If you know anything about Keith and Lauren Malloy it’s this, they are good folk. Keith, pre Lauren, you might know as the bearded dude who, along with his brothers, Dan and Chris, made surfing have soul back in a time when it felt more slash for cash. Keith is a well respected professional surfer, water man, environmentalist, filmmaker and general outdoorsman yet these days it’s the role of being a family man that is his greatest adventure.
Fast forward to the grown up years and the band of brothers is still strong but now includes the heart and soul of a good woman…Enter Lauren. We first met when my obsession for her collective, Women’s Heritage, took me down the garden path (literally). Lauren, along with two mama friends, has built a community that brings women together to learn new skills and crafts from decades past.
As individuals, I am inspired and motivated by their work (Lauren in Women’s Heritage and Keith’s most recent film ‘Fishpeople’ which, if you haven’t seen, do!! It’s up on Netflix) but as a couple I am inspired by their life choices, ethics and down to earth parenting. With their two daughters Milly and June , most days you will find them working their ranch up Santa Barbara way in California. From breeding cattle to plucking turkeys, milking cows, churning butter, riding horses and raising pigs you couldn’t find a family happier and more connected than the Malloys.
It’s this story that I am sharing with you today. One that will inspire you to get the kids outside, get your hands dirty and leave the bullshit behind. At the end of the day, what else is there?
Lets start at the beginning, how did you two meet? What’s the love story? I’m imagining Keith hunting a wild animal for your first date….
Lauren: Keith was directing a music video for the musician, White Buffalo, on his Father's ranch and I was invited to join with a group of friends. I had my two dogs in the car and upon getting to the party I let them out after the long car ride, Keith came storming over, "Who's dogs are these? They need to be a put away." With a giggle, I answered, "mine" and put them back in the car. A few minutes later, I was skeet shooting with a beer in my hand and Keith came up and said, "no shooting and drinking!" Haha. With another giggle, I put down the beer, we began talking and that that was that. From there things moved forward pretty fast. We were married and had our first daughter Milly within 2 years.
And wasn't too long after that Keith did, in fact, hunt down a wild boar with a bow for me 🙂
Who has been the biggest influence in each of your lives?
Keith: My Dad. He was a surfer who grew up in Topanga Canyon in the 1950/60's where his family of eleven had a small ranch. After he married my mom in his early 20's, they moved up to central California and continued a rural lifestyle with us kids, while he ran a concrete business. We had just about every farm animal you could have at one point or another. He introduced my brothers and I to surfing, he never pushed us too hard, we'd just spend a lot of time at the beach together. I spent a long time away traveling on the pro tour, surfing and living in Hawaii but eventually came back to California to raise my family how I was brought up.
Lauren: Ever since I learned about Jane Goodall, I have been deeply inspired by her and her conservation work. I met her when I was in college and did a presentation in front of her on skunks (yes skunks, haha) and it was the most star struck and nervous I have ever been. Her bravery and passion to understand and preserve nature drove me to head to Africa to work preserving land for cheetahs and black rhinos and to later to work at the California Wildlife Centre. Her work is more relevant than ever today!
Did becoming a parent change you in any way? As individuals or as a couple?
Lauren: Having our first child definitely turned our world upside down but in a way we were ready for. Before having Milly, Keith and I did a lot of traveling and were working non-stop on his film, ‘Come Hell or High Water’. After Milly, I wasn't able to join on as many expeditions and Keith wanted to spend more time at home and with us. Keith has traveled so much, now he loves sharing his favorite places with us and seeing it through our eyes.
Keith: Its a pretty enlightening situation to put your time and effort into your family rather than yourself. These days I enjoy taking my kids surfing more than going by myself.
Our biggest achievements are what we give to our children, how we support them and what we pass down. What will be your greatest gift to Milly and June?
Keith: Exposing our kids to as many things as possible and giving them the opportunity to find the things in life that they are passionate about is the best thing we can do for our kids. These days, for us, it’s important to have them be surrounded by nature and the outdoors. Lauren and I grew up pretty wild and free and that is what we want for our kids.
Lauren: One thing I can give to my children is the experience of growing up with animals. I think having animals teaches kids so many things, respect for life and death, compassion, empathy and responsibility. Our daughters have witnessed births, had to say goodbye to the animals we raise for meat and have to help with the chores. I hope these experiences make them deeper people with an understanding of nature.
Describe a normal day on the ranch, who is up first, out the door last etc?
Lauren: Keith is up way before me and makes the coffee. Each day is different, depending on work and projects going on, but the chores stay the same. There are a lot of mouths to feed, the kids, our own, then 4 horses, 2 cows, 3 pigs, 20 chickens, 4 ducks, 4 dogs and the cats. The best days are when we can do all our chores and pack up and head to the beach for the day!!!
Millie is fierce on that horse, it is such a beautiful thing to watch her ride with such happiness and absolutely no fear. What is it that she teaches you?
Lauren: Milly is fierce but she is also so sensitive. I think to work with animals you have to be both. Working with a 1000lb animal under you at 6 years old (or any age) can be incredibly challenging and rewarding. I love watching her work through her horse being naughty to come out the other side more confident, it’s like I am able to watch her grow little by little, challenge by challenge.
Lauren, Women’s Heritage. My dream community on the other side of the ocean. It is so god damn practical it makes me feel so bloody lazy, in the best way. It must be so rewarding constantly learning and showing the girls how to be fully independent?
Lauren: I am very proud of what my partners, Ashley and Emma, and I have created with Women's Heritage, our journal and classes and now Heritage Goods and Supply, our store. I think one of the coolest things it shows my daughters is how awesome working with a team of women can be. We all have young families and support each other’s daily family needs, and even though we are working it is ALWAYS family first. I bring the animals to my family but Emma and Ashley have really helped me bring more cooking and herbalism into my life as well. Milly loves baking our sourdough bread from the starter Emma shared with us and we love making Ashley's face masks and putting them on together. I think seeing women empower each other is a great gift for my daughters, especially this day in age.
Share one piece of gold that you keep tucked away for those tough parenting days?
Lauren: For us, on those tough days as parents or as a couple, we get outside! The beach is a great place to let everyone run wild and get out any frustrations!
Keith, when you look into the future and you see the girls getting ready to go on their first date, what advice will you give the boy?
Keith: I'm blocking out the fact that my daughters will someday go on dates, haha! But there is nothing wrong with instilling a little fear in young boys, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
I know so many folks want to live a life that is simpler, more meaningful with a positive impact but feel they can’t break the cycle/habits. As a family or as a individual what is the best advice you could give to someone wanting to make that change?
Keith: We struggle with living a simpler life every day. We work a lot from home and are on our computers and cell phones. For us, we love living on a ranch because the minute you walk out the door you can disconnect and there are chores to do and you’re getting your hands dirty before you know it. For me, physical activity is important and makes me feel better at the end of the day so incorporating more of that I think can be super helpful in lining a healthier life.
How important is tradition to you both? What is a simple tradition in your home?
Lauren: Rhythm and tradition are important to us. We have things each of us have brought from our childhoods and we are also creating our own. Before eating every night we thank the earth for growing our food and taking care of us.
I remember back in the day seeing Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative and I couldn’t get enough of the worn stories and then the concept of a brand repairing clothes not trying to resell you something. It was really exciting. Then I saw you guys started it and I was like, of course they did. You seem to work together often, how would you describe your working relationship? Feel free to share how you annoy one another too…
Keith: Lauren and I do collaborate well together and bounce a lot of things off each other. It’s pretty special to be able to work on creative projects together and have similar visions. We both respect each other’s input and enjoy working together...although at times it's good to do our own separate projects, I've enjoyed seeing what Lauren has done with Heritage.
Lauren: Our brains work well together, Keith is much more creative than I am, but I am much more linear which can be important in story telling too. Working on his films was blast but with two kids it was too much and starting 'Women's Heritage" was much more conducive to where I am at as a mother right now. I hope someday we do another film together!
Fish people, to me, was a film that had so many layers. I was inspired as a parent to be better, to be more active in protecting our oceans and the planet and, as a woman, to dig deeper and be braver. It made me feel incredibly grateful to walk on this planet and to have had my own life and now my children’s be so connected to the ocean. What was the moment you knew you had to make this movie?
Keith: The ocean, to me, has gone so much farther than being a story just about surfing. The ocean has been a gift to me in so many ways and I felt like there was an opportunity to share stories about others and its impact in their lives. I really did want to influence people to connect with the ocean, it has so many benefits whether therapeutic or just pure pleasure.
You're an old couple sitting on the porch, there are a bunch of grandkids running around the front yard with the chickens…you turn to each other and say what? What do you hope to be looking back on and towards?
Keith: "Well honey, we are a couple of lucky bastards."
Lauren: I hope, as we get old and watch our grandkids run around, we are still making each other laugh.