Australia's Byron Bay is a utopia of unfettered surf dreams…
If you like a little satire in between your airport blockbuster novels, you’ll know the writer Tom Wolfe, a pioneer of what is called the New Journalism where the techniques of the novelist are used in real-life reporting.
Think: full dialogue instead of direct quotes, the reconstruction of scenes as if the reporter had seen it with own eyes and so on.
In the hands of a great writer it’s a thoroughly entertaining way to lampoon the overblown.
Wolfe, who was one of the best, could yank the mask off any phonies just by recording what he’d seen and heard. His best essay is Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s which satirised upper-class New Yorkers raising money for the Black Panthers, whose righteous mission was to annihilate white devils like those writing the cheques at the party.
If you surf, you’ll dig The Pump House Gang. Read a little here.
In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, a reporter, who uses many of the same techniques as Wolfe, goes to Australia’s surf-hippy utopia Byron Bay and follows a gang of Instagram influencer mom-surfers, murfers.
Courtney Adamo’s minimalist, Shaker-style kitchen is gorgeous, but you already know that if you follow her. The house—one of the first built in the historic town of Bangalow, New South Wales—might just be the most overexposed house in Australia. With its clapboard cupboards, wooden stools, bulk dry goods in mason jars, Blanc Marble countertops (“slightly more expensive than the Carrara,” she explains in a blog post about her kitchen renovation, “but we are so happy with the decision”), Dunlin Chelsea Pendant Lights ($669 each), SMEG refrigerator ($2,870), Lacanche oven and stove (“range cooker of my dreams” and, at about $10,000, a “splurge”), the kitchen is like a scene out of Little House on the Trust Fund Prairie. Adamo (@courtneyadamo, 250K Instagram followers) is a midtier family lifestyle micro-influencer, which, if you don’t know, is a thing.
Courtney, Michael, and their first four kids (Easton, 14; Quin, 12; Ivy, 10; Marlow, 6) sold the house, the car, and many belongings, and embarked on a “family gap year” around the world. Adamo kicked off the voyage with a farewell piece in the Telegraph and the launch of her travel blog, Somewhere Slower. Then, after a highly publicized, lightly sponsored 18-month global search for the slow life (they never really considered a return to the U.S., she tells me, because Michael dislikes the consumerism), they alighted in Byron Bay, Australia. Wilkie was born there, the older kids were enrolled in school, and, after spending a year and a half working on their visa applications, Michael began a job from home as a managing director for a Melbourne animation company. Two and a half years after arriving, the Adamos are fully settled. They might start the day with a “surf sesh” before school. In the afternoon, they might “work together as a family.”
All the “murfers” are here—the portmanteau of mum and surfer are Adamo’s clique of pretty, stylish, entrepreneurial, and creative young mothers of multiple children whose laid-back, unstructured lives generate a dizzying combination of FOMO and squad goals. They live in old-fashioned houses and give their carefully unstyled children names that sound dreamed up for a Goop collaboration with Lemony Snicket. They’re married to supportive, handsome, and scruffy men of purpose. They make their own hours and dinners and soap. They have their own brands. They are their own brands.
On first impression, Byron looks like beautiful but crowded beaches, high-end stores and cute cafés, quotidian spring breakers, tourist shops and Greyhound buses, linen at a startling array of price points, and nourishing grain bowls sprinkled with petals. The Byron of your digital and increasingly brand-sponsored imagination, however, is all that minus the bad stuff; a carefully curated bank of images designed to stoke your lifestyle longings. (If such are your dreams.) It’s a land of large, “nomadic” “broods” who “find their tribes” on life’s “journey.” Never mind that Australia’s policies on immigration and refugees are draconian bordering on vicious. In this young, mostly white, ahistorical, neoliberal utopia of the imagination, anyone can go anywhere. All you have to do is have a yard sale, hop in the gypsy caravan, point a finger at a map, and take up legal permanent residence anyplace that best showcases your lifestyle.
And so on.
Oh god it’s cruel, although it barely scratches the surface of that enclave, which is a haven of narcissism and clandestine infighting etc.