Shopping Guide

Inside TOKEN, NYC's Favorite Mom and Pop Surf Shop

Co-founder Christian Boalt let's us in on the city's best surf spots, just in time for Labor Day weekend.
Reading time 6 minutes

It's been three years since partners Christian Boalt and Lisa Schick launched TOKEN, a New York City-based surfboard and clothing brand. A lifelong surfer and native Floridian, Boalt started shaping and glassing boards under the TOKEN name. When he moved to New York after a stint in Miami, he wanted to go bigger. And who better to collaborate with than your wife? So Schick, who has a background in fashion, spearheaded the brand's apparel design.

Their clean cut and curated shop, located at 52 Canal Street in Chinatown, opened this May. Inside you can find anything that captures the spirit of the TOKEN brand, whether it be surfboards, clothes (their own designs and other brands), accessories, zines, records and even cassette tapes. The result is an unpretentious shop filled with covetable graphic tees and trinkets. "We want the store to feel raw and energetic like you’re getting ready for a party," says Boalt. "We’re not so interested in making you feel domesticated and selling grooming products or homeware."

Take a look inside the shop below. 

Tell us about when you two decided to launch the brand. 

I moved back to Miami for a few years, and in that time I started making surfboards under the label TOKEN. When we moved back to NYC, I wanted to start a surf label that tapped into the early spirit of brands like Stussy, where good design spilled across the whole scene from boards to clothes. So naturally, I turned to the best designer I knew for help, Lisa. It’s been 3 years now since we teamed up and TOKEN has constantly evolved and changed since the beginning and the NYC store is the latest tentacle.

Can you talk about the division of labor between you and Lisa - you have a new addition to the family so things must be busy. 

We don’t really consider it labor, because we’re doing what we love. We work closely together, always bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with concepts.

Lisa has a technical fashion background, so she leads most apparel design and production aspects. Lisa has an amazing ability for designing collections, working from colors to silhouettes, all the way to garment development and production. Before the opening of the store, I was shaping and glassing surfboards and now that we’ve grown the surfboard manufacturing and expanded, my role has shifted more towards creative direction. Lisa’s and my influence on each other’s work has always been blurred with me getting involved with fashion design and her putting her aesthetic touch on the surfboards as well.

We have a new baby boy, Mikke, in the mix, which makes us economize every minute we have for work and at the same time reminds us what our priorities are in life, making us slow down and enjoy the ride.

The shop in Chinatown is permanent - most people who have brands today tend to stick to e-commerce or pop-ups. Why do you think brick and mortar works for you?

Opening a physical store and putting roots down in NYC was important to me because certain places have always played a major influence in my life. When I was young, skate shops and record stores are where I learned about most cultural references. Before social media, you had to have personal interactions with people, see how they dressed, get music recommendations, be turned onto new ideas, learn context and connect dots, and certain stores had this kind of energy.

Brick and mortar stores still have a special place in the landscape if they offer that experience of bringing people together and creating an inspiring atmosphere. We want to tap back into that source, where the TOKEN store serves as a place to showcase interesting labels, throw parties, and have fun.

Everything in the shop feels intentional - how do you and Lisa go about choosing the brands you carry? I'm thinking of the "functional ceramics" by Gatorbeug or handmade candles by Olga Goose— how do they fit into the shop's aesthetic?

The store’s curation is an extension of all our interests; surfing, skating, fashion, records, books, and magazines. The feeling behind the curation is to have brands with their own flavor and energy, we gravitate towards labels that are really well done, but a bit left of field and slightly obscure. We want the store to feel raw and energetic like you’re getting ready for a party. We’re not so interested in making you feel domesticated and selling grooming products or homeware.

Which beaches should New Yorkers hit before the end of the summer? 

Rockaway is where my heart is, it’s the beach where I surf the most. I’ve been surfing there for about 12 years. It’s the closest to the city and accessible by train, I usually drive with friends bc I like to surf early in the morning. It can get crowded in the summer and the waves can be fickle, but it starts to really get good into fall and we surf through the winter. In the summer it’s a really fun and social scene at Rockaway. I also like Fort Tilden, not for surfing but just for swimming. It’s nice to have dunes and no buildings in the backdrop. Lido Beach is a little further out on Long Island and I’ve had some of my favorite days surfing there. It’s a bigger beach and everyone can spread out.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Photography by Beau Parent 

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