Kanvas by Katin
In the late 1950s, Nancy and Walter Katin were in the business of making canvas boat covers. Yet one day a young man came into the Katin's shop in Surfside, California, complaining of the difficulty in finding a pair of swim shorts durable enough to stand up to the then-new pastime of surfboard riding. Walter used his sewing machine and some of the sturdy boat canvas previously used for boat covers and created the first pair of Kanvas by Katin surf trunks. The Katins kept making their surf trunks, selling them from the Surfside store and through a network of surf shop dealers all over the Western Hemisphere. From the 1960s to the 1970s, virtually every top surfer wore Katins and appeared in surf magazine ads.
Their loyalty was not just because Nancy and Walter made great surf trunks - the Katins loved the surfers who came into their shop, and the surfers loved them. Walter Katin passed on in 1967, and Nancy continued to run the shop and the business in the same manner as before.
In 1976, just as professional surfing was starting to take off, Nancy initiated an annual Pro/Am Team Challenge at the Huntington Beach Pier. All the world's best surfers came to compete. Winning the Katin Team Challenge instantly became one of the surfing world's most prestigious accomplishments.
By the late 1970s, the surf industry had begun a decade of explosive growth, but that was not important to Nancy. Her involvement with surfing had nothing to do with cashing in on the sport, it was based on her love of "her boys". In the early 1980s, Nancy's health began to decline. Yet at this time, the popularity of surf wear began to skyrocket, and many other manufacturers were quick to take advantage of the trend, aggressively attacking the market with slick advertising and worldwide promotional blitzes. Katin, however, was content to keep things low-key, continuing to sew surf trunks in the back room of the Surfside store, selling them up front and through the same loyal network of surf shops.
In 1986 Nancy Katin died. The Katins never had any children of their own, and Nancy left the business to her loyal friend and seamstress, Sato Hughes, who had begun sewing trunks for the Katins in 1961.
Along with her son Glenn, Sato continued to run the Katin operation in the same low-key manner. They focused on the retail store, and on keeping the quality of the Katin surf trunks they produced the best they could be. By the early 1990s, the big surf wear market had "shaken out" and hardcore surfers were again looking for a pair of functional, durable trunks. Glenn and Sato held down the retail end, and joined forces with Bill and Rick, who took over the wholesale side of the business. This duo of Newport Beach Surfers had experience in marketing, sales and production.
The boys started by updating the classic canvas pieces with state-of-the-art nylon and adjusting the lengths and fit for a modern audience. They also added shorts, shirts, pants and jackets made with the same Katin quality. With the new samples in hand, Rick and Bill set off on a now-legendary surf shop tour of all American coasts. The response was strong and Katin was now back in an elite group of surf shops which quickly found the business growing. They then expanded by bringing in "the team" including; Justin, Scott, Ian, Michelle, Randall,Rub, Rod, Dom, Kris, Randy and other hard working design and quality obsessed "surf wear freaks".
Glenn and Sato now focused their efforts on the Katin shop. They filled it with clothing, wetsuits, skateboards, surfboards, body boards and all accessories imaginable. The surf shop walls are adorned with decades of photos, trophies and other memorabilia - invoking extended visits by many customers.
In 1998 Bill and Rick sold the wholesale side of the business to K2 inc., which was inaugurated with Bill's brainchild, the "K2 Big Wave Challenge", (later known as the Swell XXL, and known today as the Billabong XXL. Within a short time the K2 buyout lead to the main principles migrating to other ventures and finally the demise of the Katin wholesale business. True to the Katin spirit Glenn Hughes fought hard to regain the name for the wholesale business for many years.
In 2005 Glenn Hughes regained the right from K2 inc. to sell wholesale under the Katin name again. With partner Robert Schmidt, the wholesale side of Katin was back in full force, check your local surf shop.
Also, in 2005 Katin received a much needed cyber overhaul. After years of URL changes beginning in 1996 with Katin-Surf.com, then Katin.com in 1998, and then KanvasByKatin.com in 2000, Glenn Hughes, with partner Rod Kelsey launched KatinSurf.com on July 4, 2005.
In marked difference to some of the larger surf brands, Katin does not sell its goods to department stores (despite considerable interest from "the Majors"). Katin products are made for surfers. Surfers shop in surf shops. Simple. "Quality, durability and goods looks" was long the Katin motto and it's that attention to detail which continues to separate Katin from the rest of the surfing pack. And despite a growing legion of followers, the Katin quality remains stronger than ever.