One if by Land; Two if by Sea
At Never Ever Boards in Oak Island, selling skateboards, paddleboards and surfboards helps owner Matt Troetti give back to the community.
Near the east end of Oak Island Drive, a block before the road angles toward Caswell Beach and the sea, a small, unpretentious store has become the go-to for skateboarders, paddleboarders and surfers. Never Ever Boards, a 1,000-square-foot stockpile of equipment, attire and accessories, draws its name from Peter Pan’s Never Toretto Land, and surf and skate enthusiasts’ condition of being, well, never ever bored.
The young entrepreneur who owns the place, Matt Troetti, says his largest skating customer cluster is in the 13 to 17 age range. Or adults who gift-shop for that age range.
“Our biggest customer is entry-level, where people are starting out skating, so we show them what kind of wheels work best, and ask if they’re looking for the street or to skate at the (skate) park, so we help educate them,” Troetti says. “We have parents and grandparents who come in looking for birthday gifts, and we just have to take them where they’re at. It’s kind of an experience that can be a little overwhelming at first. We help with their decisions and show them the best options.”
Troetti, 27, isn’t a pro skateboarder. He won’t be seen flying up ramps to back flip in the stratosphere before landing upright on an 8-inch-wide sliver of polyurethane-coated maple plywood. “I can cruise pretty well, though,” he says. “When I first started, I got a Walmart board, and that discouraged me. So I got a longboard, and when it comes to tricks, I’m kind of forced to get better at it. I’ve done a ton of research, and I know what I’m talking about. We’ll probably have workshops in the future, with someone far better than I am, who can teach foundational steps.”
Running a skateboard, surfboard and paddleboard shop wasn’t Troetti’s first career choice. After graduation from South Brunswick High School in 2011, he attended Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte to pursue a culinary career in hospitality and business management. But, he says, “The beach was calling my name.” His family has been on Oak Island since he was a third-grader. He’d learned a bit in college about running a company and says he knew he could run an online business from anywhere. “I had some experience working from home and working independently, so I thought why not just do it myself?” he says.
He started Never Ever Boards online and will mark three years in business in May 2021. The retail store, in a former produce mart, is like a studio that guides customers’ attention through the displays.
“It’s not cluttered, which is good,” Troetti says. “Things are placed in a pretty good arrangement. It’s like walking into an art gallery. All of the boards are on full display. The design someone picks is a reflection of their personality, so I wanted to make sure they could really see the designs.”
Troetti’s main brand, his favorite, is Element. “It’s the brand I grew up with,” he says. “It’s an outdoorsy brand that doesn’t scream ‘skate’ but it’s rugged, and a little classy,” he says. He sells their t-shirts and other products as well.
Troetti likes to do good in the community and give back where he can. He is coordinating with the Town of Oak Island to rebuild the town’s Kevin Bell Skatepark on SE 49th Street, which was damaged in August 2020 when a 9.5-foot storm surge during a lunar high tide flattened dunes, damaged homes and pushed piles of sand and debris three blocks inland. As many as 50 skaters a day skated at the park before the damage. Troetti is raising money through donations, raffles and auctions to help rebuild.
He donates to the Oak Island Beach Preservation Society, contributes to a cause that brings clean drinking water to developing countries and promotes companies that do good for the planet. At Never Ever Boards he sells a product called Sand Straw, a reusable drinking straw, whose manufacturer donates 10 percent of proceeds to help endangered wildlife.
In summer, when the island’s population increases significantly, paddleboards are Never Ever Boards’ biggest seller. In 2020 he noticed a customer shift, with more visitors working here remotely during COVID-19 and many considering moving here as a permanent option.
“In the last six months, the majority of people in the store have said, ‘Hey, we came down here during the pandemic, and rented for several months, and now we’re going to move here.’ And some have actually moved,” he says. “So, I’m thinking we’re soon going to have our busiest season.”
He also sees the potential for skateboarding to become more popular, now that skateboarding is an Olympic sport.
Troetti hasn’t forsaken his culinary training, however. He’s already planning a side gig, thanks to his time at Johnson & Wales.
“It’s funny, because my senior project was on how to open a successful restaurant and still have a passion for cooking, so I plan to open a food truck here soon,” he says. “A lot of food trucks want to bounce, but if people see you in the same place a few times, and you market it on social media, they’re going to come. So I’ll do my own.
In the meantime, Troetti is thankful for his customers and his success in selling boards. “I’ve done well at my business, and I can only thank God for that,” he says.
Want to go?
NEVER EVER BOARDS
8813 E. Oak Island Drive, Oak Island
Photography by Genie Leigh Photography