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 of unconventional ads and videos, you might guess its video superstar Randall. Some retailers seem to think so.

Image is important to Lost. So when the company recently brought in former Gotcha mogul Joel Cooper, many expected that Lost apparel and boards would begin to appear in larger chain stores like Pacific Sunwear. That won’t happen.

Looking for a new venture isn’t easy. Cooper cofounded Gotcha in 1978 and sold his share nearly twenty years later. He knows the unwritten rule: you can’t buy your way into any business, and there’s no such thing as short-term success. Cooper approached Lost because he believed the company could be big. When he says big, he doesn’t mean a 100-million-dollar giant, he means international.

Cooper’s formula for Lost was simple¿find a medium-sized business and keep it ‘core all over the world. “The days of huge labels are gone,” says Cooper. “In the 80s, size mattered. Size doesn’t matter now. If I could do it again, I’d do it this way.”

He, along with partners Matt Biolas and Mike Reola, doesn’t want to grow the surfboard part of the business. They want to keep making good boards¿especially customs. They also want to add more quality to the apparel while meeting the demand for it.

Biolas and Reola originally started Lost under Biolas’ shaping label Mayhem. At the start there was no money for team riders or marketing. As a result they began making videos that created characters and carried an underground image. They couldn’t afford a major pro, so they stood in the background while characters like Randall and friends went ballistic at their famous San Clemente house.

“Everyone has 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 image of Lost isn’t fake, and the owners don’t want to change the rawness that kids perceive. Whether it’s the kids’ letters the company published in an ad or the fact that Randall gets mobbed by busloads of students on the East Coast, the advertising formula will remain the same.

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

Working behind Biolas is the experience of longtime shapers such as Brian Bulkley. Sitting in the factory office taking orders iss former Stewart Sales Manager Rick Hazard. Anywhere you look through Lost you’ll find a San Clemente family of well-respected, experienced, surf-industry veterans.

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

The company is looking for license agreements in countries such as Brazil and Australia. Any licensee it chooses has to follow the path of Lost marketing with its own team and so on. All creative control and distribution goes through the U.S. According to Cooper, “The key to success is finding people who do it the way we do it here.” Lost won’t have it any other way.

Reola wants to keep concentrating on videos and creating something no one else can duplicate. The latest video, Lost Across America, is the first of a series featuring waves from all parts of the country. It will highlight rare spots on the best days, and locals who don’t usually attract notice. “I think catching a shitty spot on an all-time day is the greatest thing,” says Reola.

¿Aaron Checkwood