Slice of Heaven
With its quirky coffee shops and beautiful boutiques, decadent homeware stores and one of the best kids beaches in Sydney; its no wonder Aussie families are flocking to Freshwater. COVERED caught up with local celebrity Shannan Ponton, and his gorgeous wife Kylie, to talk coffee, culture and the importance of community.
As one of the celebrity trainers made famous by Channel 10’s hit TV show, The Biggest Loser, you could be forgiven for feeling intimidated by exercise aficionado, Shannan Ponton. But when you step inside the stars modern, two-storey home, in the heart of Freshwater, it’s hard not to feel instantly at ease.
When Covered arrive for our photo shoot, it’s early on a Friday morning. Ponton’s wife Kylie opens the door. She is tall, graceful and, at six-months pregnant, positively beaming. A Maltese Cross Shitzu called Sasha is doing laps in the hallway behind her.
“This is our little white fluff ball,” laughs Kylie, scooping up the pooch to give her a hug. “Hardly the dog you’d expect Shannan to be carrying around everywhere he goes!”
Kylie is your typical mum-next-door. Down-to-earth and friendly in a way that makes you feel like you’ve known her for years. In the backyard there is audible laughter – a grown man’s – and ferocious giggles – a young boys.
“I have to apologise for Maxi today,” she tells us, referring to the couple’s two-year-old son. “He’s been really sick with a vomiting bug but hopefully he’s on the mend.”
At the back of the house Constantia doors, from the open-plan kitchen and rumpus room, expose a 20-metre deck and Indonesian-inspired garden, where Shannan and Maximus are playing in the sun.
“What do you think?” Shannan asks, referring to the deck. “We’ve just had it built and it’s completely transformed the whole house. It’s a much more useable space.” With his house-proud enthusiasm we can almost imagine bumping into Shannan in the aisles of Bunnings on a Saturday morning. But as they take us on a tour of their family home one thing becomes perfectly clear; this couple have a pretty serious love affair with Bali.
“We spend about two months of the year there, in Seminyak. It’s pure heaven,” reveals Kylie. “We have our own driver, pool, chef, the lot. The villa is classic Balinese open-plan living and the kitchen and outdoor lounge room look directly over your own private pool. It’s only five minutes from the buzz of Seminyak and a world away from Kuta.
“Maxi has been four times now and he loves it. He loves going to the theme parks and going on the big waterslides. He’s a little water baby and a daredevil. Shannan has started running Boot Camps there now too which has given us all a valid excuse to get away more often. It’s work for him but play for Max and I.”
“The Boot Camps are great,” adds Shannan. “We offer participants the entire package of getting their life together – fitness, health, motivation, mindset and nutrition. The camps I’ve run to this point have been life changing for everyone involved.
“We really wanted to bring our love of Bali, and the calmness it represents to us, into our own home. We’ve got a lot of Balinese carvings and stone statues, plants, furniture and nik-naks around the place.”
COFFEE & COMMUNITY
When they’re not soaking up the sun in Bali, the Ponton’s rarely wander far from Freshie. They bought their home in 2010 and for Kylie, a country girl at heart; the Northern Beaches are a long way from her childhood roots.
“I grew up on an ostrich and deer farm in Seymour, Victoria,” she laughs. “We had dams and lakes to swim in but it was a world away from the beach life. When I moved to Sydney I was living in the East but as soon as Shannan brought me here, I was like, ‘Yes!’ I stamped my passport and headed North.”
When the cameras stop rolling and he does get a break from helping Australia lose weight, Shannan is quick to admit there is no place in the world he’d rather be.
“Freshie is like a little country town in a big crazy city. There’s one main street, a butcher, baker, grocer, newsagent, one restaurant of each variety, plenty of beaut coffee shops and a pub at the end! I love the community spirit and warmth you feel every time you head out.”
“Max and Shannan have a pretty strict morning ritual,” Kylie tells us. “Every morning they go to Freshwater Surf Café and the beach park. Max rides his scooter and plays with the other kids while Shannan has a coffee, checks out the surf and talks to his mates.”
“It’s a ritual I miss dearly when I’m gone before first light,” he says.
“We walk or ride our bikes everywhere,” continues Kylie. “It’s a rare or very special event that drags us off the Peninsular on a weekend. Everything we love is at our fingertips. We love riding our bikes to Manly – Max has a seat on the back of Shannan’s bike. Sometimes we park them at Manly Wharf and catch a ferry into the city to see what fun things we can find.”
“I have never seen or heard of an area better suited to raising a healthy, active and happy family,” boasts Shannan.
“We are spoiled for choice when it comes to parks, recreation activities, ovals, sporting clubs and health care. From the day kids here are born they’re exposed to an active, outdoor lifestyle. Just think of the activities on offer – surfing, skating, soccer, football, running, swings, parks, walking tracks, dancing, fitness, yoga and martial arts classes just for kids. The list is as long as it is exciting.”
Kids activities aside Shannan is also pumped to be able to get involved and have an impact on such a dynamic community.
“I made a conscious decision to be part of the community as soon as we moved in,” he says. “In the first year I offered to help train the Harbord Valley A & Reserve grade rugby league teams. I met half of the Freshie community from that venture and the mandatory post game drinks at the Hilton introduced me to the other half! Barely a week goes by that I’m not involved in the local community somehow.”
Kylie also loves the vibe in Freshie and, like so many mums on the Beaches, was lucky to make some great friends through her local mother’s group. “I feel very blessed to have met a great group of ladies. We still catch up every week, either meeting at a local park or at the Diggers. I love watching the kids grow up together. For me, coming from the country, it’s a little slice of familiar village life with a wonderful community spirit.”
BABIES & BUCKET LISTS
It’s just that special spirit the Pontons are looking forward to experiencing more of when they welcome baby number two at Christmas time.
“My pregnancies have been similar so I think (we’re having) a boy,” says Kylie. “Shannan thinks girl but he thought that last time too.”
“We were both sure Max was going to be a girl!” he exclaims, placing his hand on Kylie’s belly.
“The day before he was born I bought a hand-made pink cord skirt from a lovely old dress maker. Needless to say it’s never been worn! It’s on ice for number two or three. Having one of each will take the pressure off number three, at least temporarily,” he grins.
“I don’t care what we have, provided it’s healthy,” admits Kylie. “My definition of love changed forever the minute I held Max. Watching Shannan with Maxi in the first few days melted my heart. Watching your husband grow to be an amazing father… ohh I can’t wait to do it all over again!”
And what about Maxi, is he ready to be a big brother?
“He thinks he has a baby in his tummy too,” laughs Kylie.
“If we ask him if he would like to have a brother or a sister he replies, ‘BOY!’ Max will be amazing! He has the most gentle, sweet and caring nature. I can’t wait to see him with the baby.”
After spending a day at home with the Pontons, one thing is clear. You could travel the world over and struggle to find two people more in love, with their lives and with each other.
“Shannan and I actually met at the races,” reveals Kylie. “And I knew, the day I met him that we were meant to be together. I told my friend Cath that day that I wanted to marry him. But we both had partners at the time… then about a year later we ran into each other and we’d both been through bad break-ups. The next day Shannan picked me up for our first date and a month later we moved in together. We were engaged within six months and we got married three years later exactly to the day we met at the races… it was fate!”
At the mere mention of their wedding day, Shannan’s eyes light up. “We got married on Easter Saturday, 2010,” Kylie continues. “I arrived on a three-million dollar boat,” she laughs, as if the whole day is still some kind of wacky dream.
“We were due to be married on the jetty at 5pm,” Shannan recalls. “And it teamed rain all day – I mean proper rain! I thought the wedding was going to be ruined and Kylie inconsolable. Sure enough, just before five o’clock the clouds parted and we were bathed in sunshine. Kylie literally took my breath away as she emerged from the yacht. It was like her dress was illuminated. That was the highlight of my day. That vision will stay with me forever.”
So, for the Freshie couple that has it all, what is left on their bucket lists?
“We live a very blessed life and get to travel a lot. I love going on adventures and finding new places. I would love to fill our house with lots of kids. At least four,” smiles Kylie.
“I’ve done so much already,” admits Shannan. “The Kokoda and The Inca Trail. I’ve swum with sharks, sky dived, bungee jumped, got married, had a kid, been in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, driven a V8 super car, bought a Harley and changed peoples lives through health and fitness. So, that leaves... visit a game park in South Africa, have another kid… or two, sky dive with my wife, stay fit and active with my kids, run a marathon, leave a positive legacy, New York, Vegas and live until I’m 100… that’s just off the top of my head.”
“We will never leave Freshwater,” says Kylie confidently. “We would love to go closer to the beach but we still have two more bedrooms to fill here. Living in Freshwater is a dream come true.” You’re not wrong there.
Our Top 5 favs
- Great coffee, good conversation and delectable food is never far away when you live in Freshwater. Here are Shannan and Kylie’s top five places for... Coffee… Surf Bar Café (Freshwater)
- Breakfast… Ash’s Table (Manly). They do a great egg white omelette
- Lunch… Bent Fork (Freshwater). Their salads are the best.
- Dinner… Criniti’s (Manly). The deserts are decadent.
- Take away… Japanese from Sushi Hiro
For more information on Shannan’s boot camps head to firstname.lastname@example.org