Courtesy of Kevin Fitzke
When alcohol became outlawed in the U.S. in 1920, hiding booze and hanging out in underground speakeasies became the only way around the ban—known as the Prohibition. Prohibition and paddleboards make an unlikely pair, but the connection makes perfect sense to the owner of online-based company Fitzke Boards. Minneapolis resident Kevin Fitzke recently launched his website to show the world his handmade paddleboards inspired by the craftsmanship, style, and covert nature of the 1920s. These surfboard-like mechanisms allow users to sit, do yoga, and, most of all, stand up and use a paddle to move quickly—echoing the fast movements of secret drinkers in the ’20s. In addition to his day job at an advertising agency, Fitzke uses his weekends, early mornings, and late nights to design the boards.
Fitzke Boards are a product of Fitzke’s knowledge and natural-born talent. He holds degrees from the University of Minnesota Duluth and the Art Institutes International Minnesota, but he’s had a passion for building since childhood. Inspired by his father, who has a woodworking shop, Fitzke has been taking things apart, putting them back together, and favoring Legos over video games since he could walk. I talked with the man behind the business to learn more about these unique boards.
MnMo: Why are the paddleboards Prohibition inspired?
Fitzke: I’ve always been drawn to the design, style, and mentality of people in that era. Back then, you build it right, you put the time, thought, and energy into it. You didn’t try to manufacture something for the cheapest point and sell it for a profit. Doing things the right way is what I appreciate. There’s so much character and personality with the boats, airplanes, cars, and advertisements of the 1920s. The idea of the Prohibition and bootlegging is to hide something—like a bottle of booze—in a secret compartment, and then move quickly. I took that principle and just thought I could make a paddleboard and have a secret compartment to take whatever you want with you on the lake. You can hide it and move fast.
MnMo: Is the Bootlegger the only model you currently make?
Fitzke: The Bootlegger was the first board, and I’m currently working on a second board. It’s basically the same shape as the Bootlegger board, but the whole top part—the deck of it—looks a lot different. The part where you can store things is completely open. That particular board is called Miss Moonshine. It’s another tip-of-the-hat to the Prohibition era, to the moonshine sort of thing. The idea of the name of Miss Moonshine is that when people make moonshine [high-potency alcohol produced and sold illegally], you’re out in the open, kind of exposed to the world. That’s where that open-style storage came from.
I’m currently working on the drawing for a third board called Rum Runner, which is gonna be a beginner’s board. It will have a completely different look and shape. For someone who’s never been on a paddleboard before or doesn’t have the greatest balance, the Rum Runner would be a perfect board for them because the design is super stable. It’s stable enough to do yoga on it, but also someone who doesn’t have the greatest balance can just stand on it and feel comfortable and safe. My plan is to prototype Rum Runner later this fall, float test it, then modify and change it over the wintertime. I’ll hopefully have that board available for an order next spring. Miss Moonshine might be the same ballpark time as well.
With any model, you can be super lazy and go out in the middle of the lake and take a nap, or turn it in to a workout where it kicks your butt. I like the idea of those two different options.
MnMo: What role do you play in the creation process?
Fitzke: I do everything. I drew up the designs and then basically converted those drawings into full build plans. Then, I cut everything and do all the woodworking. I do all the metalwork for the hardware. The graphics on the front of the board are all hand painted. It’s a one-stop shop for it, I guess. From paper to the real thing is what I cover. I can build a board from basically nothing to water-ready in about a month. I’m the only person working on these. I suppose my dog, Hank, if you want to count that.
A Fitzke Board will cost you somewhere between $3,000-$4,000, and it can be shipped anywhere in the world. Custom color and paint options are available upon request. Check out the website to learn more.