Surf Shacks 023 - Matthieu LeBlan
Early memories (and your accent)?
I grew up in Aix-en-Provence and I spent my childhood summers along the Mediterranean Sea in the South, and in Western France surfing and sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. Spending all this time around the beauty of nature taught me to appreciate sun, sand, and sea, and I think eventually inspired me to do what I do now. I draw a lot of inspiration from my family heritage. My grandmother had impeccable style and my mother made all her own clothes. I love to look through vintage family photos for inspiration.
What brought you to America, and why LA? You’re really comfortable here now, its evidently home.
Southern California culture never felt too foreign to me because I always saw it portrayed on TV and in movies, magazines, etc. So I was really attracted to that lifestyle, especially the surf culture in LA. When I first moved here, it was the early-’90s, in the midst of the grunge era. I lived with three of my best friends in a one-bedroom apartment on Sunset Boulevard. We were supposed to go to UCLA extension classes, but we never even bought our books. We ended up surfing and hanging out on the beaches between here and San Diego.
What’s your history with Venice and your house? How has it changed in the 15 years that you had it?
I love living in Venice because I’m able to be at the beach and surf as much as possible. I love the brightness and energy of the area, and Los Angeles in general. Venice has definitely evolved; I initially liked it because it was truly diverse, where other parts in LA seemed designated for a specific culture or financial status. Unfortunately, that’s changing a little bit, but it’s still home and I love it. When I bought my house, it was in the "uncool" part of Venice. People only wanted to live on one side of Lincoln Boulevard. I love my house because I built it with someone from start to finish, and he oversaw each part of the project. If I had hired a regular contractor, it would have been much less personal and more expensive. The concept of my house was really to start with a blank space, and add pops of interest here and there. I also love the light in my place; the sun reflects differently at each time of day. I like that the space feels unpretentious with a minimal aesthetic, but still has a positive, feel-good vibe.
Your love of the sea, it seems pervasive in everything you do.
Growing up, I had the chance to be around the sea a lot because my grandparents owned a summer house in Britany. I also sailed with my grandfather a lot, and developed a true love for the ocean. I think loving the ocean is something hard to explain. It’s really a disposition that you get from being around it enough and learning to appreciate it.
When I met you I didn’t realize how passionate you were about surfing, although we’d always talk about it. It’s all around you isn’t it?
I started windsurfing when I was a teenager. There aren’t many waves in the Mediterranean so you resort to windsurfing. I actually got pretty good and ended up being sponsored by a small windsurfing brand in my town when I was 14 or so. They actually let me paint some boards for them, which ended up influencing my decision to go to art school. So it’s interesting how surfing and art fed into each other to inspire what I do now. Moving to California was an opportunity for me to learn to surf. I can’t imagine my life without surfing now—you have an amazing connection to the ocean, and there’s an anticipation of the elements. You can’t predict exactly what is going to happen next, which is similar to life. I don’t have any interest in the competitive side of surfing; I think it’s more about the lifestyle. Spending time surfing in California, where the beaches are very crowded, I developed a taste for extremely long boards. My friends are always laughing and saying that my boards keep getting longer, but as I’m not getting any younger it’s definitely something I’ll stick with.
This article was originally published on Indoek as part of the Surf Shacks series, featuring the homes of creative surfers from coast to coast and overseas. See the full interview and photo gallery here.