The OG Surf Brand You Need to Know

Since the 1950s, Katin USA has been making California surf apparel.

Nancy and Walter Katin — founders of their namesake surf brand — didn’t set out to start an apparel company in the early 1950s. The husband and wife team founded Kanvas by Katin, a tiny boat cover business in Surfside, California and it wasn’t long before their super durable product became locally recognized, particularly in the surf community. A number of surfers took notice and started requesting custom surf trunks made of the same durable material as Katin’s boat covers.

The Katins’ trunk business continued to grow into a full surf-wear operation, outfitting surfers like Gerry Lopez, Shaun Tomson and Eddie Aikau. It was Walter Katin who sewed the first pair of trunks in the mid-fifties, but by 1961 the Katins hired Sato Hughes to take over as their seamstress. Hughes’s loyalty and steady hand led her to eventually become the heir — after Nancy Katin’s death in 1986, she was left the business and continues making custom surf trunks to this day.

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The reach extends far beyond surf trunks though. The apparel company crafts its line inspired by the surf lifestyle under the creative direction of Jason Rodriguez. Having Hughes at the helm certainly keeps Katin’s DNA intact but it’s by no means just a retro-inspired brand. “Katin is an authentic representation of the California lifestyle — a well-balanced blend of then and now,” he says. “A motto from Katin’s past is ‘Quality, Durability, and Good Looks.’ I think that sums it up as well now as it did then.”

Though Rodriguez takes inspiration from Katin’s past, he’s keen on pushing the status quo and expanding the presence of the brand outside of its home in the west coast surf community. “First and foremost, it’s a surf brand. We invented the surf trunk in California,” he says. “It’s a California lifestyle thing, and it’s not just surf but anything from the ocean to the mountains to walking down the street.”

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