The year is 1969. Richard Nixon is being sworn in as President of the United States. Neil Armstrong is walking on the moon. 4 days of peace, love, and music are happening in Woodstock, New York. And a young, wet behind the ears surfer named Mike Sciarra is fresh off the plane from the island of Oahu. With a bachelors of economics under one arm and a surfboard under the other, Mike set his sights on the east coast with a mission. To create a brand with a positive vibe that offers premium products at affordable prices for surfers young and old.
Rewind back to May 1970. Mike is crossing the auditorium stage with a mortar board covering his long blonde locks and a bachelors degree in his hand. A loose fitting Graduation gown hangs down to his tanned feet beat up rainbow sandals. As he walked, Mike reflected on some of the greats that inspired him during his time at UH. Legends like Gerry Lopez, Dick Brewer and Eddie Aikau were all regulars out in the lineup, frequently discussing the need for quality surfboard products with superior craftsmanship in Hawaii.
Thinking back, even during Mike's early years at F.I.T a fellow east coast legend by the name of Mike Tabeling was out in the water with him during an epic swell that hit 14th st. in Cocoa Beach. Mike T. made it a point to explain how important it was to have quality goods and materials come together to create a surf brand that would stand the test of time. Along with these conversations, rock solid friendships built upon a common love for the ocean took Mike to places that at the time only seemed like pipe dreams.
Fast forward to 1973, and Mike has begun his journey to learn the ins-and-outs of surfboard and skateboard shaping and manufacturing from some of the best on the North Shore. Mike watched other surfers and shapers in the area and took in every detail of the experience. With this knowledge, he made his way back to his hometown of Wildwood NJ, where he would soon build the foundation for the Kona Surf Company that we know today.
1976 is the year that everything changed for Mike. After renting a tiny storefront next to the Apollo Diner for 6 years and using the stock room in the back to shape boards, Mike made the move to a bigger location. He managed to save enough money to rent the old car dealership that was for sale on the corner of Rio Grande Ave and New Jersey Ave, and reached out to life time friend Tony C. to help run his new digs. At the time, Tony was on a surf trip in Huntington Beach CA, but he took Mike's offer without missing a beat. A retail space like this had ample space to work with, which was perfect for the guys. They now had an environment in which a grass roots east coast surf and skateboard brand could grow. Harking back to his college days, Mike came up with the name that is now synonymous with quality, style and functionality.
The Original Kona Surf & Skate Company was born
With Led Zeppelin blasting on the shop radio and a warm New Jersey sun shining on his back, Mike worked hard to pump out hand shaped and painted surfboards and skateboards which were purchased as fast as they were made. The skateboard business was booming, and for a short time Mike had a fully functioning factory on the west side of Wildwood, building a premium product with orders pouring in overnight. Custom molded decks, Chicago trucks and brand new urethane Road Rider wheels completed the product and boy did they move. The action sports industry was on the rise, and it wasn't long before items like sandals, board shorts and even sneakers were in stock year round at Kona's flagship store. Mike's longtime sweetheart, Dee, came on to manage the books and also to cultivate some of the up and coming ladies brands in the surf world. With all of these pieces coming together, The shop and the brand began to grow.
Fast Forward to the Mid 80's, and that tiny retail space is now a bustling surf shop, considered a staple point on the NJ surf scene. A home for surfers and action sports enthusiasts of all skill levels, Mike worked hard to cater to the eager novice all the way up to the seasoned surf veteran. All of the best brands were represented here, and Mike stayed on the forefront of surf and street culture in NJ and on the east coast as a whole. A keen eye for fashion and a strong sense of community pride brought him into the 90's and eventually into the new millennium. As the brand grew, Mike strengthened his ties with manufacturers around the globe who would soon play an integral role in the re-launch of the Kona Surf Company.
but first.....HURRICANE SANDY
“It was an extremely devastating and destructive storm, hopefully one that people will only see once in our lifetime” - Mike Sciarra
It is October 2012, and the New Jersey coast is battening down the hatches for what is to be a hurricane for the record books. By some miracle twist of fate, the storm virtually split itself in two, and wrapped around the 5-mile island leaving Wildwood relatively unscathed. Although the flagship store walked away with minor flooding, bumps and bruises, Mike took this as a sign to rebuild the original 1970's retail space and reinvest in his dream, which brings us to today:
THE NEW KONA SURF COMPANY
Enjoying the ocean since 1969, Kona Surf is the “brainchild” of company founder and owner, Mike Sciarra. A brand driven by innovations and designs consistent with the Southern New Jersey landscape, Kona Surf Company strives to be a life-style brand that caters to the lifestyles of our local surfing community. Kona Surf Company always strives to be the best. Daily, our team of like-minded creators and innovators work together toward the same common goal of improving our products and designs to the needs of our customers. Kona Surf Company’s most recent investments in the future have increased production and created more opportunities for employment, in a place where most jobs are only available during the summer months. The New Kona Surf Company mission is to create a interactive experience for anyone who walks into our retail locations. Whether its in the BOARD HOUSE to create a custom surfboard or in our FLAGSHIP location to get a custom embroidery hat. We want to set a new standard for surfboards, clothing and apparel manufactured on the New Jersey Coast; and through our contagious integrity to making the best products, Mike Sciarra's goal is to inspire future generations to dream big and FOLLOW THE WAVES to wherever they take you…
Mahalo and thank you for the support
Mike & The Kona Surf Co.