On June 16, 2016, Will Steward was bombing a colossal hill in his neighborhood in Huntsville, Alabama. Steward liked to longboard because “he liked to go fast,” and friends called him “Will the Thrill.” He leaned forward and hit the drop, heading down as speed wobbles began to shake his trucks. Losing balance, he flew over the board, doing a front flip, landing on his head. He cracked the back of his skull on the pavement, the ground turned dark burgundy, as the blood spilled out of his shattered skull.
Steward was in a coma for 18 days. His parents were called to the hospital three times to say their final goodbyes to him. His heart beat was almost at a flatline. Through heroic help from a friend and a miraculous surgery that replaced half of his skull, Steward had a new appreciation for life. When he recovered, he quit his job as a financial advisor and went out on his own to create the lifestyle, apparel, and surfboard brand Flatline Surf Co.
Steward had always wanted to start a company and as an avid surfer, having spent some time living in and surfing at Melbourne Beach, Florida, a surf company was a natural extension of himself, and given his experience he wanted the brand to have substance behind it. Steward originally wanted to experiment with building longboard skateboards, but after some encouragement from friends at Kelly Slater Wave Co. who encouraged him to make a surfboard business, because of his passion, story behind his product, and the label and name of his brand, he did just that.
“Flatline is where your everything is. There is obstacle in opportunity. The story isn’t about me, Will, because everyone can relate. Everyone has things in life that flatline.” Steward told me.
Flatline Surf Co. exists to remind people that life’s greatest blessings come from life’s greatest adversities. According to their website, the company was founded on the restoration of adventure spirit in the wake of life’s challenges. When Steward lived in Melbourne Beach, he learned to surf on a 5’8″ board – not typical equipment for a beginner. According to Steward, it was hard work, but he felt he learned from continuously getting beaten down while learning.
“Everyone told us to start on longboards,” Steward said. “No, I’m gonna take the hardest route, and do that one first. Because from there, everything else is easy. I mean there are still hardships, yes. But if you do the hardest things first, then you’ve already done the most difficult part and everything is up from there. You learn so much.”
According to the company’s website, Flatline Surf Co. is dedicated to positively influencing the world through a never ceasing pursuit of excellence in life. Steward sets out to accomplish his plan by traveling up and down the coasts both east and west plus the Gulf of Mexico in a ambulance (where he will also live) to personally visit local board shops and sell his apparel and boards.
“I want them to be connected to Flatline, because my story is a story about themselves. I want people to say, ‘That guy. The guy who owns flatline. He comes in here every other month. He cleans up all his boards. He will replace anything that we don’t have. I know that guy, Will Steward,'” he said.
Steward has a list of every beach from Miami to Virginia that he plans to go to and share his story, mission, and surfboards. He will begin his trek in October where his goal is to travel up the east coast and back down. In April of next year, Steward will cut across the Gulf of Mexico and in May will head to California where he will finish the adventure next October.
“The reason I want to go and meet all these people personally is to tell them this is what the entire brand of Flatline is,” Steward said. “Any product will always be beat by the next one. If it has no mission, no message and no statement, it will only ever be just an item. This story is not about me, I am just a character.”