Stab Magazine | Mayhem's Master Class In Business
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Mayhem’s Master Class In Business

What I’ve learned, from four (Dys)functional decades.

style // Dec 18, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’ve learned that business is a gamble, and you gotta try, if you want to fly.

If I turned down a lot of the riskier opportunities over the years, I would have continued to plod along and ended up just another surfboard builder, fighting it out to raise my children.

Everything I’ve done with our brand made sense to me at the time. Although I shaped before making tee shirts, …Lost was a clothing brand. I was an artist and graphic designer before a shaper, and the two went hand in hand for me. I never wanted to just be a “shaper.”

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Photography

Trevor King

I didn’t grow up in the Junior surf contest/sponsored grom world. I was an outsider, who loved to surf, but was also already a little hustler of teenage business ideas. I was in bands, illustrating punk rock party/show flyers, drawing t-shirts for other bands and I ran a boat cleaning and maintenance business before I could drive.

I was backcountry snowboarding and skating pools before I surfed, but once I started working at The Herbie Fletcher factory, I knew I wanted to build a brand around surfboards. The first tool in my belt was my art, and my understanding of guerrilla marketing from my punk rock years. Not skills as a shaper, or surfer, or knowledge of the surf scene. I had to learn all that.

Honestly, if I was still young, I would keep taking risks and chances. I learned so much from all our ventures over the years. Even the energy drink (…Lost Energy). We made a lot of money, in a short amount of time, with that. It was hugely successful launch, and couple year run. We re-invested millions back into the brand, and marketing and were able to pay our athletes and friends to work.

Unfortunately, the market tightened up, and the amount of drink brands reduced, but I would say we were one or two decisions away from never having to work again. It was that close to go into hundreds of million of dollars in sales.  

The same thing goes for the clothing. Both …Lost Clothing, and …Lost Energy were 4-5 times larger (each) than my surfboard brand has ever been, or will ever be. For me, these were Master Classes in business. The meetings we had, the the people we worked with, the things I learned that we are now applying to this little surfboard brand of ours, have proved priceless.

What I would do differently? Not spend all the easy money so fast. I feel like a pop music star who spent all their money from their one-hit wonder! But honestly, one thing I’ve learned that’s incredibly important: you really really need to keep a close eye on the people you have running your brand. These ventures of ours were “licensed.” We allowed experts in their fields to use our brand and my designs, and pay us royalties. They made the big decisions. But a sharper eye, and closer monitoring could have averted some major costly mistakes.

Looking at the industry it’s harder now than ten years ago. The world is in a less spending cycle. Brands are being taught to not stretch themselves, or diversify too much. Stay with what you know etc etc.

But as a designer by heart, I can’t help it. I gotta keep busy and make new stuff (which is probably why I have too many surfboard models). But I mean, I’m having the time of my life right now. I’m in my fifth year of designing snowboards for LIB Tech, and oh yea, did I mention we are re-launching Surf Skates? I can’t help myself.

But it’s also come full circle: at the end of the day, surfboards are what I know best, and focusing on building boards offers a great day-to-day lifestyle, where I can afford to take care of my family. I get to spend time with the world’s best surfers and show my family the world. As a shaper, I get to travel, and live a life like someone who makes a lot more money than I do.

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Photography

Trevor King

At the peak of all …Lost’s various ventures, I drifted away from the day-to-day running of my surfboard brand. I went for the money. Why not—thats the American dream, right? But I was sorta one foot in, one foot out: I was running a staff of clothing designers and a marketing team, traveling the world to set up and support other companies with …Lost apparel. I saw the golden payoff, that I couldn’t expect to ever have with surfboards.

Before Kolohe came of age, our classic …Lost Surf team—Wardo, Cory and Shea Lopez, Beschen, etc.—was aging, and I was not doing much work to rebuild it. I was not really on top of it for a few years, just sorta going through the motions. We had a few gifts brought to us, like the “Rocket” model, that kept things going, but our presence on the WCT was really dwindling.

As the clothing and energy drink were crumbling (with my income, as well), my partner, Mike Reola and I re-focused and started to really water the flowers on the board program again. I started surfing a ton, and working with more surfers again. Kolohe was the spark and the catalyst, and I am forever grateful. He and Dino brought Taj Burrow around to try some boards, and then some media magnate helped convince him to jump on board with …Lost.

I met up with Carissa Moore, while watching Kolohe surf heats. Young Julian Wilson came around and we had a good four year run. Then little Mason Ho became Mason Ho.

All the while, I traveled to Brazil and AU and EU, paying attention to the upcoming surfers, and started building an international team, and re-establishing an international brand. Tyler Wright, Yago Dora, Michael Rodrigues…Support them early and help them grow.

Constant travel, and time surfing in our own backyard of Trestles got me back in the game.

At the same time, this underground grom movement in San Clemente started to happen. Fueled by Kolohe and Lowers, Griffin is the first to explode out of this machine…His brother Crosby, Kade Mattson, Jett Schilling etc are coming up. Eli Hanneman, Winter Vincent and other global groms are on the program, and now it’s game on.

We put our focus on the kids, and we’re setting up the future. 

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Photography

Trevor King

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