1963: THE BEGINNING
In 1963, Dr Leo Kalokerinos, a 29 year old medical student, transformed his parents’ small family home in the suburb of Rose Bay, Sydney into Australia’s first “Sidewalk Surfer” company.
Leo conjured up the idea after seeing a friend’s young son riding a crude home-made skateboard he had built using a plank of wood with a roller-skate nailed to the bottom. Seeing a business opportunity Leo set out to manufacture and sell this new ’toy’, filing for a patent on the 27 August 1963 for ‘A Ski-Board for traversing over land surfaces’. Marketed as the ‘Landsurfa’, it consisted of a rounded shaped nose and a squared off tail and was equipped with the self titled ‘Landsurfa’ trucks and composite rubber wheels. To help bring his new product to life, Leo entrusted his new venture to a local organisation who provided employment for young adults with disabilities who had limited work opportunities. It was this organisation that would shape and assemble the boards before transporting them to the family home where they were then stacked in the hallway waiting to be distributed to stores across Australia.
1964: THE FRED WILLIAMS LANDSURFA
After a brief yet triumphant debut, the shape and size of the boards progressed, taking on the appearance of miniature surfboards. This design provided riders with increased stability and enabled them to execute surf-inspired manoeuvres, thus earning the company a loyal following of youthful surfers and enthusiasts alike. Seeking to refine his boards, Leo sought the expertise of renowned water skiing pioneer Fred Williams, a prominent manufacturer in the field. Williams would supply Leo with offcuts from his water ski production, which would then serve as the foundation for Leo's new designs. Depending on the availability of leftover materials, the "Landsurfas" would be shaped using different ply patterns, resulting in a variety of stringer designs being introduced to the market. Due to their construction, the boards were costly to produce and were only manufactured for a limited period in 1964.
1965: THE BIRTH OF SAM
In 1965, the renowned name Surfa Sam was coined and the company's beloved mascot "Sam" was born. The first appearance of Sam was on this square-tailed skateboard crafted from Tasmanian oak, a wood that became a hallmark of Surfa Sam's identity, with many Californian counterparts importing this hard-wearing oak for their own boards. With an early iteration of the iconic Surfa Sam top graphic adorning the board, it helped define the brand and set the foundation for its next incarnation that would remain in production until the end.
1965: LANDSURFA 'DE LUXE'
In 1965 the new Landsurfa ‘De Luxe’ was also introduced to the lineup. Featuring a timber stringer veneer, it was applied to a base model Tasmanian oak Surfa Sam deck making it a more cost effective board to manufacture than its predecessor the ‘Fred Williams Landsurfa’. Much like the Fred Williams board, these Landsurfa’s were rolled out with a range of different veneer designs with the factory using whatever leftover material was available at the time.
1965: THE NAT YOUNG LANDSURFA
As skateboarding gained popularity among surfers, Leo sought to align his product with a surfing icon. With Duke Kahanamoku and Midget Farrelly already releasing their own pro model skateboards, Leo turned to four-time world champion Nat Young and created "The Nat Young Landsurfa." This board was part of the newly introduced "De Luxe" range and showcased a sleek stringer veneer design, adorned with "The Nat Young Landsurfa" logo decal. The board was produced in limited quantities and made available through select retailers like Surf Dive 'n' Ski.
1967: THE ERSKINEVILLE FACTORY
In order to meet increasing demands and improve production efficiency, Leo decided to move the operation from the family home, to the delight of his mum, to a factory located at Ada Lane, Erskineville, Sydney. The move proved to be a wise decision as the new facility enabled the company to substantially increase its manufacturing capacity, with a small team now able to produce over 2,000 skateboards per week. Leo also took the opportunity to update the products, starting with the popular Surfa Sam board. The square-tailed board was given a new shape and size, and was now equipped with the companies latest 54mm 'Detroit Super Wheels', named after the automotive capital of the world, and were a nod to the Hot Rod craze that was sweeping the nation at the time. Technical advisor Ron Slater also engineered a more cost-effective sheet metal truck, which replaced the original 'Landsurfa wheel assembly' that had been in use since the beginning.
1970's - 80's
As the 1970s ushered in a new era of vibrant styles and fashion, the skateboards also took on a more colourful look. Kids had a choice between a range of colours for their boards, including red, blue, natural, or multicoloured options. Initially, the production process involved submerging the boards completely in a vat of paint before having the logo silk-screened on top. However, this was later changed, with the colour and logo only being applied to the topside of the decks.
As part of the deluxe range, a new truck called the 'Kalok' (named after Leo's family name, Kalok-erinos), and the 'Detroit Special' wheel were introduced. These products offered skateboarders better performance compared to the cheaper alternatives that were designed some years earlier.
Despite becoming a Doctor of Medicine, Leo continued to juggle his time between his medical practice and his first love, Surfa Sam. However, his professional career eventually took precedence, and the factory had to close its doors in the early 1980s after selling over 250,000 skateboards during its initial incarnation.
SURFA SAM TODAY
Surfa Sam is Australia’s oldest skateboard manufacturing company producing traditional hand-shaped “Sidewalk Surfers”, quality clothing, and accessories. A pioneer among the worlds first skate brands, we appreciate heritage and honour this tradition by remaining true to our brands original vision, creating products that are deeply rooted in classic surf/skate style.