Month: March 2019

Wildwood Crest’s Mike Sciarra headed to N.J. Surfing Hall of Fame: Weinberg

Press of Atlantic City – – Mar 16, 2019

Wildwood Crest’s Mike Sciarra surfed his first wave in summer 1963, when the sport was just starting to catch on at the southern tip of Cape May County.

“I was 13, and I saw a short movie clip about surfing, and I thought, ‘That’s something I’d like to try,’” he said. “A friend of mine, Mike Kelly, had a board he let me borrow. I carried it from his house all the way to the beach, paddled out and stood up. After that, I was hooked.”

Mike Sciarra's a Hall of Famer

Thus began a legendary career in which Sciarra evolved from top-notch surfer to noted board shaper. Now 69, Sciarra’s dedication to surfing has resulted in his selection to the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame was established in 2015 and has held bi-annual induction ceremonies. This one is special, however, because it marks the first time it has honored anyone from the southern-most section of the state.

Sciarra and West Cape May’s Lisa Roselli and Joe Grottola are part of the 12-member class that will be inducted May 31 during a ceremony at the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan.

Owner Mike Sciarra of Kona of Kona Surf Co. Bike & Board House, smoothing out a fin for a surfboard. June 30, 2017 (Craig Matthews / Atlantic City Press Photographer)

The new group of Hall of Famers also includes Steve Dwyer (Longport), Matt Keenan (Ocean City) and Danny Maragliano (Ocean City).

Roselli is the co-director of the South Jersey chapter of the Eastern Surfing Association. Her husband, Joe Grottola, is the ESA’s Northeast Regional director. Both were also among Cape May County’s top surfers.

“I’m very humbled by this,” Sciarra said. “Joe and Lisa have done a lot more for surfing with all the contests they’ve run for the ESA. They deserve it more than I do.”

Joe and Lisa disagree, however.

The ESA may never have become so popular if not for pioneers like Sciarra, who helped introduce the sport to the Wildwood/Cape May area in the 1960s.

Mike (right) and Chris Sciarra of Kona Surf Company design a variety of surfboards. June 30, 2017 (Craig Matthews / Atlantic City Press Photographer)

“I’m so happy to see Mike get recognized,” Roselli said. “It’s well-deserved.”

Sciarra was one of the people who introduced surfing south of Avalon, along with Cape May’s Harry and Jeffrey Gibbons, Steve “Hag” Piacentine and Steve McDuell.

It was tough to get surfing-related equipment on the island in those days. Scoop Taylor, owner of Scoop’s Sporting Goods on New Jersey Avenue, carried his own line of boards. Then there was Turco’s Sports a few blocks away that had an odd combination.

“It had guns on one side and surfboards on the other,” Sciarra said with a laugh.

Armed with a used board and a wetsuit he bought out of a Marvel comic book, Sciarra spent his teenage years riding waves next to the Wildwood Crest Pier on Aster Road with a crew that included boyhood friends Larry Bonelli, Dave Bowman, Greg Fulginiti, Robby Goodman and Ray “Flipper” Morey.

The 1967 Wildwood Catholic High School graduate spent a year at Florida Institute of Technology, then transferred to the University of Hawaii.

In 1969, he returned home for the summer and started building surfboards with friend Scott Grider in his garage on Nashville Avenue. The late Dan Heritage, a member of the first Hall of Fame class in 2015, helped out by glassing the boards in a factory he had in Woodbine.

Soon after graduating from Hawaii in 1971, Sciarra opened Kona Sports in the same building that previously housed Scoop’s and began selling surfing and sports equipment.

His shaping days were put on hold for a few years, but he recently opened Kona Surf Co. on Rio Grande Avenue in Wildwood with son Chris and purchased an Australian shaping machine called the APS3000 to make their own surfboards and standup paddleboards.

He even made one for himself, an 8-foot board he uses to ride swells in Cape May and the Wildwoods.

“I try to get out there once a week if the waves are good,” Sciarra said.

Fifty-six years and one knee replacement later, he still gets the same thrill out of catching a wave at age 69 as he did at 13.

As the Beach Boys famously sang, “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.”

For Mike Sciarra, Wildwood is the top of the world.

David Weinberg is a Staff Writer for the Atlantic City Press. His Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.

Board Review – Get hip to the Hip Hippo.

Let’s do an experiment. Imagine a surfer. Take a couple seconds, I’ll wait.

Are you ready? What’s the image that comes to mind?

The person you thought of is small framed, thin, tan, blond scraggly hair; it looks like they just got out of the water. I’m thinking you’re thinking somebody like Anne Marie Chadwick from Blue Crush or Spicoli from Fast Times?

Spicoli and Chadwick

Well, guess what? Larger framed people with dark hair like to surf too. If you’ve ever tried to get up on a surfboard and it just straight out sunk then you know you’re riding the wrong surfboard. Surfing with the wrong board is like hammering a nail with a screwdriver. It’s like, yeah, it works, but why?

The Hip Hippo over at Kona Board House is just one of the specialized surfboard in our lineup that is engineered for a specific need. The Hip Hippo is designed to act as a normal midlength surfboard for larger framed people. Did you ever see that photo of Andre The Giant holding a can of beer? Let’s just say you’ve been surfing a longboard for a little while and you’d like to shave some length off your board but everything you’ve tried feels like you’re standing on the can in Andre’s hand, Kona is here to help.

The hand of Andre The Giant

First off, let’s take a look at the volume. The Hippo packs a lot of volume hidden in secret spots which is a good thing. You get a board that is the same length with great responsiveness and speed that is not going to sink under your feet. Our stock Hippos start at a length of 7’2″. A standard midlength board at this length has about 48 liters of volume. The hippo clocks in at over 60 liters!


Length Width Thickness Volume
7ft 2in 23.20in 3.25in 61.19L
7ft 4in 23.25in 3.30in 63.59L
7ft 6in 23.28in 3.35in 66.20L
8ft 23.35in 3.45in 73.02L

This board is wider and thicker than your average board so some of this additional volume comes from these dimensions but we’ve also domed the deck. Additional float is also packed in under the chest area. So volume is built up along the center of the board and tapers nicely out to the rails. This technique helps a lot with paddling the board and keeps the rails sensitive for transitions.

The Hip Hippo

The rounded nose and additional width is carried throughout the length of the board. This larger sweet spot creates a good amount of surface area under your front foot. This allows the rider to shift their stance a decent amount without tipping.There’s great waterflow through the bottom contour to help with a mix of speed and stability. A single concave in the front of the board creates additional lift still keeping this board above the wave. The single turns into a double under your feet and around the fins to stabilize the board. The double concave turns to a vee out the diamond tail which creates a great hold on the wave while making rail to rail transitions easier.

All around I’d say this is a surfboard plus about 25% more surfboard. So if you’re surfing out there having some trouble connecting with the waves you want maybe you need something with a little more volume and check out the Hip Hippo.

Mike Sciarra – 2019 New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame Legend

Kona Surf Company is entering our 50th year of shaping surfboards with a bang. We are stoked that CEO and Founder, Mike Sciarra is included in the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame 2019 Induction Class.

Since 2015, The New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame (NJSHOF) has been celebrating surf culture in New Jersey. Every two years four surfers, artists, photographers or videographers each from 5 of New Jersey’s shoreline districts are nominated. Of the 20 nominees submitted, 12 legends will be inducted into the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame. 12 “legends”. I am not making that up, that is directly from the Induction Information on the Hall of Fame website. Check out the site, click here.

For those of you who have been following along, you know Mike Sciarra’s history. From Wildwood, where he grew up next to the ocean surfing, he went to college in Florida and hung out with the greats of the mid-sixties in Cocoa Beach when surfboards suddenly went from long to short. From there he went on the University of Hawaii off the North Shore where he began shaping short boards in the late sixties. Upon graduation, he brought that knowledge back to Wildwood, New Jersey and founded Kona fifty years ago.

There is a lot of great talent being inducted this year. Kona is honored to be alongside such great influential people who have so greatly contributed to keeping our surfing story relevant for future generations. So cheers to my good friends from Cape May Joe Grattola and Lisa Roselli as well as Michael Baytoff, Denny Doyle, Scott Duerr, Steve Dwyer, Elle Keck, Matt Keenan, Danny Maragliano, Skip Miller, and Don Tarrant. When’s the party?

Join this crew on Friday, May 31st at the 2019 Induction Ceremony at Algonquin Arts in Manasquan, New Jersey. Follow this link for more info about the event on Facebook!