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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.

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!

O’Neill x Kona Surf Company x Mudhen Brewing Company presents Wave Of The Winter – Friday, May 3rd.

The North Shore of Oahu has always been a hot spot for surfing. When Winter comes in to cool things down for some reason the waves get larger and Winter 2018/2019 was no different. From mid to late January, northwest swells from Japanese storms mixed with light southeast winds to create some Godzilla sized surfing conditions all around Pipeline.

To up the ante, O’Neill, the original American surf brand created a little contest about nine years ago. According to the Official Wave of the Winter Rules, from November 1, 2018 to February 28, 2019, a surfer and a videographer must visit the North Shore of Hawaii. A successful ride at the surfers own risk with no jet ski assist must be captured on video and submitted to Surfline.
A panel of judges – Gerry Lopez, Pancho Sullivan, Shane Dorian, and Shawn Briley judged over 70 submissions based on Wave Size, Degree of Difficulty of Maneuvers, Style, and Overall “Heaviness” Factor.
That’s the good news. Here comes the awesome news. The contest is over. The judging has been completed. Now all you have to do is join us around the fire pit at Mudhen Brewing Company, check out the footage on the big screen and hang out with O’Neill team rider Brett Barley. O’Neill rep Gary Clayton is bringing over all the entries and maybe some other good stuff. Kona is going to hook it up and play the videos for you. We are raffling stuff off. We have mystery grab bags. It’s going to be a party. The work is done. All you have to do is show up and drink beer, and maybe decide which surfer you think had the Overall “Heaviness” Factor.

Here's a little teaser.

So check it out. Get over to the Mudhen Brewing Company. Friday, May 3rd. the fun starts at 7:00 pm at 127 W Rio Grande Ave in Wildwood, New Jersey!

RSVP on the Facebook event right here.

Growing Up in the 60’s – The Shortboard Revolution

Surfing is the only sport where the greatest innovations have been made by the love from it’s enthusiasts. These innovations have shaped surfing into what it is today. Board shapers are constantly making improvements to surfboards for more performance or stability. Whether it’s the smallest tweaks to one of the dimensions, or a new combination of materials to create the board, surfing is a sport where the tools you need to play the game are constantly evolving.

It was not all that long ago when everybody surfed on a longboard; the only reason for that was because that was the only surfboard available. A longboard is a wide, long surfboard that is about 10 feet long constructed with a single fin. Enter a teenage Mike Sciarra living in Wildwood, New Jersey enjoying the surf with his longboard, faced with a choice of masonry work with his dad or attending college. Young Mike chooses education. His two possibilities are Ohio (no surfing) or Florida (surfing hot spot). Mike takes off for Cocoa Beach to attend University and enrolls in Oceanographer classes at Florida Tech in 1967. A lot of big names are surfing around here and a few go to Florida Tech including Mike Tabeling. Mike surfed often with Tabeling and they remained friends until his death last year. Oceanside O’Hare, and Surfboards Hawaii had shops in Cocoa Beach and sponsored some heavy hitters like Gary Propper, Claude Codgins, Jeff Crawford and Greg Loehr. In between classes, you could find Mike surfing the Canaveral Jetties, Indialantic or Shark Pit.

Gary Propper, the top paid pro of 1966, from Cocoa Beach.
Image courtesy of East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame

A surfing revolution had been brewing for a couple years. In 1964, two Australians George Greenough and Bob McTavish, a crazy knee boarder from Santa Barbara, California and an amateur shaper from Australia start experimenting with surfboard shapes. Maybe they realized the surfing industry was a little stagnant. Maybe they were crazy and thought it would be fun to try something new. Greenough and McTavish experimented for a couple years and came up with “Sam”. Armed with and longboard as their only template available, they make a thinner, shorter, sleeker surfboard with different bottom configurations named Sam. In 1966, Robert “Nat” Young takes Sam to the World Surfing Contest in San Diego and crushes it. The surfing world is stunned, but Sam is not quite ready for prime-time yet. Of course we know today, surfboards shapes perform differently in different surf conditions. The North Shore of Hawaii is the take it, make it, break it, remake it grounds for surfboard designs where Sam was unpredictable. The missing puzzle piece was Dick Brewer who has been shaping boards in Oahu since 1960. Brewer has a secret surfing weapon: a short tear drop pin tail called the mini-gun he has been perfecting.

 Nat Young and "Sam" in 1966.

In 1967, a wave that started in California and Hawaii breaks straight towards the East Coast and shakes the foundation of the surfing world. The longboarding dynasty was over and suddenly the pintail, concave, pointy nosed shortboards were the choice of the new generation.

Back in Florida, Mike has a bit of a revelation and looks for a place where he can transfer his college credits and tailor a degree that suits his needs better. Where else better for a stoked, young surfer in an industry in the midst of a major overhaul than Oahu? Mike transfers to the University of Hawaii in 1968 to study business and economics and act a scientist at the heart of surfing’s experimental laboratory on the North Shore.

Among the legendary and, dare I say godlike, surfers and shapers, we encounter Dick Brewer, Owl Chapman, Reno Abellira, Barry Kanaiaupuni, and Gerry Lopez, along with a whole host of no name surf worshippers who make boards to ride them in back yards all over Hawaii. Mike Sciarra and a bunch of buddies who all happened to take the long, strange trip from Florida to Hawaii start shaping shortboards at the start of the shortboard revolution among the prolific, prodigious, and prestigious.

After graduation and business degree in hand, Mike brought his board shaping skills back to his hometown of Wildwood, New Jersey and started Kona. Since Mike’s Hawaii days, a lot of surfboard shapes have been invented and perfected, but a lot of those friendships remain the same. Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon.

The History of Screen Printing and the Method to Our Madness

In the early 2000’s, Chris Sciarra came on board at Kona Surf Company to rebrand the company. Six years ago, Chris and his father Mike began creating their own brand of surfing inspired products. Chris spearheaded the creation of the Kona apparel line. We often say we design these shirts in house, we create these shirts in house, we print these shirts in house, but what does that mean? We think the process is a unique labor of love, so we thought it would be interesting to take a moment and break it down for you.

The 1960’s is when the term screen printing was popularized by pop artists like Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg but the art of screen printing is a whole lot older than you might think. For the first screen print we have to go back. Wwwaaayyyy baaack. Screen printing is basically pushing ink with a rubber slab through a screen with a stencil on it. The part of the screen that is not blocked out allows the design to transfer to pretty much whatever flat surface you want.

Andy Warhol screenprinting pop art at The Factory. 

Over the years, I mean, decades – I mean, centuries! The process of getting the design on the screen has been updated. Pushing ink through a mesh fabric hasn’t changed much since the Song Dynasty around 960AD in China. Screen printing was first created by stretching silk over a wooden frame. The silk is a fine mesh that will allow ink to push through. Next, an image is hand drawn. Think, a line drawing – in one color. For every printed color in screen printing, an additional screen needs to be prepared and registered for alignment. The negative image of the drawing is hand painted on the screen with a waterproof masking medium that stops the ink from transferring through the silk.

In the early 1900’s, about 1,000 years later, the first screen printing machine was patented and printers began using chemicals that were light sensitive to create printing screens. So there you have it. The screen printing machine, a photo realistic way to get your design on the screen and inks and this whole thing was a done deal over 100 years ago.

Now computers cut out a lot of time creating designs. It will take a full color image and separate the design into the four color layers easily. Cyan, Magento, Yellow and Black layers are what it takes to produce a full color image. Most modern graphics programs will create these channels with the click of a mouse.

Here at Kona Surf Company, we always use eco-friendly inks and cleaners that are needed for creating photo realistic images for our clothing.

One pass on the screen.

Kona has tried and tested many methods of printing t-shirts. At first, Chris was pressing custom decals on shirts with a heat press. The decal is cool, but they never quite live up to expectations. Decals don’t wear or wash well. Chris wanted something timeless. Kona tried a t-shirt printer also, literally, like a laser printer that would print a t-shirt. This method is popular right now with a lot of print-on-demand places that need to do quick, in-and-out prints or one-offs. Printing a t-shirt just does not have the same classic quality of a true silk screen. The quality and clarity of the real deal comes through when you take the time to do a job right using the right tools.

Four screens - one shirt

When working in our screen printing facility, we always use high quality materials. With a full 100% cotton shirt, you’re going to get nice, even colors that are going to hold fast in the shirt. For darker shirts, we add a special mixture called Discharges that bleach the shirt. Colors really pop using discharge ink on a dark shirt. There’s a method to our madness, but in the end, we love creating high quality, printed shirts for our supporters.

Finished hoodie with some essential screen printing tools.

Call us crazy! Of all the ways to deliver a design to a t-shirt, screen printing is the most time consuming thing we do here, but we love the process! The end result is a classic, high quality shirt with a crisp, colorful design we can be proud of and is going to stand up to a good amount of wash and wear.

Kona has Grown, Shrunk, and Rethunk

Kona Surf Company started 50 years ago when Mike Sciarra began shaping surfboards in his garage. As green as grass roots can get, local surfers were able to get their boards shaped by Mike through word of mouth from friends that knew somebody who knew somebody. If you could reach through time and pinch young Mike to tell him he would come full circle and still be shaping surfboards 50 years later, he’d be fricking stoked! Along the way Kona has grown, shrunk, rethunk and reorganized, but shaping surfboards has always been on Mike’s mind!

Mike Sciarra shaping surfboards in the Summer of '69.

Moving on up and out of the garage, Mike moved from a small storefront to an empty car dealership with the help of his friend Tony Chrietzberg working the front of the shop. He couldn’t keep his custom boards in stock because there was nothing like his product available and local surfers were eatin em up. Surfing, of course, is a summer sport and now Mike has a business he needs to support all year. Based on the decent response to Mike’s unique custom surfboards, Mike decides to look at what is going on locally and add trending products that would be unique to locals to keep the business open year round. Also, Mike’s longtime sweetheart, Dee comes on board to work the finances and manage the up and coming ladies sporting styles. From there, Kona becomes a hybrid, a mish-mash, a mixed bag of surfing and other sporting goods. Maybe you remember the late seventies when it seemed like everybody needed a ten-speed bicycle. Kona creates a bicycle shop and a repair shop! Remember those Nike waffle trainers? Mike brought them to Wildwood along with tennis rackets, hockey sticks, baseball bats and other products that no one carried locally.

Then comes the internet. The internet is amazing in concept. Businesses now have the ability to reach millions of people, but customer loyalty is thrown out the window. Everyone online is just looking for the best price. Being in a seaside resort town, here’s a double whammy: the cost of affordable housing goes through the roof and families begin to move off the island. This lowers a lot of the demand for the sporting goods locally which brings Kona to a challenging crossroads.

Along comes Chris Sciarra, Mike’s son, in the early 2000’s to rethink the future of Kona Surf Company. Mike and Chris put their heads together and decide to go back to the roots of Kona. Chris’ idea is to get back to what has always made the place a success; offering a unique product with a passion for surfing.

They start phasing out sporting goods. Chris picks up a heat press from a local guy and starts creating a Kona clothing line with a decal of the classic sun image. Remember, this is Wildwood, New Jersey. It gets hot here! Kona hasn’t really set up a workshop for creating merchandise yet. As Mike started by shaping boards in a garage, Chris is now operating an oversized iron in a humid back store room handling hot fabric. That was a fun summer, but it was worth it because those experiments paved the way for screen printing and embroidering custom high quality merchandise in house.

The Kona Board House today.

Now Kona has a unique brand to promote; a surfing inspired line of clothing. In case you were wondering, that was a test, but don’t worry! There won’t be one about this later! The test was to see how their unique brand sold in the store and online. The line sold great and it’s still going strong. Next up, the surfboards!


Still shaping after all these years.

At this point, let’s just say that Mike’s been shaping surfboards for about six years longer than that movie about a galaxy far, far away was released at the drive-in theater. Over the years, Mike has shaped a lot of different boards and perfected a lot of signature models. To shape a surfboard by hand takes a deceptively long time. Not to mention, the debris you’re inhaling and the toll it takes on your knuckles. It was Mike and Chris’ goal to figure out a way to make this shaping process more streamlined. After a ton of research they settled on saving up enough money to bring Miki Langenbach to Wildwood from Gold Coast, Australia and set up “The Holy Grail of Surfboard Machines”. Miki helped Mike and Chris dial in the measurements for Mike’s classic boards. Now they are cranking out their own Kona surfboards in-house as well as custom boards for local surfers. You can come in and purchase one of Mike’s classic shapes that are available as stock boards. With this new CNC machine, every measurement on a custom surfboard can be tweaked by changing a few numbers in the computer. The machine does about 90% of the work, and the rest is finished and glassed by hand. As every diehard shaper knows, a pair of hands are still vital to the finished product.


Set the controls for the heart of the surfboard.

Kona started as a grass roots surfboard shaping business and has come full circle. Kona is back to offering our original designs exclusively. I guess what we’ve learned through this process is don’t give up and stay true to yourself. So what’s in store next for Kona? Stay tuned!

Surfrider Foundation Fundraiser Party on January 26th

Kona Surf Company and Mudhen Brewing Company are partnering with the Surfrider Foundation South Jersey and throwing a party at our house! By any means necessary, get to Mudhen Brewing Company on January 26th for live bands, new merch, your good friends here at Kona Board House and our friends from the Surfrider Foundation South Jersey. Doors open at 5pm so call all your friends and help us make this a blowout for the ages. There’s a bunch of things we’re doing to make this an awesome event so here’s all the deets.

First, let me tell you a little bit about The South Jersey Surfrider Foundation. This organization is out there protecting our beaches and oceans in every way imaginable. On the shore and in the court rooms, they are fighting the good fight to preserve our coastlines. The Foundation has many active campaigns and programs to protect our oceans that focus on keeping plastics and pesticides out of our oceans. More information about the South Jersey Chapter of The Surfrider Foundation South Jersey can be found on their website, click here.

As you know, the ocean is the playground for the surfer. To quote straight from the Surfrider Foundation South Jersey Mission Statement, “We have an appetite for adventure and we all share a common passion – we love and appreciate our ocean, waves and beaches.” Kona Surf Company feels exactly the same way and we are stoked to celebrate this passion with a wingding of a shindig. Lucky for you, you don’t have to love our beaches and oceans as much as we do to be a member of the Surfrider Foundation. As a bonus for new members there are a few perks that we have up our sleeve for becoming a member at this event.

Kona Surf Company are currently in the process of cranking out a swanky new shirt design for the party. 50% of the proceeds from the sale of this shirt will benefit the Surfrider Foundation South Jersey because we love them. Plus, somebody told me it would be really cool if everybody at the party was wearing the same shirt so we are going to have that shirt available for pre-order. So here’s what you want to do. Preorder that shirt here. It will be available for you when you walk in the door at the Mudhen party. Once everyone has their shirts on, we’ll take a group photo.


Click here to order your Kona X Surfrider Foundation Shirt

Oh… and music. Right? What’s a party without some tunes? Crowd favorites Old Diamond Faces will be in the house to rock your faces. Old Diamond Faces are three bands (Old School, The Cape May Diamonds and Facedown) all rolled into one! They play the songs you love to sing and they will be bringing a variety of musical genres in the form of electric guitars!

Currently there is also an open call for artists. In honor of beer can appreciation day, you can enter the Mudhen Beer Can Art Contest! Win a chance to have your artwork featured on a limited edition Earth Day crowler to be released in April. The winner of the contest will be announced at this event. More information about the contest is available on the Mudhen website. Click here for the contest page.

So there you have it, folks. Good times, good friends, good tunes and good beer to strengthen our local surfing community secretly disguised as creating awareness for our local eco-system. It can’t get much better. Oh wait, did I mention there is no cover charge? Boom. It just did.

What’s The SUP?

The popularity of Stand Up Paddle boarding is constantly growing. What is Stand Up Paddle boarding? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Stand Up Paddle boarding or SUP is a variation of surfing where the surfer uses a paddle for momentum. The versatility and stability a paddle board offers is compelling for people who want to spend a leisurely day in the surf.

When did Stand Up Paddle Boarding start? With a quick internet search, you can find cave paintings of fisherman that appear to be stick figures standing on a rectangle holding an oar, ancient Polynesian ceremonial paddles, Egyptian pharoahs holding sticks while floating on bales of papyrus, native American Indians racing each other standing on boats, ancient Peruvians standing on bundled reeds. It seems like as soon as man saw water he was trying to find a way to get across the top of it using some form of a floating plank and a stick.

Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics boat

Big Wave Surfer and “Waterman” Laird Hamilton has championed many surfing innovations has been a massive proponent in stand up paddle boarding for many years. Some people might say in 1999, when Laird built a paddle, put an American flag on it and rowed his surfboard on 9/11 at Fort Point Malibu was the beginning of SUP as we know it today. Laird is in may ways responsible for the growing interest in the sport but did he invent it? Even though people have been doing something similar since the beginning of time, does putting two things together in an unexpected way and giving it a name suddenly make you the inventor? The mad surfing scientist? The guiding genius of cross-over board sports? I don’t know. I’m not here to judge but when one has devoted his life and used these innovations, as Laird has to inspire others to pursue a healthy lifestyle and to achieve fitness goals then I’m going to go ahead and check yes in my book.

Some surfers view Stand Up Paddle boarding as surfing’s weird younger brother but that is actually not true. Historically speaking, surfing would not exist without paddle boarding. It’s impossible to pinpoint the origin of SUP since the idea of someone propelling themselves across a body of water on a floating platform with a long stick is literally thousands of years old. SUP definitely predates traditional surfing.

For a full look into the history of paddle boarding and it’s rise in popularity, Director Mike Waltze created a fantastic documentary called That First Glide starring Laird Hamilton among other influential paddle boarders. Check out the trailer below.

 That First Glide Trailer

The beauty of a SUP is when the surfs flat, no big deal, there’s still fun to be had. The SUP has a lot more stability than a traditional surfboard. Not only can you surf but you can do a ton of other things too. An SUP is stable enough to do Yoga, go fishing or snorkeling. A SUP is a great way to stay fit so if you want to take advantage of the newest ancient sport of paddle boarding our experts at the Kona Board House can help you select the perfect package that will fit you right. Currently Kona carries two styles of our own paddle boards.

Stand Up Paddle Boards in stock at Kona Board House, Wildwood New Jersey

The All Day Stand Up Paddle Board is an all-around go to board. The sleek shape will give the rider good control in the water on a flat surface or in the surf. The Escape Stand Up Paddle Board is for maximum stability on the open water. This shape is great for an entry-level paddle board or for activities like Yoga or fishing. Make your own waves with Kona Board House’s complete line of Stand Up Paddleboards. Kona has a variety of available sizes and accessories for our two models to make your day out on the water a perfect one.  See our line of Stand Up Paddle boards here.

If you are not ready to make the leap yet. Kona also offers a rental service for SUP. Find out more information about our SUP rentals here.

What The Fish?

The legacy of the Fish surfboard is the most baffling of all the shapes out there. In it’s fifty plus year existence, uninitiated surfers are still confused by a first look at the Fish. The shape of the board appears to look like it has previously been a longboard that was snapped in half and added a few fins to it. In reality, that is not too far from the truth.

Kona Team Rider Jake Mckenna on the Kona Retro Fish.

Like many things in the surfing encyclopedia, the Fish evolved from older concepts. The Fish combines aspects of both a short and a longboard. Surfboard shaper Steve Lis is credited for creating the Fish surfboard in 1967 in which he carved out of a longboard that was broken in half. Lis, a kneeboarder, who traditionally surfed shortboards on his knees, looked at the broken board and thought the additional width from the front of the broken longboard would be more comfortable to ride. With that being said, this board was first developed as a kneeboard, but Lis took it a step further by splitting the tail. This technique created the extra width needed to support the fins to make the shape a true surfboard.

Unfortunately, due to the rivalry between surfers and kneeboarders, nobody noticed the importance of this new-fangled surfboard that would make a lasting impression on the surfing industry for several years. The Fish started to make an impact in 1972 when Jim Blears and David Nuuhiwa rode the surfboard to victory at the Huntington Beach World Championships. Due to the laid back personality of Steve Lis, he never capitalized on these victories. Lis had also never patented the design or made any attempts to cash in on the board’s success. In an entirely selfless act that is now considered the greatest gift to surfers everywhere, Lis shared the design with local shapers.



Steve Lis Fish Template from Surfer Magazine Design Forum.

The broad swallow tail, straight rocker, and the placement of the fins assist with rail to rail transitions. The increased volume from the wide, thick body catches mushy waves at the local break and helps with paddling. Plus, this thing cooks! It’s super fast on small and large waves which only adds to the misconception of the board. The Fish is tried and true in a variety of surfing conditions. The main benefits of riding a Fish are catching less than ideal waves with more speed, additional stability, quick and easy to paddle, and easier transitions than a longboard.


The fish lineup at Kona Board House in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Through the late seventies and early eighties, the Fish was primarily ridden in San Diego, California. Sometime in the early eighties, shapers modified Lis’ original Fish design. A three-finned version was created that was so popular, the original Fish design became obsolete. It wasn’t until the late nineties when surfers like Donavon Frankenreiter and Dave Rastovich realized that the design of the original fish was not only really fun but is still revolutionary in the speed and flow department, allowing the original design make a comeback.

You know what? There’s an awesome documentary Joseph Ryan made a couple years ago that gives you an in-depth look at the history and design of the Fish surfboard and how the board has impacted the culture. Check out the trailer below.

 Fish: The Surfboard Documentary Trailer

Here at Kona, we offer three versions of the Fish surfboards. We recommend our Twinner Fish surfboard to be the closest shape to the original Fish. It is perfect for all conditions and levels and great for young surfers transitioning from a beginner board. While you’re at it, check out our Kai and Retro Fish models that blend modern elements with the traditional design to increase the boards performance.

You can check the Fish surfboards for sale at Kona here:



Follow The Waves.

In Honor of Forgotten Turtle Gut

Kona Surf Company is honoring the Father of the American Navy, Captain John Barry and his role in an important historical battle that took place right off the coast of Wildwood, New Jersey. Check out our blog post about the Battle of Turtle Gut by clicking here.

Inspired by the history of Turtle Gut, we decided to take the location of this important hallmark in naval ingenuity and add it to the Kona legacy. With plenty of research, we discovered a nineteenth-century map that shows the location of Turtle Gut, which is right on Rambler Road in Wildwood Crest. In 1922, Cape May County wiped out the area of Turtle Gut but Kona is bringing it back to celebrate the heritage of our home.

1777 map of South Jersey showing Turtle Gut

We are stoked for this new design and hope you will be proud to display your local heritage. Our in-house designer, Kristen Eaton, recreated the antique Turtle Gut map as a super-high resolution graphic. With that being said, be on the lookout for a full line of products of the Turtle Gut design in our clothing line and surfboard line in 2019.

As always, all of our Kona clothing products are produced here on location. Here at Kona, everything from the concept to the product is handled on location. We take a hands-on approach with every detail so we can ensure that you are receiving the highest quality product. Our printing department is currently burning screens to print up a fresh batch of shirts and sweatshirts that will be available online and at our flagship store very soon.

In spring of 2019, we will have two surf fins available for purchase along with a fabric inlay design that will be available on our Owen surfboard. Keep an eye out for these items, or join our mailing list to stay up to date on all our latest products. Until then, follow the waves!

Single pivot and classic fins available in 2019.