1954, Nancy and Walter Katin opened a small boat cover business called Kanvas by Katin in Surfside, California, just north of Huntington Beach. Walter, a tenaciously friendly man, both short and robust, always donned an iconic ensemble of a powder-blue jumpsuit zipped up to the neck with a captain’s hat. Earning the nickname the “Captain,” for both his style and passion for sailing his boat “The Southern Seas,” proudly took on the title of craftsman within the business. Walter’s wife Nancy, standing less than five feet tall yet possessing a personality far greater than her stature and a mind brighter than her crimson hair, was the salesperson.
Walter and Nancy’s canvas boat covers were practically bulletproof, using hundred-pound-test, waxed-nylon thread, and nickel grommets. Locals soon took note of these sturdy canvas covers and sought alternate uses for the canvas.
After special requests from a select few friends, the “Captain” constructed a couple custom boat shorts. Although impressed with the short’s design, Walter chose to continue his focus on the canvas boat covers. However, a couple years later, things quickly changed for the Katins when a local teen, a “wave rider” as surfers were originally called, walked into the Katin’s shop asking for a new kind of short, made specifically for surfing, using the same indestructible canvas as covers. The young surfer explained his struggles with surfing in cut off jeans, and how he found that the denim threads would unravel quickly, leaving him nearly nude when exiting the water. This determined teenager’s name was Corky Carroll, who unbeknownst to Walter, would go on to be one of the world’s first professional surfers, and the custom surf trunks Walter made for Corky would become one of California’s first surf trunks.