Sam Gornto

Born in December 1948, Gornto's family moved to Melbourne in '49. And while he's had a charmed life in many ways, the fame, fortune, and stardom for which he is extremely grateful came at a cost - for which he is equally grateful. Sam very clear about the day he officially became a surfer. It was the summer of 1965, and he had begun surfing competitively. "I remember we were doing football drills twice a day in August, and it dawned on me that it just wasn't any fun. Surfing was fun, so I walked off the field and went surfing," he says, noting that the decision to choose surfing cost him a scholarship and ultimately shaped his life's journey.

The Team
Dick Catri saw potential in Gornto and offered him a place on his Surfboards Hawaii team. Gornto accepted the deal which included a new surfboard and a future so bright, At age 17, Gornto was on the team that would go on to dominate the sport internationally and produce Hall of Fame Legends Mike Tabeling, Fletcher Sharpe, Mimi Munro, Joe Twombley, Fred Grosskreuts, and Bruce Valluzzi, as well as Catri, Propper, and Gornto himself.

Sam at the Surfboards Hawaii shop

They needed a "surf guy" with a name, and they came for Sam. "Remember, it's 1967, and I'm 18 years old," grins Gornto. "They gave me $3 for every board they sold, and we sold about 25 boards a week. So I'm living at home with no expenses, going to college, and making $70-$90 a week surfing." The company also absorbed travel expenses, which provided Sam the opportunity to surf the gulf and east coasts of the U.S., Hawaii and California. In Puerto Rico he came in second (to Codgen) in the East Coast Championship.

Sam and the Hawaii shop crew Richard Munson, Fletcher Sharpe , Che Sharpe

In 1968, Codgen negoatiated a deal with Con Surfboards, creating the Butterfly Series. It was Codgen, Gornto and Bruce Valluzzi who partnered in the venture. ...
Bruce Valuzzi and Sam on the Con Butterfly Team
In January 1970, Gornto made a decision to leave Con to return to school. But when Codgen called with the idea for Sunshine Surfboards and a plan to go to California to establish the business, Gornto followed the lure of surfing into the (now lucrative) waters of business with the big boys of the sport. ... With dealers in place on the east coast, the cumulative fame of the surfers and the connections of Codgen and Gornto, Bing soon had Sunshine Surfboards in shops from Miami to Maine. Codgen and Gornto also discussed opening a surfshop in Cocoa Beach; but ultimately Gornto partnered with Bill Frierson, Pat O'Hare, Fred Grosskreutz, and Dan Dawson to open Sunshine House in November 1970.