Skip to content
Finding the “Surfer’s Stoke,” in the Florida Keys and Yourself

Finding the “Surfer’s Stoke,” in the Florida Keys and Yourself

It is amazing how time flies. You know the old expression… when you’re having fun, right? It’s this sentiment that was the catalyst and the founding principle of Lost Boy Creations. Doing something fun, that you love, even in the most bizarre location to be building boards! In the already 7 years we have called Key West home, it’s no wonder that we have gotten accustomed to the constant inquiry about surf in the Florida Keys. After all, Lost Boy Creations is a true to form surf shop located at the end of historic route 1 in Key West, Florida. The fact of the matter is no, there is not the most ideal conditions to feed our inherent need for surfing in the Southernmost City, but the lifestyle associated with the surfing culture is not entirely lost on this tropical beach community. And it is exactly that aspect of this funny little town that has made this unexpected journey so fun.

Much like how I found myself in Key West, the melting pot of cultural collaboration on this little spit of land is diverse. People from all walks of life have come to Key West to enjoy a slower way of life, many of which have the itch to surf, or have caught the bug in past lives. In a way… building boards and expanding the understanding of one of the fastest growing sports worldwide gives us a sense of pride and allows us at Lost Boy Creations to stay close to the sport.

Obviously, the nature of business is to adapt and overcome to stay on top and remain successful. As our trademarked slogan, “Live Like a Lost Boy,” exudes, it is important to stay true to yourself though. No matter where or what that means. For us, it is embracing the challenge of finding the small waves, the little bit of stoke, or the excitement often associated with catching a wave or a morning surf check. It’s not easy, but this community has the spirit of some of the best surf communities in the world. Beach bums, boaters, sailors, and all around “watermen” (and ladies) embody the lifestyle and its apparent!

Our journey to being the hub of surfing in this waveless paradise was inspired by the substance behind our brand. Our full woodshop and shaping bay are something that sets us apart from the slew of “surf shops,” that you find in any coastal community of the United States and beyond. Building surf and paddleboards on location using local woods and in a way that fits our style of riding is a sight to behold. We joke that a logo is only as good as ink on paper, but what that little silhouette complete with hammer, board, and top hat means so much more.

In the absence of regular waves, or really any for that matter, we rely on the feel and sense of accomplishment from supplying surfers from around the country with one-of-a-kind wave riding creations that represent a sort of anomaly. Inlaying the flag of the conch republic on the right behind the center fin of all our boards is a simple reminder that you can enjoy aspects of your favorite hobby even in the most removed ways. Although the access to surf was significantly better in the Virgin Islands, where Lost Boy Creations was conceived, the humble beginnings of building were equally challenging.

By no means do I boast or naively claim to be in the realm of Gerry Lopez, Al Merrick, or Ben Aipa. In fact, I’d be amazed if my boards can walk the walk or talk to the talk compared to some of the local board shapers in South Florida, but that is the beauty of the industry. My first board weighed a metric ton, was comprised of housing foam, picked up form Home Depot, and overloaded with wood veneers and too much epoxy! Access to materiel on a true to form island, a land forgotten by mainstream media, was challenging. The cost of your traditional surfboard blank was so prohibitive, it was cheaper to buy the best board on the market than build your own. In turn however, it opened my eyes to thinking outside the box.

The intricacies of surfboard building are a time-honored tradition that will rarely be mastered, even by the best in the business. The agony of any artist over analyzing any mis-step in the process can make it equally challenging and rewarding upon putting the final touches on your masterpiece. We have relinquished the nearly impossible feat of perfection having given way to our process of creating functional art.

The foundation of Lost Boy Creations was developed around “adventure woodworking.” A way of incorporating two of our favorite hobbies under one roof. In such, the board building process has matured with the continued growth of our skill and our surroundings. Interestingly enough, the city of Key West is home to some of the most exotic hardwood species of tree in the United States. And as you would imagine, the tree hugger in all of us understands you can’t exactly go around chopping down trees on the quaint side streets of this picturesque island oasis.  This has created what we affectionately call some of the rarest wood in the world. A two by four-mile island boasts streets lined with; Cuban Mahogany, Sapodilla, Rosewood, Sea Hibiscus, Tropical Almond, Wild Tamarind, Black Mangrove, Woman’s Tongue, Jamaican Dogwood, and countless others. Each of these highly coveted woods, full of personality and beautiful characteristics in its grain. All these attributes have made the building process more enjoyable and at times infinitely more difficult.

I was fortunate enough to train under what I would consider a “master,” boat builder, despite his inevitable disagreement, while, living in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Jamison Witbeck the owner and builder of Kekoa, alongside his brother Ryan, I was introduced to the art of boatbuilding, and the many offshoots of such an interesting line of work. As explained by Ryan, building boards and boats are not all that different. A game of patience and feel, certainly not for everyone. I could probably write a book of the wild expressions and experiences I was introduced to through these wild brothers, who both embodied the concept of, “living like a lost boy,” but that is a story for another time.

As my understanding of building particularly surfboards matured so did the selection of material, but this was not always the case. Through the trials and tribulations of island living, and the scarce resources readily available to build, we relied on the ingenuity of recycled and upcycled material to complete most of our outlandish wood based projects. Fast forward to our present day adventure workshop, and not much has changed. Carefully selecting each piece of wood that is as storied as this historic town is a key first step in designing our paddleboards, a now staple for Lost Boy Creations.

Adapting to your surroundings can be seemingly difficult, especially when your entire business is based around “shredding the gnar,” “feeling the stoke,” “smacking the lip,” or whatever other cliché you can throw at us, particularly when you landed in a place where there are no waves within 300 miles! But the influence of the Witbeck brothers had not been wasted, and the passion for building boats quickly transitioned to a much more applicable application in my new surroundings through building paddleboards. The process is the same, the materials are the same, but the footprint for building one was significantly smaller, a key deciding factor in the trajectory of my business.

Since the beginning of my surfing career, I was fortunately a realist in recognizing that I had no future in riding waves professionally. Now the question was raised as to how I can remain close to something I have become so infatuated with.  Having developed a basic understanding of shaping, cutting, and gluing wood, building a wooden paddleboard took on an artistic element that resonated with me. From the easily overlooked 300 sq. ft shop in Bahama Village of Key West, sawdust poured from my doors (much to the dismay of my neighbors) as I embarked on the first go of my very own wooden paddleboard. Through a cloud of profanity and ill wishes on idle pieces of lumber, an avenue to be involved in the surf and paddle community had emerged. The transition to creating paddleboards from surfboards in a place where waves are only found in your dreams, was a logical maneuver. More so, it was practical application of the skills and love for being on the water that kept me within arm’s reach of something I had missed so much since moving from the Caribbean. The itch had been scratched, and my eyes had been opened to the endless challenges of making a better product.

Much like searching for a hidden wave in the reefs and keys surrounding my new home, the hunt was on for local wood to tie these pieces of functional art more directly to the place that our friends and customers would be using them. Each board had become a challenge of perseverance and creativity, using the unique wood sourced from the streets and notable landmarks of Key West. As I developed the fundamentals to make these builds easier and cleaner, there was an aspect of fun and excitement that made the distant waves not feel so far away.

Building these unique paddleboards will always be a challenge. Working with the nuances of different pieces of wood that only seem to do what they want and nothing more have remained difficult, but the process is always fairly straight forward. There is a bottom deck, a stringer that creates your desired rocker, bulkheads which dictate the overall shape of the board, and the seemingly endless rail bands that give the board its depth. Each element of these boards is unique and each step… although the same plays out differently along the way. The intricacies of each build keep these projects extremely fun and rewarding. I’m asked frequently about the steps that it takes to build each surfboard or paddleboard, but until you are ready to commit to finishing such a time consuming production, its really just null point. If it something that will satisfy your soul to complete and enjoy, than it is a project worth diving more into. And who knows, maybe I can lend some guiding advice or even take you along on the journey to hand crafting one of these masterpieces.

The growth of the business, myself, and my knowledge of building each board was a far cry from where I intended to be nearly 10 years after conceptualizing a wood working company represented by a funny silhouette logo. Through this process though, it was apparent that the winding path of life as a board builder laid before me, was far more important to acknowledge then the various techniques I used to construct these nautical vessels. The steps to making a board will always be the same, maybe with some small tweaks to make my life easier, but the personal relationship with each project is always so intimate.

All in all, you can’t silence the desire to chase your passion for chasing waves… unless you’re out there doing it.  As I have learned the hard way (more than once in my life), you can’t have your cake and eat it too!  The nuances of creating a fulfilling life that encapsulate all of your passions and doing such in a place that you love is as common as winning the lottery. For those who have found a way to do so, my hat is off to you. Finding the avenues to feed your soul in different ways and making the “best of what’s around,” though has been an eye-opening life experience that can be translated to every walk of life.

When life hands you lemons, you can’t always make lemonade. Sometimes you don’t have the rest of the ingredients… I made picatta I guess? I held on to the aspects of a sport and lifestyle that I so passionately embraced, and ran with it. It hasn’t changed who I am, or the daydreaming of glassy barrels but it was a real-life application of thinking outside the box to continue to enjoy something that I love so much. A lesson that will remain with me forever.

- Matt Atkinson, Owner

Older Post
Newer Post

Shopping Cart

Announce discount codes, free shipping etc