The History Behind Kona Surf Co.

Posted: Jul 15,2016



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.


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.


What was once a lazy Hawaiian afternoon conversation between Mike and long time pal Scott Grier, has now become an east coast institution in surf, skate and athletic retail world. Along with carrying the top brands in multiple action sports categories, Kona is proud to offer their own premium line of apparel, accessories, surf, skate and SUP boards all of which stand for the quality and attention to detail that Mike is so keen on even to this day. The Kona Surf Company is a direct call back to Mike's original days of hand-shaping boards for his buddies around the world, with their safety and satisfaction in mind. They have taken that same spirit of wanting to see a friend perform better at their sport, and ramped it up to become the Kona Surf Co. offering that you see today.

They are a well-traveled surf style brand with a rich history built upon two principles:

  • create a product that will last as long as the stories told around it
    offer that product with as many American-made elements as possible, at an affordable price.

They're not looking to re-invent the wheel. They just want to create meaningful apparel that fits well and stands up to the tests of time.

Kona Surf Co. can be seen on Instagram & Facebook. Give them a follow!

kona feature 1