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 short but successful run the boards’ shape and size evolved. Now imitating a miniature surfboard, it gave riders more stability and allowed them to perform surf-like manoeuvres and in return helped the company gain a loyal following of young surfers and enthusiasts of the new sport. Looking to develop his newly designed boards, Leo approached water skiing legend Fred Williams who was recognised as one of the world’s leading water ski manufacturers. Mr Williams would sell water ski off cuts to Leo who would then use them as the basis for his new design. Depending on what leftovers were available at the time the ‘Landsurfas’ would be shaped with whatever ply pattern was available, resulting in various stringer designs being released to the market. Due to its construction, these boards proved costly to produce and were only manufactured for a short period of time in 1964.
1965: THE BIRTH OF SAM
It wasn’t until 1965 when the name Surfa Sam was introduced, and the much loved face of the company “Sam” was conceived. Sam’s debut was on a 24” square tailed board shaped out of Tasmanian oak, a timber that has become synonymous with Surfa Sam and skateboarding during the 1960’s, with many Californian counterparts importing this hard-wearing oak for their own boards. Featuring an early variant of the now iconic Surfa Sam top graphic, 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. The ‘De Luxe’ range was short lived, with the classic Surfa Sam board taking centre stage.
1965: THE NAT YOUNG LANDSURFA
As the popularity of skateboarding began to grow amongst the surfing community, Leo wanted to associate his product with a surfing icon. Legends such as Duke Kahanamoku and Midget Farrelly had both recently released their own pro model skateboard, so Leo looked to four-time world champion Nat Young and manufactured ‘The Nat Young Landsurfa’. The board was part of the recently introduced ‘De Luxe’ range and featured a new stringer veneer design that was finished off with ‘The Nat Young Landsurfa’ logo decal. This board saw a very limited production run with only a small number of boards ever being released.
1965: THE ERSKINEVILLE FACTORY
In an effort to keep up with rising demands and bring manufacturing in-house, the operation was moved out of the family home (to the delight of Leo’s mum) and into a factory located at 1A Ada Lane, Erskineville, Sydney. The rundown building previously used for storing wool bales allowed the company to grow substantially with a small team manufacturing over 1,000 boards per week. The previously released 24” Surfa Sam board saw an update to its shape and size and was also made available as a 30” slalom board that featured the new 54mm ‘Detroit Super Wheels’ named after the automotive capital, and to reflect the Hot Rod craze at the time. The new wheels were fastened to a more cost effective sheet metal truck design that were engineered by technical advisor Ron Slater and eventually replaced the original ‘Landsurfa’ truck that had been in use since 1963.
It was during this period that Leo was forced to juggle his time between gruelling medical studies and his rapidly growing business. To keep things rolling Leo would visit the factory before, during, and after college with sometimes only having 15 minutes to spare before quickly rushing back for his next lecture.
1970's - 80's
As the style and fashions of the 1970’s quickly became more vibrant so did the boards, with kids now having the choice between a bright red, blue, or natural timber deck. Originally the production process involved the boards being completely submerged in a vat of paint, but in the mid 1970’s this was changed, with the boards now having only the topside silk screened with either a solid red or blue before being graced with the iconic white Surfa Sam graphic. A new cast aluminium truck ’Kalok Deluxe Truck’ (named after Leo’s family name Kalok-erinos), was also introduced and offered skateboarders a better performing product to the cheaper alternative sheet metal design that had been designed some years earlier.
Now a Doctor of medicine Leo continued to juggle his time between his medical practice and his first love Surfa Sam, but inevitably his new found professional career took precedence with the factory eventually closing its doors in 1985 after selling over 250,000 skateboards during the 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 authentic 1960’s surf/skate style.