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The Katin Story

The Katin Story

1954

Kanvas By Katin begins

In the summer of 1954, Nancy and Walter Katin opened a small boat cover business in the quaint beach town of Surfside, California. Withstanding rigorous testing and utilising waxed-nylon thread and nickel grommets, the Katin’s canvas boat covers were considered bulletproof. Taking note of the sturdy canvas covers, locals soon sought alternate uses for the Katin’s products.

Walter & Nancy Katin.
Walter & Nancy Katin.

1957

California’s first surf trunk

After receiving requests from a select few friends, Walter constructed some custom boat shorts using the same canvas he constructed his boat covers from. While impressed with the short’s design, Walter chose to continue his focus on the canvas boat covers. When one day, a local teen walked into the shop requesting a new kind of short made specifically for surfing. The young surfer explained his struggles with surfing in cut-off jeans, and how the denim threads would quickly break, leaving him nearly nude when exiting the water. This determined teenager’s name was Corky Carroll, who unbeknownst to Walter, would go on to be one of the world’s first professional surfers.

The custom surf trunks Walter made for Corky would become one of California’s first pair of surf trunks. Word soon spread of the trunks durability and the shop was soon flooded with young surfers wanting a pair. Overwhelmed with the demand, Walter sought the help of Sato Hughes, a skillful local seamstress.

Corky Carroll pictured in front of the Katin store.
Corky Carroll pictured in front of the Katin store.

1965

Surfing reaches the mainstream

By the mid-1960s, surfing had reached mainstream popularity and the Katins were firmly entrenched in the surfing community, known for creating the best surf trunks in the market. Professional surfers by the likes of Gerry Lopez (HI), Donald Takayama (HI), Gary Proper (US) Midget Farrelly (AU), Mark Richards (AU), Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew (AU) Shaun Tomson (ZA), Peter Townend (AU), Reno Abellira (HI) and Mike Purpus (US) all wore the trunks out of respect for their high quality and their respect for the Katins.

Nancy Katin pictured with professional surfers on the North Shore of Hawaii, 1975. Photo by Rus Calisch.
Nancy Katin pictured with professional surfers on the North Shore of Hawaii, 1975. Photo by Rus Calisch.

1977

The Katin PRO/AM

After Walter passed away in 1967, Nancy expanded her involvement in the surf world by providing surfing scholarships. Nancy launched the annual Katin PRO/AM Team Challenge in Huntington Beach in 1977, and over the years, notable winners included Tom Curren (US), Martin Potter (UK), Sunny Garcia (HI), Shaun Tomson (ZA )and Kelly Slater (US).

1977 Katin Team Challenge spread in Surfer Magazine, 1977.
1977 Katin Team Challenge spread in Surfer Magazine, 1977.

1980

Nancy rejects multiple offers

By the early 1980s, the surf industry had officially skyrocketed, and many manufacturers were quick to take advantage of the trend. Though there were many offers made to Nancy to sell her business, she was determined to keep Katin a cherished surf haven for all. With the help of Sato, Katin continued making surf trunks in the back room of the Surfside Kanvas by Katin store, selling them up front and relying on the existing loyal network of surf shops for additional distribution.

Sato & Nancy with friends in front of the Katin store.
Sato & Nancy with friends in front of the Katin store.

1986

"The First Lady of Surfing" passes

In the winter of 1986 Nancy passed away, leaving the surf industry and all of her fans with a heavy heart. However, when Nancy passed, she left the company to Sato Hughes, her loyal seamstress since 1961. Sato and her son Glenn have since continued to run the original surf shop with the same love, dedication, and care as Nancy and Walter, sewing custom surf trunks with the same quality, durability and good looks since 1954.

Sato & young customers in their new custom Katins.
Sato & young customers in their new custom Katins.

Today

Quality, Durability & Good Looks

Having been born by the beach and raised along the California coast, Katin remains a staple of Southern California culture. Several trunks and summers later, Katin continues to take pride in its title as California’s first brand to make surf trunks, and continues its commitment to Quality, Durability, and Good Looks. See you out there!

Katin surfer Saxon Wilson demonstrates the art of noseriding with ease at Malibu, 2020. Photo by Edin Markulin.
Katin surfer Saxon Wilson demonstrates the art of noseriding with ease at Malibu, 2020. Photo by Edin Markulin.