A Boy and His Boats — How Skip Toller Started ElectraCraft At His Hometown Lake

In 1970, Westlake Village was still a rural area with wide-open fields of roaming cattle and a man-made lake in the center. The city was young but families were taking root, and the appealing lake lifestyle attracted many.

One of those families included a young boy named Alex, who, along with his parents John and Leatrice and his sister Teresa, had just moved to a house near the top of the lake. As the lake evolved, so too did Alex, who went on to leave his own mark on the new lakefront community. Today, Alex goes by “Skip,” and his time spent on the lake and his passion for boating led him to develop one of the largest privately-owned electric boat companies in America – ElectraCraft Boats.

“After school, I was always on the lake, working boat rentals or my favorite, sailing,” Skip says. “I was never really into fishing, but I loved boating – every kind of boating. That was my thing.” 

As fortune would have it, about the time Skip and his family moved to the lake, so did well-known yacht builder Frank Butler and his family. In addition to building his sailboats, Butler was developing a concept electric boat that incorporated four large batteries and a 1.5-horsepower motor. The boat was being designed specifically for Westlake Lake. The precocious Skip sought Butler out.

“I wanted to learn whatever I could from him,” Skip says. “I saw it as the ultimate education into all things boating.”

Butler hired the teenage kid to work at his new shop in Woodland Hills, and Skip used the opportunity to absorb every bit of knowledge he could. At just 19 years old, and with Butler’s fatherly guidance, Skip established the ElectraCraft line of electric-powered leisure boats. It included five different models, all constructed with a similar process that Butler had developed for his sailboats. The boats were extremely family-friendly, low maintenance and, perhaps best of all, affordable to most families.

“Frank was always like a father figure to me, from the early days as a young boy on the lake to even the last few years of his life. I was almost an adopted son to him,” Skip recalls fondly.

ElectraCraft has grown over the decades and has branched out from its initial Southern California marketplace. Today, ElectraCraft boats are found in 32 other states and overseas in England, Holland, Sweden, Japan, Canada and China. ElectraCraft is now known as one of the largest electric boat manufacturers in the world.

Despite this international growth, ElectraCraft has always remained local to Westlake Village, where they still manufacture and service most of their boats. Since its humble beginnings nearly forty years ago, more than 3,400 boats have rolled out of the moderate 11,000-square-foot building on Townsgate Road. And while the boats produced by ElectraCraft have changed dramatically over the years — from the first Jonty to today’s 182TR full-solar variety — the entire fleet of more than 25 models is still handcrafted with passion and care for today’s electric boat customer.

Skip now lives just five houses away from where he started as a 15-year-old boy.

“Talk about back to the future — hands down, it’s a dream come true,” says Skip.

What’s the best thing about living on the lake?

“The water,” Skip says simply. “I’ve got to be near it. It’s beautiful and constantly changing, and every day is a little different if you look closely.”

Skip has raised his own family on the lake and shared with his boys many of the same memories he had as a kid.

“The Fourth of July water fights were a bit bigger back in the day. But the freedom these boats provide are the same as they ever were – they allow people to almost escape from it all and spend quality time with friends and family,” he says.

On most warm afternoons, you can usually spot Skip driving his boat around the lake. His is the lime green bay cruiser whose driver is normally wearing his trademark sunglasses and a smile that stretches from ear to ear.

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