If you haven’t been out to Montauk, then you don’t know about the intricacies of the space out there. It’s quiet, calm, salty, filled of turquoise and green. There are countless trails, beach breaks, harbors, farms, vineyards, and so much more. It’s unlike any other place; it’s breathtaking, really. And though it started as a town for fisherman and surfers, it’s grown to become a place that is shared with tourists (yes, some that party too much), world travelers, corporate business folks and of course creatives. If you’re interested in other Hamptons hotspots, check out Mama + Tata’s Guide here.
Scroll down to meet Jayma Cardoso (Owner) and Sasha Benz (Creative Director) and learn more about what it takes to create a space that pushes creative and community based boundaries.
Jayma, It’s fair to say that you predicted a trend. You found Montauk about two decades ago, bought The Surf Lodge, and created a culture centered around great space, food, music, art, and of course, people. Can you speak to us a little bit about your endeavors leading up to your 2008 purchase?
JAYMA: I found a home away from my home in Brazil. When I moved to the U.S., Montauk was raw, beautiful, and centered around this amazing beach culture. Similar to Brazilians, the people here are earnest and proud.
Originally, I came to the U.S. to study science, but I ended up following a passion for hospitality. I partnered on Cain and Goldbar in New York City. Then Cain in the Cove in the Bahamas. Ultimately, I wanted to get into the hotel industry, as for me it is the highest reflection of hospitality — a good hotel is like inviting someone into your home. I didn’t strive to create a sub-community; I worked to be a member of a noble community. For me,The Surf Lodge is a space to share art: be it design, food, fine art, live music or wellness.
How did you guys meet?
SASHA: I had been coming to The Surf Lodge for five years. My husband, Oli, was DJing there. We were about to move to LA, and then Jayma called me and asked to meet for a glass of wine. After that glass, she said she needed me on board. She knew what I was capable of, and I was hungry for a new challenge. It was perfect. We’re both motivated, we work well together, and we agreed on changes that needed to happen…It all happened very quickly and I was in Montauk only a few weeks later.
What were you doing before?
SASHA: I was a stylist for about twelve years. Just before Surf Lodge, I started my own online magazine — All My Friends Are Models. At first, I was knee-deep trying to balance the two, but I found a good team and made it work.
The Surf Lodge brings in different types of people, divergent from the Montauk local, do you feel like you were welcomed initially as a community member with the locals?
SASHA: It’s funny how the locals work… I think we blended with them only when we stayed here during the week, which is what Oli and I did; we got to know people that way, but the water was where it all happened. Oli would paddle out and really bond with the boys out there.
JAYMA: Everyone quickly fell in love with the great beauty that is Montauk, and there was a rush to share it by both tourists and businesses. I don’t think Montauk, East Hampton or residents alike could have expected there to be such a strong interest in Montauk. However, I do think that, as long as tourists, new residents, new and existing businesses put an earnest effort into preserving Montauk and giving back to the community, Montauk will thrive.
What kind of events do you host to blend communities?
JAYMA: I’m involved with a few charities, such as the coastline. But Sasha has been the one pushing for the pop-ups, crafting a great space, and involving strong and emerging brands out here.
SASHA: When I approached the idea of The Surf Lodge community, my first instinct was to involve other brands & influencers. So, basically we built a space where brands can be active to show their product. Last year we did a really big month-long activation with Revolve, this year we have something different each week for the entire season. We onboarded Fendi, Topshop, Nicole Miller, Erin Wasson and many others.
“When people ask me what the Surf Lodge is like, I tell them that I can’t explain it. It’s something you have to experience. It’s the people, the vibe.. It’s something you can’t get anywhere.” – Sasha Benz, Creative Director
So what do you both DO at The Surf Lodge? Be honest, how many hats do you #LadyBosses wear?
SASHA: I handle anything that is creative. I do a lot of the work with brands, celebrities, partners, and anything having to do with the vibe and décor on the property. The biggest creative project I did last year was transforming the back of house into an actual area. We gutted the whole thing, built out decks and made a manmade beach with a private garden for the hotel guests. Now, we throw events out there near a tree cascading with the sunset and covered in fairy lights. It’s like a dream-world.
JAYMA: Hospitality Brands (or any brand for that matter) has so many intricate parts and details. I think I only wear one hat, which is having a very clear vision of what The Surf Lodge is meant to be and ensuring it manifests itself in that vision. I have a great team, I trust them and let them do amazing work, but in doing so, I’m active in every detail so I’m clear on what challenges we have and can help empower the team to meet these challenges. Guests are also a top priority; we really strive to create experiences for our visitors that reflect The Surf Lodge’s values. For me, spending time with guests is one of the clearest barometers in determining if the experiences we are creating is adding value to their live.
So you both are moms now. First of all, CONGRATS!! We know, firsthand, how amazing it is to become a mother. Has it been difficult adapting?
JAYMA: Motherhood has been the greatest gift given to me in my life. I’m so blessed and thankful; but, to be honest, my roles at The Surf Lodge haven’t changed, my role as a woman has. I’ve really enjoyed embracing my new state of being as a mother, and I’ve created new systems of how I live life as a woman, mother, and business owner. The key is balance, and fortunately, women have always been great at balancing multiple roles in their lives.
SASHA: To be honest, it has all been a massive eye opening experience. It’s all still fairly new to me, but the love I have for him is already unfathomable, so the challenges I have faced so far all seem so minor and achievable. I was back at work only two weeks after having him, which was obviously a big hurdle – I had to figure out how to balance work, family and my personal life all at once. I learnt very quickly what was important and what I needed to let go of. It’s also been tough being so far from the city, and especially my family back home, but in terms of the ease of life, you’ll never be closer to finding bliss living in Montauk.
Is The Surf Lodge kid-friendly?
JAYMA: We have a wonderful community of children that are also guests. For them, we’ve set up engaging activities like surf lessons or the paddle boards. I believe that children and their eagerness to learn and explore are great values that adults should aspire to. I feel honored when families stay with us, come to dinner, or take part in cultural activities at the hotel.
Aside from motherhood and your involvement in Montauk with The Surf Lodge, what else are you both working on? Can you tell us about the creative projects you are both involved in? Does it stop there? We know you both are serious #LadyBosses.
SASHA: There’s so much. I literally never stop. As soon as an opportunity comes towards me, I never say no. Obviously, my online magazine, All My Friends Are Models, is a huge project for me. I started it three years ago and now we’re doing a ton of different events. We have another one here in July. To help me scale it, I’ve hired ten writers, a team in LA, Sydney, and New York.
As new mamas, how do you ladies #TreatYourself out in Montauk? Do you have time to!?
JAYMA: I go to Dave’s Grill. It’s still one of my favorite restaurants and a nice dinner out is always a wonderful treat.
SASHA:I don’t often get much time off, but when I’m not working, my favorite thing to do are always just the simple things like hanging out with Oli at home, talking with my family back home or taking the pup for a walk on the beach.
Last question for you both, how do you think your job as a mother + professional is going to continue evolving? What are you looking forward to?
JAYMA: I hope so! Life is always about evolving. As a mother, it’s about the different stages of motherhood. You must accept all obstacles with grace, so that your child (or children) flourish. Professionally, it’s about executing whatever you’re passionate about with excellence. For me, one of my passions is to reach a bigger community with a message of experiences and exploration via the arts, be it; music, fine art, food, design and/or wellness.
SASHA: I look forward to finding a home and settling down with my husband. I also am excited to learn more about letting go of my crazy work habits and spend time with my little one. I think having a successful career and being a successful mom is totally correlated. It’s all about balance.
Make sure you meet us at The Surf Lodge for our #StrongLikeAMama Event with SELF at The Surf Lodge, on July 31st (buy tickets here).
To enter our Montauk Escape dream giveaway, click here.