Andy Howell proves you can go home again

By on May 24, 2023

The Ghost Ship and Moms Sweet Shop crews celebrate a Street Thing 2023 event with performing bands Cor De Lux, Teen Mortgage and Tongues of Fire to benefit the Beach Food Pantry. (Photo credit: Jack Basnight @basnight_)

Skateboarder, surfer, entrepreneur brings his Ghost Ship to OBX

When Andy Howell, professional skateboarder turned lifestyle and technology entrepreneur moved to the Outer Banks in early 2021, it was not a move he had planned. He had memories of riding his mom’s hip in the ocean waves at a very tender age, but he had filed it away as a place from the past. He was no stranger, though. Originally from Virginia Beach, his earliest memories are of visiting his family cottage in Kitty Hawk with his parents.

“Point blank, my best childhood memories are from here,” Howell told the Voice. “My dad taught me to fish the surf here, and I caught my first fish off the beach in Kitty Hawk. First time I ever stood up on a surfboard was in Kitty Hawk. My first surfboard was a Lightning Bolt from Secret Spot. The first skate park I ever skated as a kid in the late 70’s was Barney’s Concrete Curl. Those moments are so core to who I am.”

“With the exception of going to art school in Atlanta. I’ve had to live in a very close proximity to the beach my whole life. I can’t be far away from it, you know? The rhythm of the ocean is just—it’s like my heartbeat,” he added.

Now, after decades traveling the world as a professional skateboarder and founding and leading art direction for multiple disruptive apparel and lifestyle brands, Howell has returned to the Outer Banks with his latest project.

His new company is Ghost Ship, an Outer Banks lifestyle brand specializing in skateboards, surfboards, fishing rods, apparel, and accessories that represent Outer Banks history and culture. He works in collaboration with local and global artists, skaters, surfboard shapers, skateboard makers and rod builders. Renowned surfboard shapers Mike Rowe and Josh Peterson, along with skateboard builder Paul Schmitt, and retired professional skater turned fishing rod designer Brian Chung are among the notable collaborators. There are a half dozen Ghost Ship employees and a facility located in Southern Shores.

As Howell explained it, Ghost Ship designs everything in-house on the Outer Banks, and its custom surfboards and fishing rods are made here as well. It does a lot of the artwork in-house, and also collaborates with local and international artists. The skateboards, for example, are designed and manufactured in collaboration with Schmitt of PS Stix in Southern California.

The idea, according to Howell, is that the Ghost Ship “emerges from the mist” to bring back “a reverence for local values in a return to the roots of the Outer Banks lifestyle, inspired by the people living here to skate, surf, fish, and make art in all its forms.”

Howell’s return to the Outer Banks in early 2021 was supposed to be short lived, after his family’s home burned down in an electrical fire in Calabasas, California in 2019. He and his family were waiting for contractors to be available to rebuild their home, but with so many families in the area needing their homes rebuilt as well, they decided to take off and go back to the family cottage in Kitty Hawk for a few weeks before setting out to travel the world for a few months. But when Howell set foot on the Outer Banks, it was like that the feeling of coming up for air.

Howell notes that he loved the wildness of the Outer Banks and the connection to nature, how it feels so remote even if it’s not actually too isolated, the deep sense of community and how he met like-minded people right away. But the main thing, he said, that made him feel at home was the resourcefulness and creativity of the local people—reflecting an Outer Banks culture of multiple passions, side hustles and creative outlets.


Andy Howell learned to fish the surf with his father on Kitty Hawk beach as a child in the mid 70’s. In May 2023, he caught this 39” Rockfish on the ultralight Ghost Ship “Shredder” inshore rod. (Photo credits: Joe Tice @jticej and Glenda Holcomb)

“It took me having a life of going around the world, thinking I was gonna find that ‘somewhere,’ to actually come back and realize that it’s right here where I grew up,” he explained.

Howell has been creating art that represents East Coast counterculture and skate culture since he was 14 years old, writing and making art for his on his own skate “zine” and drawing skeletons skating in pools and sending them in letters to skaters who became pen pals all over the world, including such luminaries as Tony Hawk in Carlsbad, CA and Steve Caballero in San Jose, CA.

Howell and his co-founders started New Deal, the first company he created in 1990, with a goal to represent real skate culture, with products and apparel by skater kids for skaters. His “Big Deals” were baggy jeans that were the first of their kind that Howell and his skater friends created for their own personal use for the hot Atlanta weather and mobility when skateboarding. When New Deal released them, they became the trademark of action sports.

With a life-long inspiration drawn from street art and cartoons, Howell says he was influenced by Wacky Packages trading cards, Garbage Pail Kids, Heavy Metal Magazine and skate and punk art like Pushead and Robert Williams.

For Ghost Ship’s promo video introducing itself to the world, Howell took it back to his roots with one of his earliest influences, Max Fleischer cartoons—the shows from the very early days of black and white crackling cartoons, where the Ghost Ship can be seen emerging from the darkness.

“I started to create a brand for the Outer Banks that is inspired by the Outer Banks—the people, the lifestyle, the music, the art, the environment, the animals, the history, the mystique, all meshed in an authentic and contemporary brand,” said Howell. “Initially, it feels like a risk to move to a place like this. It’s out of the way and all that—challenging, rough winter storms, hot summers, mosquitos, midges, all these different things can be challenging.  But all those magic moments in between are just absolutely incredible.”

Ghost Ship products can be found online at its website, Facebook and Instagram and at their mobile shop, the roving “Ghost Ship” that may drop anchor at various locations around the Outer Banks. They’ve also organized various community events, including art shows, surf contests, and a backyard skate jam which raised food for the Outer Banks Beach Pantry.

See what people are saying:

  • Steven

    Andy is a cool cat. We grew up in same neighborhood and often saw each other while skateboarding and at events. He was years older than I so we didn’t really hang out together as friends, just while skating.
    He was a good roll model for me. Ripped on a skateboard, level of performance was beyond the local crew. Street and vert.

    Looking forward to getting up with him after 35 years, will have to dig out my photos of him skating.

    Good on ya Andy!

    Thursday, May 25 @ 3:13 pm