From CONTRASTMAGAZINE.COM. Made in Hawai’i
By Stuart Cornuelle
Photography courtesy of Red Bull
“How would you characterize the Mayhem surfboard brand?”
Posed with this question, Matt Biolos, aka Mayhem-Lost Surfboards’ chief design architect and the Jonothan Ive of surfing’s Apple—answers, “Performance-driven,” and thereby stumbles upon a double meaning. To wit: Mayhem is performance-driven first in the sense that its products facilitate higher-level surfing from any rider who puts them underfoot. For elite customers, there’s no better surfboard on the market. The label’s offerings range from the flavor-of-the-year Rocket model to the RNF (round-nose-fish) that sparked a small board renaissance over the past decade. The brand if favored by a team that boasts Honolulu’s Carissa Moore and Sunset’s Mason and Coco Ho as loyalists, in addition to a rotating cast of global stars eager to see what Mayhem can do for them.
But the label is performance-driven secondly in that its rise to prominence, and its subsequent staying power among a fickle and trend-centric audience, can be credited at least in part to the brand story it’s been “performing” since inception. Mayhem’s mother company, Lost Surfboards, leaves nothing to the imagination in its forceful declaration of an anti-corporate identity. Its marketing message—often scruffy and controversial, or as Biolos describes it, “core, aggressive, un-exploited and radical”—is as consistent (and successful) as any in the surf industry. Acerbic ads, aggressive graphics, and un-filtered on-camera depictions of the Orange County surf lifestyle are all Lost trademarks. The company’s sprawling portfolio now includes clothing, films, and energy drinks, all sold under a fuck authority banner born of its gritty San Clemente, CA roots.
“I like to think [the public] relates us with good surfing and design, combined with some edge,” says Biolos. “It could also be perceived as buffoonery and recklessness. But I think most people realize the buffoonery is substantiated by hard work and quality product. I’m not a candy-coated guy, and the athletes I tend to work with aren’t either.”
The product quality isn’t in question, thanks to close working relationships between Biolos and his team—particularly young surfers like Moore and San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino, she an ascendant ASP Women’s World Tour competitor and he a known prodigy aged just 16 years. Biolos calls Andino “my personal muse” and says the teenager is by far the most valuable rider.
“The work we’ve done together—and with [Kolohe’s] dad, Dino—is the most in-depth, intense, and rewarding work I’ve done in my career,” says Biolos. “Dino is in my shaping room and office with me so often, people think he works here. To have known since birth and worked closely with a talent like Kolohe, whose head is as sharp as his surfing…it’s a very unique thing. His feedback more than anyone else’s, is driving my design.”
Ubiquitous in pros’ quivers, in magazine pages and in retail, Mayhem boards now sell themselves. Mayhem is to Lost what Hawai’I perhaps is to the United States: firmly under the latters’ umbrella but defined by its own independent character and reputation. For Biolos as a shaper, however, this wasn’t always the case.
“In the early days,” he says, “the branding and marketing [of Lost] really helped the boards. I was a young shaper with more art skills than surfing, business or shaping skills, so when Mike [Reola, Lost co-founder] and I started making those early Lost videos, the boards kind of went along for the ride. The ads and crazy antics of our marketing really pushed the boards beyond where they might have deserved to be at the time.
This is no long the case, he adds, in part because of feedback from a fundamentally important board tester: Biolos himself. He says, “Surfing more in the last half of my thirties than ever in my life” has been integral in getting the boards to drive the Lost brand.
“Staying in the water and constantly working on shapes for the recreational surfer has been huge,” he explains. “I rarely ride the same board more than two sessions in a row. I have a rotating quiver of over 20 boards at any given time just for Trestles—not counting any guns. I over-design my own boards, try lots of weird stuff. Very geeky.”
His results are lending validation to a new paradigm in surfboard creation: the shaper as a designer rather than handyman, wherein the now machine-operated cutting of foam blank is secondary to the conception and drafting of its magic contours. In that effort, Mayhem is unsurpassed.
“I know this much,” says Biolos. “A leader in design doesn’t ask people what they want; a leader shows people what they’re going to want next.”