Mar 30, 2016
Town & Country Surf Celebrates 45 Years
Forty-five years ago this month, a passionate young surfer hailing from O'ahu named Craig Sugihara opened the doors to the first Town & Country Surf shop in Pearl City in an old barbershop.
Like so many of today's iconic surf brands, Town & Country's roots were humble. Sugihara, then in his 20s, had two things on his mind: 1) surfing and 2) shaping surfboards. If he could find a way to keep himself in the water and in the shaping bay, while still paying the bills, he'd found success. Fast forward four and a half decades and Town & Country, with its iconic yin and yang logo, is synonymous with Hawaiian surf culture.
In the early 1960s, Sugihara's love affair with surfing blossomed in the heart of Waikiki. Similar to so many of us, his early years as a grom (young surfer) were spent along Kalakaua Boulevard where he surfed until he could no longer lift his arms under the watchful eyes of the Waikiki Beach Boys. As he grew and became more accomplished in the lineup, his fascination for how his surfboards worked—what made them trim, turn, and hug the face of the wave—enveloped him. He yearned to learn everything about them and, by the time he was in his late teens, he found himself studying courses in college to help him understand the dynamics of wave riding. When he wasn't in the water or in school, Craig could often be found at Surfboards Makaha (the premier surfboard shaping operation of the time) soaking in every drip of knowledge he could from the salty shapers planing through mountains of foam. After spending his time learning the craft, from laminating to shaping, Sugihara eventually earned himself a job at Greg Noll Surfboards.
Eventually, Sugihara earned himself a reputation as a talented shaper and all around wonderful person. But through all the foam dust, resin, and early morning sessions, a new dream of being out on his own began to grow. In 1971, in the old barbershop in Pearl City along Kamehameha Highway, Craig opened up the first Town & Country storefront. From the otherwise unremarkable shop, located between the notoriously treacherous surf of the Country and the waves of Town, an iconic surf brand was born. It's emblem, a yin and yang, represented the balance of both the waves of Town and Country as well as the balance it takes to surf.
In the ensuing decades, the brand quickly progressed as some of the best shapers came into the fold. As surfing began to gain widespread popularity on the mainland, the brand expanded into producing their own clothing and opening up a handful of retail shops, including two here at Ward Village—the original Ward Warehouse store opened up in 1985—stocking the best surf gear you can find anywhere in the Islands. From Virginia Beach to LA, from Japan to France, the yin and yang logo was everywhere.
There was also the annual Grom Contest that Town & Country ran—and continues to run—in Waikiki. For more than 19 years, this event, which only allows non-sponsored and non-competitive keiki to enter—has become a staple element of a summer in Honolulu and represents the best of the sport.
"The Grom Contest is an annual highlight for all of us at Town & Country Surf. The opportunity to share the stoke of surfing and the magic of the ocean with Hawai'i's keiki is truly a privilege," said Sugihara.
I love to support our amateur and professional team riders as they pursue their dreams and represent Hawai'i, but this event is equally gratifying. The smiles, the laughter, and the sense of accomplishment for the kids is priceless.
Through all of the growth, the tens of thousands of surfboards shaped, the decades of Keiki Contests and the throngs of sponsored athletes, one element remains: at its core, Town & Country has always been about keeping a dream alive. A dream of salty hair, boardshorts, overhead waves, and good times. If you were to chat with Sugihara today, 45 years removed from when he first opened shop in Pearl City, you'd see that the dream hasn't faded a bit. In fact, it's stronger than ever.
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