Surf Shacks 092

Mario Wehle + Petrina Reddy
Ericeira, Portugal

Matt Titone

Last summer, I spent one of the best weeks of my life with the Wehle family in Ericeira. Mario and I surfed head high waves at Coxos, the Rincon of Europe, which Mario has a view of from their house on the bluff. Then his wife, Petrina invited our family over for one of the best home cooked meals I’ve ever had. She prepared a Malaysian inspired feast of fresh poke, ceviche, curries, prawns, and seasonal vegetables all harvested from their local region of Ericeira, a small Portuguese fishing town now known not only for it’s rich abundance in seafood, but also pumping surf. The Wehles are serial entrepreneurs who immigrated to Portugal nearly a decade ago and have made their mark on the community by running one of the most culturally relevant surf shops, Magic Quiver, an interior design studio / home goods shop, Saints At Sea, and a vacation rental property. Mario and Petrina share a unique vision and aesthetic that draws on their diverse cultural backgrounds and love of travel. I am not exaggerating when I say their home might be my favorite surf shack I’ve covered to date. The following photos are the evidence.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

Petrina: I am sun, moon, sea and light. Born on the Equator, I played in rubber estates among scorpions and pythons, I learnt to swim at the waterfalls, whenever I visited my cousins in the kampung. My family lived in Kuala Lumpur; as a family we were in constant motion, moving, changing, shifting, growing. I am a KLite, from a city in discovery of her identity. A city filled with colours, flavours, chaos of life, amalgamation of religions, the decay of old houses left behind by the British Empire, the beauty of languages. I am from the city where the two muddy tea coloured rivers meet and ancient rainforest trees reside. I grew up learning to cook all kinds of aromatic dishes from my mother and watching and listening as my father managed and built discos and restaurants.

I remember being 5 years old and living in a hotel that my father managed. I remember my mother pregnant with my baby sister and me and my brother riding our shared tricycle through the corridors. Meeting staff daily and fabulous jazz musicians, locals and internationals that graced the jazz bar downstairs; I had grown ups as friends. This shaped my interest in spaces, music and lives I think, behind the veil, the in between tales, the sense of escape that comes with a hotel and holiday. I am just me… rambling through this life.

Mario: I was born and raised in a small village in the south-west of Germany, surrounded by nature, friends and animals. Most of my childhood memories are related to the outdoors. Playing in the forest, in the stream and pond, in the fields, in the snow. The whole day, until I heard my fathers piercing whistle in the distance and I knew it was time to come home for dinner. From a young age I was fascinated by warm waters, sunshine on my skin, the sandy beach and any kind of travelling adventure. Probably my parents, who took every opportunity to travel around Europe in an old Westfalia VW T2 and later in a RV, instilled this feeling in me. There was a lot of motorbikes, camping, hiking, skiing and other adventures near and far. In German there is a word for the feeling those adventures instilled in me: Fernweh. 

That feeling was and is a big defining factor in my life. It brought me to a lot of far-away places and made me go out of my comfort zone on countless occasions. It brought me to Bali where I met Petrina, to Kuala Lumpur where we lived and our kids were born and eventually to Portugal where we built a home. 

Travelling and experiencing new places means everything to me. It’s where I finally become comfortable with myself and my surroundings even if they are uncomfortable. 

What do you do for a living?

Petrina: Many suns ago I used to sit under coconut trees in the morning, swim with Sea Turtles at lunch time, eat mangoes all day and bask under a moonlit beach. Nowadays, I design spaces, paint, dabble in ceramics, make garments, cook with curiosity, question my place in the Universe and drink great Portuguese wines. Escapism has always been a theme throughout my work. When we moved to Ericeira, I was trying to stay home with the kids (It was my time to finally be free to paint and draw). But as months passed, I grew restless, realised funds were depleting and started working on our first holiday rental. There wasn’t any design focused accommodation back then. I believe we were the first in Ericeira. We started with one, slowly we expanded to 7 different locations in the heart of the village. It wasn’t economical in the long run, so we consolidated and opened a Bed and Breakfast, coupled with a cafe & later an oyster bar, while running Magic Quiver parallel. 

I started a foundation in Arts and Design at a Parsons NYC outpost in Kuala Lumpur at 17. I was going to focus on fine arts, then the Asian Economic crisis hit and my college funds were lost in the stock exchange crash. Instead, I opted for a practical route of Communication Design (training to eventually be an Art Director) I started working in design at 18, posters, flyers, graphics for live news… basics. Studying the whole time in KL, NYC and Halifax. Design was always a part of me and continues to be. Now I focus on tangible and intangible spaces. I thrive in  the flatness of 2D, and love the idea of negative and positive space. Forget the foreground, middle ground and background! I took this mantra into spaces. Creating mood and atmosphere, guiding the spirit of a person through a space that you created is euphoric. This is my playground. I used to design Bars, Clubs and Restaurants in South East Asia. Now being in Ericeira my focus has shifted to holiday homes & villas, the occasional small hotel here and there. The way we live is a guide to how I design and create a space. I’d love to design for a monastery or an asylum. 

Mario: I run Magic Quiver and some holiday rentals on the side. Besides that I do sales agency work and consulting for surf adjacent brands that have interest in the European market. Doing this for 10 years now gives me a valuable perspective I can share with brands. I’m always full of ideas so there’s often other projects I get involved in. I like the business development and brand building side of things the most. 

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

How did you both meet?

Petrina: We met on a beach in Bali. We both were staying at this rickety wooden longhouse built into the rocks on the beach. He was surfing, I was drinking from coconuts. I had just finished building a bar and restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, so while I was in Seminyak I was looking for some embroidered patches for my bartenders to iron onto their Jackets. In between the KISS, Iron Maiden and skull patches, I found a beautiful swallow bird patch. I picked that up for myself. So after climbing down to the beach I spent the sunset by a large bonfire with a few loud friends and not so friends. Here I saw the same Swallow design, tattooed onto this guy’s arm. 

Some friends stayed behind and we huddled and lived in this rickety long house. Mario was there too. All my friends were speaking to him, but he never spoke to me. He was staring at me the whole time… I thought it would be appropriate to say hello, seeing that the beach was tiny and he had these curious eyes. A few evenings later we all hid from the rain under the little veranda with a cooler box full of ice cold beers. We willed the hours away with conversation and monsoon like rain fall. That evening I passed Mario my Swallow patch. He was taken aback as it was identical to his tattoo, plus he said his whole long trip, people had constantly asked him for things. I was the first to offer him a gift. He dragged his chair over to my side of the table and we had great conversations as the rain poured down.

As the days passed we grew close and there was a bond formed. Seeing that he lived in Germany and me in Malaysia… there was nothing to be promised or said. He left a few evenings later and that evening, I danced to the sunset and asked for a sign, if we were meant to be together. There was sunshine with a light drizzle, and across the sea and big blue sky, there was a double rainbow. That was my sign. 

What led you to settling in Portugal?

Mario: We had been living in Kuala Lumpur for a few years and I was quite weary of the big city, the endless traffic jams, the noise, the bad air. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great city and we had a fabulous live there which I miss very much at times. Work was fun and we travelled around South-east Asia a lot, but I had a desire to live by the sea, close to nature, surf at my doorstep instead of a flight away. Every holiday by the beach just strengthened that desire. We played with the idea of moving to Indonesia or Australia but I thought it’d be great for the kids to grow up in Europe just as I had. There’s just so much culture, different countries, languages. 

Petrina shared the same appreciation so we shortlisted a few places that I had been to and visited them together. Biarritz, was on top of our list for a while but then Petrina favoured Ericeira. A lot of factors played into that. Better climate, friendly people, business opportunities, affordability, accessibility, surf. Ericeira is a unique place and ticked a lot of boxes for us. 

Growing up in Germany, how did you first get into surfing?

Mario: My first encounter with wave riding was in Cornwall. My parents had taken us on a trip through the southwest of England and we ended up on this beach. We saw people surfing and my younger brother Max and I both got styrofoam boogie boards and badly fitting wetsuits from the tourist surf shop and spent hours in the frigid water. Purple lips and numb hands but fully hooked on the sensation of glide. I was 13. I never forgot that feeling but didn’t have the chance to pursue it until a couple of years later when I started going on trips to South-west France and it became instantly evident that boogie boarding wasn’t gonna do it. I had to learn how to surf. What a struggle that was. In my late teens I knew I wanted surfing to be part of my life. From then on I shaped a life around it. 

Matt Titone
Matt Titone

What is the concept behind Magic Quiver?

Mario: I’ve always had an interest in curation. Finding, objects, music, concepts, obscure things that I thought held value, things that triggered some emotional response in me and I believed other people should experience too. Mostly those things are not part of the mainstream culture and feel like hidden treasures. I have a critical mind and get frustrated with force-fed and mindless consumption of tangible and non tangible things. Today there’s an almost endless amount of content, products, art, music out there but it takes effort to avoid the algorithms’ suggestions and find meaningful and thoughtful pieces and objects yourself. It’s rewarding for me to see people enjoy the curation of surfboards, books, art, photography, clothing and music at the shop. Magic Quiver is a platform for surf culture. A shop, a music, movie and event venue, a gallery, a meeting point. I want it to be used to explore a side of surfing that is not dominated by sport or competition, but instead the casual, cultural side of surfing, where it overlaps into art, music, literature, design. All inspired by the raw feeling of riding a wave.  

As a curator of fine surfing products, what are some of your favorite brands these days and why?

Mario: Running the shop for almost 10 years now I’ve seen a lot of brands come through the shop. The only one that has consistently been present throughout the entire time was Critical Slide. 

We built a good relationship with them and also represented them as sales agents for a few years. I always liked how they weren’t taking themselves, and surfing, too seriously. It’s not always easy to sell, or easy to like, but always refreshing. I still like what they do today. 

Good quality product is always the absolute prerequisite and ideally that’s paired with good design, communication and branding. Over the years there were a lot of other brands I admired and worked with, but sometimes it only aligns with the shop direction or my personal ideals for a certain period of time. We mainly focused on up and coming brands that were hard to find and new in the market. Sometimes they develop in different directions or grow into something that isn’t compatible with Magic Quiver. I’ve come to realise that all of the brands at the store are replaceable. What’s important is that the overall curation is meaningful and interesting for the shop customer. 

Over the last year or so we made a commitment to finally shift focus and effort to really work on our own product and brand and develop that. 

What are your favorite parts of surf culture in general these days and why – what is exciting and inspiring to you? 

Mario: I like surf culture where it escapes the normal understanding and boundaries of surf or what’s relevant in surfing. I’m fascinated by smaller pockets of sub-cultures within surfing. Urban surf culture often feels more dynamic and creative to me. I find areas more interesting where you find diversity and people that have other topics and interests in their lives and surfing is just one of the things they do and that connects them to fellow surfers. People that are incidentally surfing bring influences from other aspects in their lives into surf culture. Surfing has the tendency to take over your life and it happened to me at periods but it becomes dull and caricature-like when there’s nothing else. 

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

What about Saints At Sea? How did you arrive on that creative path with home goods and interior design?

Petrina: Channelling the spirit of escapism through my work, the holiday rentals gave me a platform to create & curate spaces for others to experience this state of being. 

Guests at that point always asked me where I sourced my products, at that point being here with the lack of options, I was making my own pieces, shopping in junk stores and recovering lost items with kindred spirit, Tina. It was already something I was doing back in KL before I left, I had an alternative furniture store while I was working in a corporate design environment, we were making, sourcing and reviving furniture. It was called PIECES. Pieces was an abridged version of Saints at Sea. 

After the pandemic lockdowns, It seemed the opportune time to reevaluate the scale of Magic Quiver (for a mom and pop project with 22 team members pre pandemic in a small village). I went back to KISS theory (keep it simple stupid) and revisited my treasure chest; exploring the spirit of Escapism and the power of slow living. At Saints at Sea our Ethos is to work with handmade goods, we celebrate and bring to light local artist and artisans, we have garments and small furniture and objects for daily rituals, we believe that a space should be an extension of ones inner sanctuary. The shop acts as physical calling card for locals and people relocating here to find us for their interior needs.

What have been the biggest challenges running your own businesses over the years?

Petrina: It all began with itchy feet, being stuck in a city and the need to constantly be travelers — as that’s how we met. So we moved to a tiny fishing village in Portugal with a two & four year old. We did not speak the language, and had lots of documentation and paperwork ahead and no knowledge of this all, to a country recovering from a big economic downturn. Challenge enough? On top of that, we had to work together (insert a bam bam bam on the piano)!!! 

Setting up a business in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language is a challenge on its own. Working together on the next layer. Juggling work and family with 2 little babies (at that point); the icing on the cake. Acceptance from other local business owners; the cherry on the cake! 

If you subtract all the above, I would say people and resource management, knowing when to turn off work and turn on life as they both become interlaced, the constant need to be on standby in case work comes knocking, having the strength to carry on and move forward.

Mario: As Petrina explained, there was a ridiculous amount of challenges and we both have the tendency to not make it easy for ourselves. Choosing a different approach, a different way of doing things means that you have to go the extra length to make that happen. Often you have to figure out how things work because there isn’t any blueprint. A big challenge for me was always compromising the vision of a project or an idea, towards the business realities of our surroundings. The shop is hardly catering to demographic or a market but in many aspects a reflection of what I believe in. That however already sets the boundaries of how commercially successful it can be. Another struggle was managing a growing business without a business education. I studied Sociology and Philosophy and did not have the tools or even desire to run a company but somehow had to fulfill that role. What I know about it today was learnt through tough lessons, mistakes and setbacks. Running a small business means that a lot of pressure rests on your shoulders. You’re the one who needs to drive it and keep it going. It rises and falls with your own productivity and motivation. Not burning out is a big challenge. Not bringing home work issues is another one. 

On the other hand, what have been the greatest rewards?

Petrina: Living life without boundaries, each day is as you make of it. The most fulfilling reward is our family home which we designed and built. It is on a road that leads to a beautiful cove which furiously wields one of the best waves in Europe. Being upfront at the spectacle that is raw nature and watching sunsets from my living room sofa. Being able to discover and fund an alternative education path for our children. Finding my tribe. My coastal drive to work. The possibility for me to play and create daily in my studio space. Working with clients from so many different parts of the world, all cumulating here in Ericeira. 

Mario: No boss. Making my own decisions. A flexible schedule. These are challenges too, but I always appreciated the freedom that comes with it. Meeting people whose work I’ve been admiring, collaborating with them, learning from them. Building a life around all of this and exposing my kids to all it entails feels like a wholesome education for them. Time to surf when I want to. 

What are your goals for your brand?

Mario: I want to refine Magic Quiver into the version I have in my head. I set myself really high standards. Not in terms of scale but in terms of detail. It’s infuriating and sometimes I wish I cared less. There’s so much I want to do with it and a lot of it is hindered by a lack of time or financial means but I’ve been inching closer. I want to show a version of surfing that I like and believe in. At the same time I want to make it a lean operation that doesn’t feel like a liability or a burden which it sometimes turns into. The goal is to make good, interesting, beautiful product, create a meaningful story, have a positive impact on my surroundings. 

Matt Titone

How long have you lived in your current home? Tell me about the building process.

Petrina: Mentally I’ve been living in that space for the last 6 years. The design and building process took a while longer than expected. I used to walk through the whole layout of the house and imagined what it would look like as I fell asleep, it was my form of meditation. 

The house is built with liquid stone (A hybrid substance made from cement, water, sand, and mineral aggregates) which has no intrinsic form and in the hands of talented designers, its ultimate appearance is dictated by the framework into which it is poured and the colour, texture, or pattern applied to its surface. We took long cliff walks to find the ‘colour’ of our house until we finally found something that we both loved. Mario harvested some sandstone, dried it for a few days, crushed it into powdery sand and the colour revealed itself. A mix of earth and terracotta. It evokes a feeling of rock rising from the earth. We wanted a house with no maintenance and I wanted a sanctuary to always escape to. As a designer, I look at things through a view finder and it’s important to me that each part when dissected in the space, can hold itself up and at the same time work together as a whole. We don’t have a basement or garage, just a little storage space outside, where the daily surfboards live and a space inside for the more coveted boards. The courtyard facilitates, wetsuit washing and a drying rack, a hot outdoor shower and a large fire pit. The pond, is an Asian addition, as we believe water cleanses and to enter our house you pass over it. We have little Koi in there.

We have now lived here for two solid years, we moved in before the house was finished as it took the contractor ages to complete their task. I fired them; finishing the rest of the house through sub contractors that I supervised. There was a lot of documentation to work through, patience involved on the building level, coaxing workers, chasing architects and main cons to complete the work at hand. As a designer I could make immediate decisions on the spot and this helped speed up the process. Sourcing products and materials for the project was exciting but as time lapsed, it became somewhat of a chore. Always bring ice cold bottles of beer to the construction site!

To me the house is a being. Alive like we are and is ever evolving. It sits silently in its little part of the planet and takes witness the ocean, wildlife, sky, seasons and lives that leaves its impression. We call home Casa Atlas.

What are both of your favorite parts of your home?

Petrina:  The house is broken into 3 sections, each serves a need. Top floor for dreaming, middle floor for living, bottom floor for cooking and dining. The spaces also change with the time of day and weather. Sections of the house cater to your moods. I find solace on the sofa we designed in the living room, I find escapism by the bookshelf, daydreaming in the bedroom, life debates around the dining table and adventures in our kitchen. Every item in our home comes from its level of resonance with us.  My favourite part of the home… twilight hour. I feel the house sigh and settle, as I melt into the sofa with my sunglasses and a glass of…

Mario: Opening the curtains in the morning and looking at the sea. No webcam, no surf or weather forecast required, you can see for yourself what the day is gonna be like. Cup of coffee in my favourite chair. Sitting on the couch and watching the ocean rage on stormy days, or the sun set into the horizon on a glassy evening. Every element of the house has a purpose. No unused extra rooms or section. It’s just perfectly tailored to our lives. 

Matt Titone

What are your favorite parts about Ericeira and the general region in which you live?

Petrina: The untouched rawness of the coastline, barnacles, oysters, freshly caught fish to ceviche and the soulful humans that have become my home. 

Mario: Portugal, and Ericeira specifically sits right on the westernmost edge of the continent, where land and sea meet. It has an adventurous and raw spirit. It has secrets and a melancholic soul. Besides the practical reasons I like that it’s sometimes not easy to like.

How have you seen Portugal change over the years since you moved there?

Mario: I’m glad we arrived just before it became really popular, especially Ericeira and Lisbon. At the time it felt like Ericeira was still pretty unknown outside the surf circle and there wasn’t a lot of outsiders living there, now it’s become very international and attracts plenty of people with zero interest in Ericeira’s waves. There’s a lot of new restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels and on and on. The influx of people and ideas is very interesting, enhancing and understandable, no doubt, but frankly sometimes also overwhelming for a small village. There’s quite a shift in population in which longterm residents are forced out due to increasing property and rental prices. At the same time a lot of people profit from the increased popularity. I guess you have the same issue in a lot of desirable places. Besides the apparent negative effects of gentrification I feel things have improved for the biggest part. It has become a great place to live as a family and has a lot to offer. 

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

Petrina: Be curious always, live bravely, love foolishly, sit under a coconut tree and dream. Oh, and eat a juicy mango and keep the KISS theory close at hand.

Mario: In my own project, working towards and achieving goals that I set for myself, I find the joy you get out of achievements is rather short-lived and fades quickly. You think everything will make sense or feel different once you do this or that or get whatever you chase. Often it’s a brief moment of satisfaction which is followed by a disillusion. Making the process enjoyable and appreciating the path I’m on has become a very important objective.

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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