Live Like A Lost Boy
When people ask what it is that I produce, it’s a question that I often don’t know how to answer. A company identity had eluded Lost Boy Creations since the days of shaping surfboards in our garage and selling t-shirts out of our truck bed in the Virgin Islands. However, an abundance of influence has remained at our core; a set of values and a certain vibe taught to us by the very things we love. Namely, woodworking, surfing, and fishing.
As a kid, I always enjoyed fishing. Trips to The Race in Long Island Sound, chasing stripers and bluefish, were the things dreams are made of. Before school and after school, the lakes and ponds around Connecticut were where we found ourselves chasing largemouth bass and anything else that would eat. I was even throwing spinning reels at brook trout having no idea what I was trying to do. When I went to college, half my decision was based on the fact I could fish from the rocks across the street. Well, it was that, and my mom promised me a speargun for those same rocks. I’m still waiting on that speargun…
As most teenagers do, when I got to college, priorities changed. Mornings fishing turned into nursing a hangover, and fishing took a backseat. The passion that I had for fishing also found one of its biggest rivals, surfing. Turns out a lot of those rocks that are good fishing also make for good surf. The first time I stepped on a surfboard, I was hooked. No pun intended. The new rods and new reels more frequently became new surfboards.
Even with a different agenda in my college years, woodworking remained a constant for me. Working outside all summer and building something beautiful with your hands! Even the simplest of projects and designs was artistry. It naturally appealed to my attention to detail, sometimes almost to a fault. In the most rudimentary of forms, like fishing, you never truly know what to expect. One piece of knotted wood or one wrong cut was comparable to a bird’s nest on your reel. Sometimes you must take whatever life throws your way… Take it on the nose and keep moving forward. Plans don’t always pan out, as I was about to learn the hard way.
To make a long story short, I took some chances. I packed up my life and bought a one-way ticket to the Caribbean. I took some different jobs: first mate on a boat, bartender, carpenter, and groundskeeper. I was also apprenticing to build boats and paddleboards. I found my home, fell in love, got a dog, surfed my brains out, started a woodworking business, and stuff seemed to really be working out. Life was good and I was chasing my dreams. I saw family at Christmas, friends when they visited our island home, and celebrated my 30th birthday with a trip to see some music.
The morning of my birthday, September 2, 2017, is when things started to take an unexpected turn. I had to face a grim reality. The life I left a week earlier wouldn’t be there when I came back home. To say that was a sobering moment would be a gross understatement. Hurricane Irma, which would then become the strongest storm to hit the Atlantic basin, had its sights set on St. John and the Virgin Islands. Nothing was for certain, but it was one heck of a birthday present.
I thought I had been hurt before; heartbreak, losing a job, and losing a loved one, had all felt pretty low. The experience of having my entire community —nay, my family -- completely devastated wasn’t heartbreaking, it was soul crushing. There are certain things you come to expect in life, but natural disaster is never one of them. Surrounded by friends and far from our home of St. John, we dealt with one of the hardest days of our lives. We watched our friends, our family, and our lives, endure the devastation of hurricane Irma.
For years, St. John was my home. It was people and tradition that I never thought I would leave. Our friends were spread around the world, myself landing in an all but “waveless” Key West, Florida. All things that were once the “norm,” had changed in an instant. Before I knew it, I was living a different life. Realistically, I still don’t think it’s hit me. I should be headed home any day now, right? What seems like two days has been dang near two years, over the course of which, almost as if it were meant to be, my passions have transformed, blended, and collided, in a way like none other to cope with loss.
As people often say, when one door closes another opens. Well that open door came in the form of my first triple digit fish, courtesy of a fellow transplant from the Virgin Islands. As much as the adrenaline came pumping through me as a wave chasing me down the line, this prehistoric monster on the end of a spinning reel seemed to defy all logic. Everything I had previously learned about fishing, meant nothing. This was a whole new ballgame. It presented me with an entirely new challenge, new angle, and rekindled love for angling.
Having learned the basic principles to building paddleboards in St. John, my woodworking business and renewed passion for fishing seemed to suddenly and naturally collide. The sense of closeness to the water, and the tranquility of calmly poling across the flats was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The heat, the current, the missed fish, and windy days were only more reason to get out there and beat the elements.
The door was opened for me to explore a whole new world of the sport in arguably one of the most respected fisheries the world has to offer. What better way to do it, than my way?
In the words of a good friend, “when you learn to fish, you want to catch a fish. Then you want to catch a lot of fish... then you want to catch a big fish... then you want to catch a fish the way ‘you want’ to catch a fish.” I wanted to catch fish with a newly learned set of skills and a passion for building watercraft that I had never had before. I hit the drafting table and started designing my first wooden paddleboard for fishing, a piece of functional art, something equally unique as it was beautiful. The life I had thought I begrudgingly left in the Virgin Islands had resurrected itself in a new light. Game on. Every board that I have built has reinforced my once lost passion for the sport.
Most individuals are a product of their environment. Its just a matter of making sure you’re in the right environment. And here I was at the sport fisherman’s paradise, a stone’s throw from, “the backcountry.” Once upon a time, I thought I might make it here to cut my teeth with some of the best. The stories alone of secret spots, “agro” captains, and etiquette learned through generations seemed too daunting of a task for anyone besides a true “conch.” But let’s face it, without the adrenaline rush of charging a north swell, where would I get my fix?
Hooking up on a paddle board tests every aspect of your fishing ability. Well, that and your perseverance (aka. stubbornness). It is a humbling experience to chase a fish down under your own power, fighting every wave and gust of wind armed with just a paddle and your rod. You are at the mercy of the fish and closer to them than I ever thought possible! Big or small, you can feel every movement resonate through the rod, and down to your feet. There are no gunwales to brace yourself on and no engines to get you in position. The fight becomes more of a battle than ever before. A level playing field between angler and fish has never been more real. There’s nothing to hold onto, no extra two feet of space to your left to catch your balance, and certainly no transom for you to pull a shark onto for removing a hook. As bittersweet as it may be, when the excitement of the fight has settled, it’s just you.
For some, the battle with a fish starts long before the strike. For me, it’s meticulously milling and inspecting each piece of wood during a near 100-hour building process. It is as crucial as picking the right bait with each cast. Each paddle board is uniquely built and it carries with it so much history. A renewed sense of purpose for a tree that would otherwise wind up in a landfill. In many ways, working with wood is almost as delicate and touchy as trying to trick a fish into eating a lure or a glued up ball of feathers. And true to form, fishing like woodworking, tests your patience, touch, and experience. I am just one of the lucky few that have bundled both into one heck of an adventure.
The passion and that addiction I had for fishing when I was a young kid… it never left. I don’t think it ever leaves; it is just waiting for the right moment to grab ahold of you again, to reappear in new light. Best of all, it does so when you need it most.