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This Is Northern New South Wales

This Way of Life


‘This Way of Life’ is an insight into the daily lives of world recognised surfers and environmentalists David Rastovich and Lauren Hill. The Vista’s Julia Ashwood visits their beautifully humble and private home, sweetly nestled in the gum trees just outside of Byron Bay…

This wonderful home you have built holds a story (or many stories). Tell us a little bit about how you found it, or how it found you…? We initially had plans drawn up for a brand new house to build. At some point, were finally like, “what are we doing?! This is so wasteful. And so expensive.” So we started looking at old Queenslanders to relocate onto our property. It turned out that a friend of Dave’s owned a 90+-year-old Federation style house right in Byron; one of the first farm houses in the town, allegedly.

The deal was sealed with salty palms in the surf. The guy was going to pay to have the house demolished so he could rebuild on his property, so we got the house for next to nothing, had it sawed in half and moved onto our place.

It was lots of work, refurbishing, taking out walls, interjecting new windows and doors to lighten the house up, straightening the shifty old hardwood walls, etc, etc, etc….but the house has character, it holds lots of stories and feels lived in. We love it for that.

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Influenced by the old, or preloved – where have you sourced a lot of your furnishings and treasures including this amazing instrument, the kora? 
In keeping with the theme of recycling and upcycling, we’ve tried to minimize buying new things for the house. There’s so much furniture and homeware already out there that’s inexpensive and often also happens to be of higher quality than lots of furnishing you find in mainstream shops.

All of our furniture has either been gifted to us from friends who had pieces to spare, or we’ve built pieces to suit how we want to use them… like our couch/daybed. We were having a tough time finding a big enough couch to get cozy on when we put on the projector for movies, but that also didn’t feel too heavy. It does double duty as an extra sleeping spot when friends need a place to crash and all the other beds are taken.

Other trinkets and treasures are from op-shops, travels, from markets, gifts from friends. The kora is an instrument from Senegal in west Africa, I went there for a film project with Thomas Campbell a few years ago and the sound just didn’t leave my ears. I got the instrument to remember that place and how rich the culture is there. Also, I love to jam with friends and this lends a sound that is not often heard in Australia.

How would you describe Byron Bay and its surrounds to someone who had never been? It is absolute paradise, especially if you love to be in the ocean. People complain about crowds, but there’s always an empty peak if you have even an inkling of creative adventure.

It’s a tourist town, with a village vibe. But the unexpected perk is that we often get lots of the cultural experiences that you only get in the cities— musicians, speakers, authors— because they want to experience Byron.

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You’re artists, activists, writers and surfers – how do you feel this environment has influenced your career and life choices? 
Well it creates a healthy baseline to gauge life by. Living in a space with diverse wildlife, food growing around us, space to breathe clean air, clean water to swim and surf in and great water to drink means that anything less than that seems less than ideal. Those attributes of this area are simple, fundamental attributes that all places on Earth should contain. It is not too much to ask that we all have those basics of life available for all of us, so that is a great daily reality check right there!

As well as the stunning beauty of Byron, do you feel it is also the locals themselves that make the bay what it is? Are there any particular people who inspire you here? The elders of this community are all so engaged and lively, and that makes us feel like there is a lot of life to be lived! It isn’t such a ‘youth centric’ culture here. There are so many opportunities to sit with people in their sixties, seventies and older who are filled with experience and wisdom and still a vibrant amount of energy.

Do you ever feel the gypsy arise in you and desire to move on or do you now know that Byron is your home? We’ve both had a pretty good run of travels in our lives, together and separately, so we feel pretty strong about this being home. Being on acreage gives us a lot of quiet space here which is amazing, but it also makes it harder to leave! We actually find ourselves being more and more hermit-like at home, just shutting the gate and choosing to be with the trees, ducks, birds, our dog and the beach over the hill. The world is pretty busy with humans so it feels good to get away from us all sometimes! Except, that ‘sometimes’ is kinda most of the time now hah!

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As well-known figures in the surf industry world wide, there is a strong sense that you can still exist here very humbly and privately – how do you manage this? and I know Dave has an interesting story about wielding an axe… 
Well, we just lock the gate.  We have one phone that we both share, it has bad reception, which I think is good reception because it means the phone isn’t always available and working. Our internet service is very very slow, think 1990’s kind of slow. So those factors keep life pretty quiet for us here. When I was working on our home we had a few strange visitors wanting to shoot fashion things in our space without asking, but that hasn’t happened again, maybe cause I had a big axe in my hand when I greeted them..

As early as many can recall and projected by movies such as ‘Morning of the Earth’ Byron has been considered a psychedelic wonderland for surfers on the road, with amazing waves and plenty of weed. How much do you feel that the surfing community has influenced this place? The surfing community on the north coast is a huge part of life here. Everyone is at least down the beach going for a swim, and so I think we have a culture that is sensitive to the value of living in a clean and thriving local ecology. That is definitely something that binds this community, the sense of respect for the local ecology.

You have also found the gift of love in the Bay. How did you two meet and do you feel like this space brings a special essence to your relationship? Our story of meeting is a long-winded tale, so lets just say we met here and it was surfing, culture, love of life and quiet reverence that sparked our journey together. It’s the kind of story that reminds us both to believe in the logic defying power of love.

Where to next in your nomadic journeys? I know you have just returned from an incredible adventure swimming with the whales in Tonga… Next up is a big Thanksgiving in Florida with Lauren’s family and attending a seaside mystical gypsical wedding in California.

You can follow the inspiring words and thoughts of Lauren Hill further here.
You can download The Vista‘s wanderlust guide to Byron Bay and surrounds here.
Film by Nathan Oldfield | Photos by Sybil Steele and Kuni Takanami