Surf Shacks 032

Matthew Olerio + Joanna Zamora

Read McKendree

It’s a story that never gets old: young creative couple moves from the hustle & bustle of the city to quieter, greener (or bluer) pastures to slow things down and focus on their craft more intently and distraction free. That is exactly what Matthew Olerio and Joanna Zamora, the couple behind East Surf Co. did when they recently moved from NYC to the coast of Rhode Island, where they now reside in a beautiful old house built by a boat maker.

Read McKendree
Read McKendree

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourselves.

Matthew Olerio and Joanna Zamora, we’ve been together for 12 years now and married for almost 9.

JZ: Graphic designer, book collector, professional thrifter, terrible surfer.

MO: Can’t live landlocked, love to make music, amateur photographer, philosophy nerd.

How did you two first meet?

JZ: We met while attending different colleges in Boston. My best friend from high school introduced us. She lived on the same dorm floor as Matthew and told me he was the funniest guy she ever met. I remember going to his room and he was in a bad mood and I didn’t really like him. A week later, we were both on the train on the way to a party and bonded over our mutual love of Funyuns. The rest is history.

MO: Joanna intrigued me from the beginning – I thought she was the most interesting girl I’d ever met. We dated for about month but, were both young and stupid and fell out of touch. It wasn’t until the following summer that I smartened up and invited her to RI for a weekend. We’ve been together ever since.

What do you do for a living?

We have a company called East Surf Co. We make organic surf wax and are now focusing on expanding our product line. We also work with other brands and help them with design and marketing strategies.

Where are you from?

JZ: I was born in California but spent most of my childhood in Southern Maine.

MO: Born and bred in Rhode Island, the smallest and most underrated state in the Union.

When and why did you move to Rhode Island from NYC?

We moved to RI from NY about a year ago. We had been talking about coming back here and it was ultimately a timing thing. Our family had plans to open a cafe in Wickford and asked for our help in getting it started. Our lease happened to be up and we saw that as our opening. Being back here has freed us up to work on our own terms and be close to the water and family.

What are your favorite parts about the area in which you live now?

The location – we’re in Bissel Cove; a pretty neutral spot where we can reach some of our favorite beaches quickly. Newport, Narragansett and Matunuck are all very close and comparable in distance. We also have a beach in our neighborhood that we can walk to. It’s very peaceful here and has been a base for us to explore and rediscover the state.

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Your house is amazing, what is your favorite part about it? Also tell us a bit about the guy who built it.

The house is a 1940’s bungalow. It was designed by a boat builder and you can see that in a lot of the details around the house, which we love. He supposedly lived here for a few years, sold it and drove off in his RV never to be seen again. We’re at the end of a dirt road, next to a small horse farm and surrounded by tall trees. It’s very enchanting and quiet in the best way.

You have so many cool beach and nautical artifacts here. If your house were burning down and you could only carry 5 things out, what would you take?

We are scavengers for sure, a lot of what you see has been found thrifting up and down the east coast or has been deemed junk and thrown to the curb. Nothing is too precious and we like it that way, but to play the game, our five would be:

  1. Eames chair Joanna pulled from the trash curb in Tribeca
  2. Our favorite boomerang shaped piece of driftwood
  3. 9’4 hand-shaped log
  4. Portrait of Matthew’s grandfather on his boat
  5. Keyboard

Tell us more about your brand, East Surf Co. and how that started.

We’ve spent so much of our lives by the water that it seemed natural for us to create a brand that brought our experiences together. East was launched out of a desire to do surf wax (our first product) differently. We loved the idea of bringing a sense of form and function to an overlooked yet essential product like wax. We’re excited to continue to grow the brand and launch some new products this year.

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What’s it like to work together as a couple?

It’s the worst, we don’t recommend it. Just kidding… Honestly, it’s not easy but we love it. We’ve literally been working together since we first met and it’s become a natural part of our relationship. We balance each other out and know how to have fun. That’s the most important part.  

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, New England proverbs, sage advice?

Don’t overthink your work or take it too seriously, but have a vision and believe in it. There’s freedom in not comparing yourself to what anyone else is doing. Be thankful and find contentment where you are. And don’t forget – Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. That one never fails.

Discover more creative surfers’ homes in our book, “Surf Shacks®”


Read McKendree

Read is a photographer, shop owner, and creative consultant. While his experience photographing interiors has taken him around the world, it is New England that inspires him most. The dirt roads, shingled homes, and dappled light lured him away from NYC years ago, and he hasn’t looked back. Read now lives on the coast in Rhode Island with his wife Annie and cat Rocket.

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