See how the Hawaiian folk rocker and his family transform debris from the ocean into a heartfelt Christmas display. 

By Jennifer Brunnemer Slaton
October 25, 2013
Linny Morris

Singer/songwriter/surfer dude Jack Johnson's Christmas tree is a little like the roll-with-it guy himself: It spent time in the ocean waves near his Pacific-facing Oahu home before it wound up as a work of art. "Growing up in Hawaii, all the Christmas trees were shipped in from Oregon, and it seemed odd to me even as a kid to ship a tree here that'd been chopped down from somewhere else," says Johnson.

Musician Jack Johnson made the tree at his home on Oahu from washed-ashore wood pieces.
Linny Morris

That fact still bugged him as he was standing in a Christmas tree lot with his wife, Kim, and their young children several years back. "I said to the kids, 'C'mon, we can do better than this.'" So Johnson took his clan down to the beach, where a storm had washed ashore some wood and debris. "I think it was pieces of somebody's turquoise plywood deck that had been all beaten up and washed around, so it looked really neat—it was all weather worn, and it was Kim's favorite color, so I turned it into a tree."

Linny Morris

Johnson, who has sold more than 19 million albums, seems to just as effortlessly craft his feel-good music—his ultra-mellow sixth album, From Here to You to Now, came out this fall, every tour date selling out well in advance. But he's looking forward to being in Hawaii for the holidays, when his transformed tannenbaum (which he and the kids assembled with screws and a skill saw) is unpacked and adorned with ornaments, many of which the family has made themselves.

Linny Morris

"When you're picking stuff up off the beach, you can't just leave the little bits of plastic that wash up on shore. So we started collecting it, and gluing pieces together," says Johnson. "It's so colorful, you might as well use it." A decoration near the top of their tree is one such recycled treasure—four cigarette lighters in different colors, radiating out like a star.

Linny Morris

Christmas Day this year will find the family gathered with Johnson's mother and his brothers' families, who live close by. It's the one day when the musician's famous surfing-every-morning habit can wait. "I'll skip Christmas morning; it makes it more fun to be here together." He pauses. "But if the waves are really good, then at some point I'm going to slide out there. I'll be patient about it, go in the afternoon. I'm more addicted to being a Dad than to surfing."

Related: How to Decorate a Pineapple Christmas Tree

Jack's Holiday Favorites

Biggest Childhood Holiday Dream: "I always wished it would snow in Hawaii at Christmas—but it never happened. So you just appreciate that the waves get really good this time of year."

Christmas Morning Breakfast: "Banana pancakes. I'll brag and say I make really good ones. Whenever kids come over for sleepovers, they're always begging for them."

Favorite Christmas Song: " 'One Little Christmas Tree' by Stevie Wonder."

Go-To Gift for Kim: "I always get her cookbooks."

On Jack's List: "Surf wax is good for me. Around here it's like gold. If you have a bar sitting on your deck, it only takes two days and one of your friends will put it in his pocket."