Surf Shacks 088

Leo Basica + Taiana Giefer
Santa Barbara, CA

Read McKendree

Leo Basica and Taiana Giefer are a beautiful and creative couple who are living the Central Coast dream life. Leo is a graphic designer and Taiana designs raw wool and felted fabric for fashion and interiors. They are both surfers, artists, and can also be seen modeling for Mollusk Surf Shop’s seasonal campaigns, among other stylish California brands.

Read McKendree
Read McKendree
Read McKendree

Where are you from? How long have you lived here in Santa Barbara, and what drew you to the area?

Leo: I was born in a small seaside town called Makarska in Croatia. It’s eerily similar to Santa Barbara, just smaller; islands out front, mountains behind the town, good people. Coming into year 20 here in Santa Barbara, I laugh at how my path was driven purely by chance and luck. I saw a beautiful aerial—pre-drone—photo of UCSB [University of California, Santa Barbara] with the splendor of the Pacific, framed with the Channel Islands and Santa Ynez mountain range, and felt, “Hey, this would be a great place to hang for a bit.”

Taiana: I was born in Beachwood Canyon in Los Angeles, then move to Santa Barbara with my family when I was 10. My parents took a drive up the coast one weekend a couple decades ago and on a whim decided to move here. I left from time to time but always came back to this magical land. 

Leo, you were a pretty accomplished tennis player, right? How did you first get into surfing?

Leo: Yes, my other life has been exposed. Tennis was my thing for the first half of my life—and still is. It wasn’t until I gave up the competitive side of it that I met some friends who surfed and took me out. Thank goodness they were those who appreciated the old craft of boards and introduced me to the rich history that surfing has. It was much more deep-rooted to them than just the act of surfing—that has always stuck with me. 

What about graphic design—how did you take an interest in that as a profession?

Leo: Yikes, I don’t really remember; I was always doodling as a kid, but gave it up during my high school and college years. It wasn’t until I graduated and was traveling for tennis tournaments that I picked it up again. A friend saw stuff I was doing and asked me to design them a logo, which I nervously did. It took me forever; I must have given him 18 initial directions for a couple hundred bucks. After that project, I started doing more small identity stuff for other people purely by word of mouth. Pretty quickly though, I realized I had to step up my game and get serious, and really figure out the design language I wanted to speak, as more established companies were reaching out. It truly was a chance transition into this “profession,” and I’ve been loving the ride working with a constantly changing, diverse set of clients—moms and pops, and companies that keep things bright and positive.

Read McKendree
Read McKendree
Read McKendree

How often are you guys taking modeling gigs?

Taiana: Growing up in LA with a mother who was a model agent, I was thrown into the modeling world early on. For the most part, I was able to avoid agencies and work word of mouth, slow and steady. Instead of the everyday model hustle—which is, to say the least, extremely difficult—I learned to be more selective with photo shoots and to only take jobs when I had time between my other life callings. Having learned how to self-manage, I can curate myself and who I represent. As I haven’t had to rely on modeling as a full-time career—somehow magically I’m getting paid as an artist! It is possible, I promise!—I’m able to turn gigs down that don’t feel right or pertinent to my life. I represent myself the way I want to be seen, so naturally brands who have the same lifestyle or ethos find me. I usually end up being great friends with all the companies I work for and it’s the same with Leo. Once I met Leo, I became his agent too—free of charge. It’s really special getting to work with your partner and document parts of our lives together with talented people. We pick up gigs sporadically and spontaneously. Once a week, once every few months. Sometimes not at all, sometimes too much. It just depends on the season and what’s going on with us or the state of the world.

What are your favorite parts about Santa Barbara?

Leo: It of course has to be the property that we call our home. A beautiful spot on the top of Toro Canyon. It’s quiet, tons of wildlife, space to do whatever we want.

Taiana: Almost everywhere outside in Santa Barbara is amazing! Certain lookout points that I love—overlooking Ledbetter from La Mesa. The mountain view from my family home. I love Mission Canyon, and Toro Canyon! My friends and family here are pretty epic— anywhere I can share food with them is where Santa Barbara is the best. Oh yeah, and of course the beaches. Miramar is our all-time home away from home.

Read McKendree
Read McKendree

Any specific local haunts or hangouts?

Leo: We stay pretty secluded up at our house; there are plenty of things to keep us busy here. But when we do go into town, we definitely put in the hours at Miramar, our favorite homie beach. We also hang at the Mollusk shop—always a delightful place for a good cuppa joe and conversation.

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, or sage advice?

Leo: Just say “yes” to things, and see what happens. Or just laugh at that decision.

Discover more creative surfers’ homes in our books; Surf Shacks® Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 available now!


Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio and now resides a bit further north in Oxnard.

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