but when your son is out-of-control at home but then gets outside in a group of people, finds himself intimidated, and slides his perfectly-shaped little hand into yours, its just too much to bear. Or when you’re boarding a plane and they’ll stop dead still for no reason, turn to you, look up and say, “Hey Daddy, I love you Daddy”, it really is a crazy thing.
When life’s kicking your butt, what is it that keeps you sane?
Booze, pretty much. Kidding! Surfing always helps. Getting moving in some way. And trying not to take anything for granted.
A chat with Bella...
You've relocated from Sydney’s Bondi Beach to California. What do you love about living in Venice?
People’s general positive outlook. There’s just a lot of variety. From the desert to the architecture to the music gigs to flea market binges to variety of food. For some reason, it feels a little slower than Sydney. We’ve learnt to chill out here. And, getting to know neighbours, it’s got a nice sense of community.
What is your favourite thing to do as a family?
I think the best things about family can happen almost anywhere. Making smoothies, going to be beach, barbecuing with friends, just the normal things. Hikes are popular here and our favourite runs through a narrow canyon bed and ends with a 40ft waterfall (when there is rain). We love to make pancakes or go to brunch at The Little Beach House in Malibu on a Sunday, that and go for drives to new places/beaches with no real plan.
What characteristics do you hope Bobby and Willa inherit from you & Sam?
Sam’s stoicism. His leg could be falling off and I’d never hear about it. I’ve woken up numerous times with the bed covered in his blood because he’s cut open his foot surfing that day. He also has this energy for life that makes a really spontaneous lifestyle. No day or week is ever the same. No trip is ever planned. On Christmas Eve 2017 he decided that we should fly to Cabo for Christmas. So we opened the presents early then jumped on a flight and the kids woke up in Mexico. We had Tacos for Christmas lunch from a local place and I’ll never forget it. I hope our kids can find an adventure in any situation, that they don’t get to hung up on having to plan everything, because really, plans never really work out the way you think.
Both Sam and I have a strong work ethic. If we teach them anything it will be to earn their keep so they can learn the sense of achievement that only comes from showing up and working hard. I hope they inherit my ability to see the potential in things. I love a good project and transforming something that no-one else appreciates. Whether it’s an old chair from the market or a house that no-one wants.
You’ve travelled all over the world. Where is your happy place?
The Yamba / Angourie region in northern New South Wales. And Fiji. Both are super special to us. In Yamba we have the best of everything. Family support and good surfing. In Fiji the people are so welcoming and so gentle with children, it makes for a family holiday that is actually relaxing. They are the only places Sam and I will leave the kids and go surfing together. And, going to first point Malibu on a summer afternoon. There are little waves, the sun is setting over the ocean, the wind is warm and we eat dinner on the beach with the kids. That will be something we miss when we come home.
Find more about Stab Magazine at https://stabmag.com/
Find more about Bella’s label Palm Beach Black at http://www.palmbeachblack.com/