Lost Is Not Lost: Images can be deceiving.

If someone asked you who runs Lost Surfboards, who do you think it would be? After years ofunconventional ads and videos, you might guess its videosuperstar Randall. Some retailers seem to think so.

Image is importantto Lost. So when the company recently brought in formerGotcha mogul Joel Cooper, many expected that Lost appareland boards would begin to appear in larger chain storeslike Pacific Sunwear. That won’t happen.

Looking fora new venture isn’t easy. Cooper cofounded Gotcha in1978 and sold his share nearly twenty years later. He knowsthe unwritten rule: you can’t buy your way into anybusiness, and there’s no such thing as short-term success.Cooper approached Lost because he believed the company couldbe big. When he says big, he doesn’t mean a 100-million-dollargiant, he means international.

Cooper’sformula for Lost was simple–find a medium-sized businessand keep it ‘core all over the world. “The daysof huge labels are gone,” says Cooper. “In the80s, size mattered. Size doesn’t matter now. If I coulddo it again, I’d do it this way.”

He, along withpartners Matt Biolas and Mike Reola, doesn’t want togrow the surfboard part of the business. They want to keepmaking good boards–especially customs. They also wantto add more quality to the apparel while meeting the demandfor it.

Biolas and Reolaoriginally started Lost under Biolas’ shaping labelMayhem. At the start there was no money for team ridersor marketing. As a result they began making videos thatcreated characters and carried an underground image. Theycouldn’t afford a major pro, so they stood in the backgroundwhile characters like Randall and friends went ballisticat their famous San Clemente house.

“Everyonehas someone in their own town they can relate to,”says Reola. People–such as the new extroverted addition,Vince–are in tune with what kids are thinking.

The whole imageof Lost isn’t fake, and the owners don’t wantto change the rawness that kids perceive. Whether it’sthe kids’ letters the company published in an ad orthe fact that Randall gets mobbed by busloads of studentson the East Coast, the advertising formula will remain thesame.

Lost productcan be found in 300 ‘core shops; they’re in theseshops because the Lost staff has surfed with the retailers,not because the shop was in a good location.

Working behindBiolas is the experience of longtime shapers such as BrianBulkley. Sitting in the factory office taking orders isformer Stewart Sales Manager Rick Hazard. Anywhere you lookthrough Lost you’ll find a San Clemente family of well-respected,experienced, surf-industry veterans.

Lost is continuingthis tradition and building the infrastructure so it cangrow internationally. “Being able to grow internationallyis why we brought Joel Cooper in,” says Reola.

The companyis looking for license agreements in countries such as Braziland Australia. Any licensee it chooses has to follow thepath of Lost marketing with its own team and so on. Allcreative control and distribution goes through the U.S.According to Cooper, “The key to success is findingpeople who do it the way we do it here.” Lost won’thave it any other way.

Reola wantsto keep concentrating on videos and creating something noone else can duplicate. The latest video, Lost AcrossAmerica, is the first of a series featuring waves fromall parts of the country. It will highlight rare spots onthe best days, and locals who don’t usually attractnotice. “I think catching a shitty spot on an all-timeday is the greatest thing,” says Reola.

–AaronCheckwood