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Mikes Mash | February 2012

February 29, 2012

Mike's Mash Up
Michael Akira West is the Owner and Creative Director of 686 Technical Apparel. The following are some of his experiences inside and out of the industry across the globe. *Add Comments at Bottom of Page!

Rising Sun-Chow Hound
February 29, 2012

After my short stop in Taiwan, I jetted to Tokyo to visit our long standing partners from another mother. The crew from Blue Achieve. I haven’t been back since the tragedies last year. My local friends tell me that there’s two versions of what’s really going on here. The first one is what the government is telling people (It's safe to eat, drink and do everything as usual). The other is what the government is NOT saying (Let's put it this way, Japanese people won’t really know how deep the radioactive effects are until years later). For now, we all have to keep living, but some with more caution than usual. As always, my time is brief here, but I’d like to break it down to three mashes, starting with what you eat and drink. Even if you’re not a foodie, you have to recognize that Japanese offerings are world class. Here’s one example. It starts off like this, GOMA


The circle by the sea




Where did they all go


How thoughtful


Only in Japan


Look into my eyes


I’ll give you all my Yen


Only if I can get 10 more of these and pack 'em in my carry on


I’m a yakitori dude, but this appetizer is not for me. Chicken sashimi is said to be sweet and fresh. However I’ll take your word on this one


They do chicken different overseas. I like chicken meatballs, but not necessarily with chunky cartilage


Yes, more my style!


Japan is known for vending machining everything. They’ve gone digital with some stuff


I like this one


The Vestal and Straight Six crew were in town. Satoshi and Derek were into a place called Bar Trench


Old world charm, Absinthe dripped by the drop


Night cap

All the Lights
February 28, 2012

Ye said it first, but it was director Jacob Sutton who made a short film of his buddy having some fun in the French alps at night.

The East Side
February 27, 2012

I’ve been getting random emails from heads in Western Canada about how good it's been in the mountains. “Let's ride, Come down and I’ll show you whats up.” Normally, I’m cool not being able to go up, but this year with the poor winter season, I’m down for just about anything. However, February is my travel month for meetings, trade shows, and wrapping up development and design. So NO GO for me. What is a GO is getting on another plane and heading to the Far East for more meetings. Red eye from LA, land at 6am, drop my bags, head to the office in Taiwan and here’s how my morning started.


Lots of stuff to go over, approve, fix, pick things, a little bit of yelling, planning, working, spec’ing, re-working, hustling, planning again, having tea, asking for favors, give a lot, take more, give again, then it's lunch time!


Good luck?


Secret sauce


Back in the office and 8 more hours working and finalizing production, delivery dates and the design/development calendar. I look at the clock and its almost 10pm. A phone rings and the vendors insist taking me out. I head back to my room for less than 5 minutes and meet everyone down the street. I walk in and everyone’s playing dice.


I got 9 on it


They're into Johnny here


You lose, you drink


I woke up at 6am in LA, had a full day at work, took the red eye at 1am, didn’t sleep for 16 hours on the plane over, arrived at 6am, worked until 10pmish, its now 1:30am and I’m starting to see things. . . .I think this iphone is alive.


Peace out, I need a “delicious sandwich” and I’m going to bed

20 years of Inspiration, Collaboration and Innovation
February 23, 2012

Back in October, Mike Lewis (senior editor of Transworld Business,) hit us up about doing an article on our upcoming double decade anniversary. It was a busy time and we were in between a lot of stuff, however the good folks at TW have always had our back, so of course we were into it. When it comes to interviews, I’m personally not the best. What I mean is that I would make a terrible politician as I call it like it is. I’m still in denial that someone actually wants to hear what I have to say. I’m just a dude, with a dream and passion to create things all the while trying to have fun. If you have 15 minutes to check out what Transworld wrote, check it HERE or I’ll make it easier and ready below (©2011 Transworld Publications)


The Present

It’s late October, and the air is beginning to take on a crisp in Southern California. While the Rockies are getting their first major storm, it’s still far from jacket weather outside in Orange County, but inside the doors of Santa Ana’s Granberry studios, it’s full winter. An all-star cast is gathered trying on hundreds of first layers, softshells, and outerwear pieces lined up on dozens of racks for the 686 20-year anniversary catalog shoot.

Current team riders Patrick McCarthy and Forest Bailey clown with photographer Mike Granberry and 686 VP of Marketing, Kristin Cusic, as former 686 riders and partners including Ethan “E Stone” Fortier, Stephen Duke, Gaetan Chanut, Kevin Zacher, and Chris Engelsman catch up and pose for the upcoming 300-plus page catalog commemorating the double decade of the brain child of one of snowboarding’s most creative minds, Michael Akira West.

Planting The Seeds: Inspiration In Three Acts

While 686’s story begins in 1992, its seeds were planted 20 years prior. Mike West coined the brand’s name from the date June 6, 1986 (6/86), when his grandmother from Japan showed him an antique design, that inspired him to start something for himself in life, and for his age when he launched the company (6+8+6=20). Growing up in Manhattan Beach, California, Mike found his first true passion in skateboarding in the early ‘80s. Skating grew to engulf all of West’s free time, with days spent hitting parks and street spots from Huntington to Venice, sessioning with the likes of Jason Lee and Ed Templeton, and taking notes on what Steve Rocco was doing on the business side of the skate industry as West skated for first Santa Monica Airlines and then World Industries.

In ’86, West was introduced to his next driving passion—snowboarding, and while he hated on it at first for not being skating, he quickly realized the potential of adding speed and bigger jumps into the mix for creatively expressing yourself sideways. He began riding more and more, and eventually took a job at Goldmine Resort, a little place east of the city that would eventually become Big Bear.

West had always been interested in fashion and became intrigued by the independent looks and styles he saw on the hill. “Bear in the early ‘90s was really where it all started,” says West. Mike Parillo was building the world’s first park, Outlaw, the best snowboarders were there pushing each other, and West met people like Tom Sims and Plain Sane Founder Mike Maceda, who were actually making a living through snowboarding by not just creating products, but by setting trends.

At the same time, West was commuting from LA where he was in USC’s Entrepreneur Program. During his senior year, the pieces of the 686 equation began to add up as part of his senior project - -to create a business plan. While most of his peers worked on traditional businesses, West took to heart advice from his professor, Mack Davis. “He told me to do something you love, that you’re passionate about,” says West, speeding between meetings in Carlsbad and Manhattan Beach sitting at the helm of his matte gray wrapped Land Rover. The message that combining work and play could mean getting paid to do what you love, struck a chord and what was once an academic exercise turned into an actual business plan for JIB 686 Enterprises.

One of the entrepreneur program’s main features is bringing successful graduates back to speak to the class, and in 1992 a young USC grad named Steve Klassen, who had started a shop called Wave Rave in Mammoth Lakes, California, came to speak to West’s class. West had begun making T’s and beanies in November of ’92 and visited Klassen’s shop shortly after.

“My project in that class was to launch a snow clothing brand,” recalls Klassen, “but I started a shop instead. Mike came in and reminded me about meeting in his class and told me he had launched a brand. I gave him a $1,000 order on the spot.” West delivered an order of JIB branded Tee’s and hats and they checked. “I still have one of those shirts around,” says Klassen. “They would still probably do good today.”

Rolling The Dice

Driving through LA’s garment district on the way to the launch of 686’s 20-year collaboration with Scion cars, West lights up as he points out the factory where he made his first Tee’s, and the buildings where he sourced the materials. In a world of outsourcing, where you can start a brand by sending a wire transfer and a graphics file, West built 686 by hand, literally, sourcing, sewing, and creating the first several lines in his LA backyard. The second profound lesson West learned at USC was that your 20’s and 30’s are a golden age in business as they’re the age of taking risks, a time when it’s okay to fail. “For a professor to say ‘it’s okay to fail’ was amazing,” says West of the advice of Mack Davis, who also taught Mossimo Giannulli, Podium’s Dunlap brothers, and Tom Knapp.

At the time, no one believed you could build technical outerwear in the US, but West decided to roll the dice and take the risk. He sourced fabric in Portland and sewed the product in LA for the first two seasons. Living in an apartment in South Central Los Angeles, West was entrenched in a grittier environment than most snowboarders and brands, and that, along with a pride of place and his self-taught aesthetic, translated into lines that helped land 686 its first accounts domestically and in Japan.

Another major lesson West took away from Davis was the fact that cash flow is king. “It’s the essence of every business, but especially snow since it’s so seasonal,” explains West, who not only knows the creative side of the business inside and out, but has paid his dues on the financial side as well—a critical piece in growing the business. West is the sole owner of 686 to this day, and he is rightfully proud of his status as one of the few remaining large owner-operatored run brands in snowboarding.

“He’s been a great representative for the industry,” says Klassen. “We need people like Mike and Jake [Burton], that bring personality to the companies. Having owner-operators is incredibly important. That’s why I haven’t sold my shop, and I think that’s a big part of why those guys haven’t sold.”

The Birth Of The Collab

During the first decade of the brand’s existence, West, who describes his role as to constantly challenge his team, continually pushed them to see where they could take the outerwear category. From developing the now iconic Smarty line, to launching one of the first eco-focused outerwear products in ’96, to pushing the envelope with technical fabrics and fabrications, every 686 piece has a story to tell by design.

While these developments helped 686 cement itself within the industry, a new idea they hit upon in 2005 would take them to an entirely new level. One of the other speakers that came to his USC class was Tom Knapp, founder of Club Sportswear and Honolua. At the time, Mike was making tees and wanted to expand. “Knapp shared that creating relationships in business is one of the best things you can do to build and grow,” says West of a lesson he has definitely taken to heart.

In 2003, West saw a growing artist movement in LA that would evolve into the street-wear culture of today. “Snowboarding was lacking the street vibe and I wanted to present it in a way where I could use my inspirations, so I created the Artist Collaboration Effort (ACE),” explains West. ACE brought together artists Shepard Fairey, Wes Humpston, Andy Jenkins, and Scott Hersk in its first season and has added countless other artists since. “I had these circles of friends that I brought together and amazing things came out of,” smiles West, adding: “I thought why not bring together companies?”

Today, new collabs drop weekly, if not daily in the industry, but in 2005, they were unheard of in snowboarding. West approached Will Howard, Dragon’s founder and a fellow owner-operator, a crucial aspect of the endemics 686 chooses to partner with, and launched snowboarding’s first co-branded package– a goggle and jacket that were sold together. “Mike is one of the most creative and energetic business owners of the last 20 years,” says Howard, who was taken with the idea and is partnering with 686 again for its 20th anniversary collection. “We always look forward to collaborations between Dragon and 686. Mike has an innate sense of what will work best.”

“We had no idea if it would work, we had to learn a whole new set of rules working with another brand’s expectations, but it kick started things,” exclaims West, about taking off the blinders of what was possible. But work it did, and the floodgates opened. “Two or three years into it people started to catch on to what we were doing,” says West.

Collaborations are an exceptional way to expose your product to a new demographic, but they have to be approached correctly to ensure a proper fit, maximum benefit to both brands, and to build your company’s allure by partnering with brands with a similar message and reputation in their space. “We only want to work with people we have personal relationships with and are leaders in their category,” adds West of who he partners with. “Every year we up the ante and it’s all about finding the right partners.”

The brand has definitely continued pushing the bar, and has worked with a vast array of both endemic and non-endemics with similar ethos including Hello Kitty, Vestal, Dakine, Levi’s, Famous Stars and Straps, KR3W, New Era, New Balance, and HUF. And that’s just the start. For its 20th anniversary, keep your eyes out for the 686-Scion collab car, as well as products from Dickies, Freewaters, GoPro, Union Bindings, Plain Sane, Boa, Blind Skateboards, Bern, and TransWorld SNOWboarding.

The key, according to West, is finding partners that help 686 better explain who the brand is and convey its message. “We’re not about collaborations, we’re about telling our story,” says West. “It’s not just products, it’s stories that people can relate to that don’t dilute our brand message.” Westlife Sucka!

Today, West’s passions and inspirations run the gamut from art, to cycling, surfing, blogging, photography, and just about everything else with its roots firmly planted in classic, creative soils, and along with this broad horizon of interests is a seemingly bottomless well of energy and ideas that he brings to his companies, 686 and Westlife Distribution.

Westlife was founded as a holding company for 686. However, as the company finishes the build out of its new 42,000 square foot offices and warehouse, plus external artist pods, in Compton, Westlife is coming into its own as a driving part of Mike’s growing vision. Westlife recently partnered with Canada’s NRI Distribution, which distributes numerous brands including Quiksilver, Volcom, and 686 north of the border, on a new E-commerce fulfillment service to brands in North America. The partnership will run out of Westlife’s new offices and provide third-party logistics services such as pick and pack, inventory management, vendor compliance, freight, returns management, as well as E-Commerce solutions that include web design, studio photography, merchant services, shopping cart maintenance, and customer service.

Along with this push, what was once just a shell company is rapidly filling with partners. West nods that he’ll be announcing some other large distribution deals in January, along with Herschel and Terry Kennedy’s Fly Society who are already on board.

And that’s just one piece of the pie. Situated outside the warehouse are a number of metal silo units that will be work spaces for numerous small brands as the Westlife campus develops into a kind of mini-incubator for LA-based action sports and streetwear brands.

Incubating An Industry And Individuals

Life is a series of meaningful events that shape your direction. To some, these seem random collisions that send you pinballing on a new course, but to the more introspective, key events are decision points that allow you to refocus your trajectory towards that next game-changing moment. West definitely tends towards the latter, and along with that reflection, works to help be a game changer for other creative, driven individuals in the industry and beyond. Through initiatives such as ACE and Westlife’s incubator-esque model, West believes it’s essential to give back to the next generation of designers and innovators.

As part of this, 686 developed the Reclaim Project, a contest that challenges three up-and-coming designers with creating an item from factory scraps. Winning designs are incorporated into 686’s line, and it’s a great way to focus on the need to design more sustainable product in an intelligent manner through upcycling versus recycling.

The idea around Reclaim began back in ’96, when 686 began using recycled plastics and materials like hemp and bamboo, and came to fruition last January at SIA where the contest played out. This season, 686 is dropping its first line of Reclaim product at retail and for each product purchased 686 will give one item away to people in the US, Taiwan, China, and Japan – areas that have impacted Mike and 686 personally, a fact he’ll follow up on by making thousands of donations personally this winter.

He also firmly believes in the importance of giving back to the sport that helped make 686. “You’ve got to ask, how does your footprint further push where snowboarding needs to go? Do you just make product? Do you sponsor local resorts? What is your part? There’s only one company that’s done it significantly in snowboarding and that shouldn’t be the case.”

West, who also sits on SIA’s board, finds his role in giving back to local resorts, causes like SOS, and going back to speak every year at USC.

The “I” Word

Walking through the framed-out future offices of Westlife Distribution, our voices echoing off the 2x4s and plywood frames, West paints a picture of its future in a way that vividly takes shape through his ability to translate this blank canvas into a functional, well-designed headquarters.

“What’s next?” is a key refrain in Mike’s life. In a constant pursuit to push himself, his brand, and his team, West is focused on the future while building off the past. “Everything you do now is leading up to the next thing you’re going to do,” says West, who changes up most of his collab partners annually to continue pushing towards “what’s next?”

“Mike is incredibly inspirational as a leader; every project he comes up with and we bring into fruition as a brand and as a company usually starts with one of his ideas,” says 686 VP of Marketing Kristin Cusic. “686 is all about innovation, progression and doing things differently, and Mike lives by that mantra both professionally and personally. He truly is a creative genius hard at work.”

West is hesitant to use what he calls “the I word,” innovation, but over its 20 years, there’s no denying that 686 and its founder have moved the needle on what he describes as an incredibly personal term. He prefers to focus the discussion on “Kaizen” the Japanese term for “change for the better,” and a business philosophy of continuous improvement.

“Change is constant. Smart business people embrace it and challenge themselves to evolve and constantly move forward,” says West, who knows we’re not out of the economic morass yet, but believes that by focusing on what’s next and not resting on his laurels, he’ll be better positioned as the world turns. “Where do you want to be when the dust settles?”

VOTE please
Feb. 21, 2012

Coming off our inaugural tradeshow in Denver, our 20th anniversary themed booth just got nominated for booth of the year. From the timeline history boards (1992-2012) to the live sewing Reclaim Project design contest to the Scion collaborative car, we rolled it all out. If you like what you see, help a brother out and VOTE for us HERE.

Minus 20- Russia
Feb. 17, 2012 

The last time I’ve been to Russia was five years ago. I vastly remember I was deathly ill and it was freezing cold. Five years later, I somehow managed to get sick on the road and its not just freezing cold, but hella freezing cold. I mean more than bone chillin' cold, but really really cold (you get what I mean). When I left Poland, I was watching the news that a rare Siberian front has made Eastern Europe colder than usual. If its cold for the locals, then its probably unbearable for me. Oh well, here we go. Fresh from the plane and ready to drop in!


My brothers from another and longtime Russian partners, Andrew and Dmitry


Look what I found


The goal for my brief time here is more than shake hands and kiss babies. It's to make sure we’re doing the best we can to better represent 686 to the Russian community. 686 has been involved with Russia for close to 12 years and are market leaders in our space. The challenge here is that a lot has changed and is constantly evolving. Let me take you on a short tour of what's going on. Moscow is vastly different than other parts of Russia where its even more challenging to make sure your brand is held to the highest standards. In the past we had problems with counterfeiters claiming they were the originators of 686. Through a very expensive and timely legal process, we’ve pushed them out and made sure everyone understood what Authentic means

Only in Russia


686 Stockists here are mainly specialty like this cool shop named Trajectory


Nice and neat


Our women's collection is well represented


Reclaim Project -Buy one, we give one


Other shops can be located in specialty malls like this one


Isn’t interesting that it's next door to this place.


How convenient you can pick up a 686 smarty command jacket and a Luger with a silencer on your way out


Specialty mom and pop stores is where you’ll find the 686 brand and Gravity 98 is one of the best


Lookie look


Down the way, we stopped by another stockiest called, the Boardshop (very original)


These two hold it down and are loyal 686 followers. They kept wanting to take a photo with me, which I have no idea why




Andre and Dmitry wanted to show me how Russians snowboard here. Sine Moscow is different than other parts of the country, I thought it would be cool to check it out. Wow, was I in for a surprise. This place was located smack dab in the city. (Yes that’s part of the slope on top of the building)


Talk about a gnarly hike


Don’t look down


Rope tow


Such a different world up top. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this


It's minus 20 and they're still making snow


Over the hill and through the woods, we drove another hour and checked out a “legit” mountain. Well not really, but it will have do to. The shitty thing is that if I knew we were going to the hill, I might have dressed more appropriately than street clothing. I’m going up where?


It's so cold here that they give you butt pads to wear on the lift.


Dmitry isn’t afraid




Here in Russia, they do things a little different. Why bother to keep your board on your feet, when you can hold it various ways.







Man, I think I found a new trend on the hill


My entire body is turning blue. I think its time to get out of here. The only issue is the that it takes a considerable amount of time to get to places here. Traffic is the absolute worst here


Finally, a place to sit down. I need something warm to fill my body and this seems to work for now


Your traditional Russian meal


So much for starting the Veggie diet


They tell me it's tradition to jump in the ice cold water after dinner. After I got warmed up, I thought about it for a second, but I graciously declined.


As usually, it was a quick trip, but well worth it to fly the flag. More than anything with these travels, I’m proud that we have great people like Andre and Dmitry representing our brand. Good night from the Kremlin and see you back in sunny So Cal

Minus 15- Poland
Feb. 15, 2012 

Each year after the ISPO show, I try and visit a country, before I come back to the states. Last year it was Norway, this year I’m doing double duty and checking out our partners in Poland and Russia. First stop is Krakow">Poland. To Americans, Europe is Europe, but in reality its so much more than that, especially the East. I’ve never been to Poland but so far all I can say is that its COLD. I heard from the news that there’s pressure from Siberia making it colder than normal. Just what I needed….

So much to see, so little time


1000 years old and counting


Out of this world


I see the light


When you work internationally, you really have to experience what this means. It goes far beyond what you can see on a powerpoint presentation, spreadsheet or sales meeting. Our partners in Poland are well connected and fly the 686 flag in full force. Zbyszek is the head of the company and has graciously shown me how Polish people are like.


They have a tight staff of soldiers on the ground that back the story and I’m stoked to be a part of it. The marketing team- - ready to roll


Our 1213 Winter collection, showroom ready


Zbyszek explains that the average Polish worker makes about $300-500 a month. It doesn’t take a lot to realize that our products are for a small market. He also explains that in order for distributors to remain competitive, its imperative that your also direct to retail. They have three of their own stores in various parts of the country. All of them are pretty well merchandised and put together. Have you ever seen a chandelier in a shop before?



He said despite a slow winter, 686 products were the first to sell out. This is all that’s left.


Only in Krakow


I couldn’t help myself


Did I mention that its minus 15? I’ve been to cold places, but this is on the top of the list (And its not even windy)


Anytime you come to a new place, there’s always secret finds of cool places to eat. The Kielbasa man is one of those finds. Only here for a few hours, one day of the week.


Fire fire


Two for two



The Rat
Feb. 14, 2012 

The first time I discovered the Rat (as in Ratskellar,) was in a Government Camp in Mount Hood Oregon in the early 90’s. I didn’t quite know what to make of it- - lots of beer and debauchery. Not until a few years later, did I visit the actual Ratskellar in Germany. Each time we come to Munich, its tradition to go to either the Rat or Hofbrauhaus. Yes I know its overrated and overplayed, but we do it out of tradition. You can’t find a place like this in the states


The one and only


I love the Miss Ratskellar hall of fame


So lovely


It only gets better with age


Blood Sausages, Snitzels and a Knuckle. Kinda hard to digest this all at once considering I’m trying to turn vegetarian. However it somehow goes down easier with Schnapps

Eat x Drink x Smoke x Chat = Do Work
February 13, 2012 

Fresh off the plane from Denver through Washington, we arrive at the ISPO trade fair in Munich, Germany. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea on how business gets done in Europe, but it's definitely different than the states. Shows in the states typically start with meetings followed by food and drinks at night. At the largest winter sports show, ISPO, it happens all at once. When I first came over here in the early 90’s, I was blown away. Now I’m used to it, the mandate for SIA next year is that we’re all gonna be Europeans (minus the 8 week vacation schedule). The entrance to the 686 booth was packed.


Stephane is our GM for Europe and isn’t it fitting that he has this waiting for me? Which Hell should I choose?


We brought the RECLAIM PROJECT design contest to Germany this time around. With ISPO’s support, it was cool to see how everyone reacted to the new environment.


72 hours to sew a fully functional garment is a difficult thing regardless what country it is.


Not the best part of the show, but it is what it is


The ISPO show is HUGE. 15 halls of brands in the snow and sports field is overwhelming. Brands I’ve never heard before are living large. The market potential is big, but also very difficult. We have a solid network of direct European reps and exclusive Distribution partnerships, all of which I’m sincerely grateful for. One person who deserves a lot of the credit for keeping people in order is our head of customer service, Alda. She’s always on the lookout and able to speak 5 different languages, she cuts some mean Cheese.


Swiss cheese and Hell. What more can I ask for?

Lights Out Recap
February 10, 2012

Okay, one last time. See you next year

686 Lights out at Casselman's from Focus 4 Design on Vimeo.

Rally Time
February 9, 2012

For those that know 686, you probably know that we like to do different things. Our foundation is producing technical apparel with roots in snow. More importantly we like to keep things fresh and constantly push the boundaries of what can and cannot be done. When we teamed up with Toyota to produce the world’s first snowboarding concept car, we took a small step into the word of Rally. We’re not going to be producing Rally Motorsports Apparel, but the message is that its okay to do things a little different. We’re inspired by people that are into their craft and if 686 can be a part of this in a unique manner, then who knows what’s next.

The Rally American Championships were held last week in Michigan where lot of slush, snow and ice brought conditions to the limit.


In the end, team Sparco Rally xD took 2nd place and on track to be champions in the overall series. 686 is the official apparel sponsor of the team.

Gold and Silver
Feb. 8, 2012 

Winter X-Games was last week in Aspen, Colorado and 686 were well represented in the Street events. Literally we took over with young gun Forest Bailey leading the charge. If you know Forest, you’ll agree he’s probably the chillest rider on earth. Not even 20 years old, Forest has dominated every gig he’s been a part of. 686 team general, Pat McCarthy told me that Forest didn’t even practice! He was chillin' in the tent while everyone was on the course. When his name was called, he came out, did his thing and killed it. GOLD goes to Forest.

Check it here

We’re not finished yet. 686 faction rider, Ryan Paul from the Midwest came in strong, landing him a SILVER in X-Games Street. Congrats!

Believe it or not, former 686 shred Nick Visconti got Bronze and Canadian 686 faction rider, Phil Jacques came in 5th. Congrats to the 686 family.

Lights Out
Feb. 7, 2012 

The SIA trade show was in Las Vegas for 37 years. Since the move to Denver three years ago, it's been better, considering the city speaks the language of snow. The problem that many of us felt was lost in the move to the Rockies was less staying out late at the tables and more the raw energy that happened at night. So last year Kristin, who handles our global marketing efforts and I started talking about what we could do to create something special and bring back what seemed to have been missing. The conversation started when I told her about the crazy days in the 90’s when there were a few rock stars in snowboarding and Palmer was definitely on top as the bad-ass. In Skateboarding, there was this other character, Simon Woodstock. I don’t know how to exactly explain Simon, but people viewed him more like a clown that happened to be on a skateboard than anything else. Someone decided to bring them into a boxing ring at SIA Vegas and the build-up was crazy. In the end, Palmer backed out due to an “injury,” and Simon beat the shit out of the stand in, Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies). However the point was that it was cool for the entire industry to get behind something that was in good fun. Shit talking, rivalries, pro-ho’s, wide stances, no backs, punk rock defined snowboarding in the 90’s. Today it's much different and I wanted to bring back a little bit of the fun energy that fueled the shred world. So we decided to throw our own charity boxing event, with the support of the good fellas at Skullcandy, Electric and Grenade called “LIGHTS OUT” at SIA.


It started out as a hefty line up of all types of famous personalities. Skateboarder vs Snowboarder, Retailer vs Retailer, Executive vs Executive. Once word got out, it spread quickly. However the problem we found out that a lot of people wanted to be a part of it, but when you had to get into the ring, it was more of a challenge. It came down to wire and although it was a little rough around the edges, the turnout was f’n incredible. Danny Kass was the guest referee while the Dingo emcee the night away. You probably already seen some of this, but I’ll give you some backstage snippets. The place was packed to the rim.


The green room was literally a “green room” from sight and smell. Kristin getting them all wrapped up


Sketchy D was the Jersey Italian Stallion and ready to get it on


Team Arbor ready for an upset


The highlight of the night was the CEO Showdown between Johnny, the pretty boy, Gerhis (CEO of Vestal) and Bruce, the Birdman, Beach (CEO of Electric). I gotta give it up to the both of them for doing this. About a month ago when I called Bruce to be a part of it, he was like “HELL YEAH.” Bird was the first one to fully commit and has been super rad about it. We had 3 other contenders but they all backed out. Two days before the show, I hit up Johnny about doing it and he was like “Cool.” No training and no worries for Johnny--that’s how supportive he was. Check Johnny out with his Apollo creed get up. Shadow boxing I think not


Birdman was in the zone and ready to rumble.


I’m ready for this- -Ding!


Check it out how it all went down Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Oh I almost forgot to mention that Raekwon from Wu Tang finished the night. It was a good ole time and I think everyone came out of it with pretty stoked. We’re already planning how to make it bigger and better next year.

The Show
February 6, 2012

It’s the busiest time of the year for me in terms of traveling. We’re deep in the sales cycle for our 20th anniversary collection which will drop in September 2012. We actually started in November of 2011 and now at the tail end of the selling cycle. The SIA show in Denver, Colorado is grand daddy of 'em all for the North American market. Crazy days of meetings, showings, sleepless nights of everything in between has pushed back my mashes, so please excuse the lag time.

Trade shows are well just that, trade shows. People close to me know that I’m not the biggest fan of the condensed bro-bra, shake down and rather much more into one-on-one time. I’ll spare you the details and summarize some highlights.

Our head of Sales (Jono) and Marketing (Kristin) doing the pep rally with our reps before the start of the show. Gooooo team!


The entrance to our village of a booth. Yes, we’re livin the dream


In addition to the dozen selling stations and our grand merchandizing area, we brought our collaborative 686 concept car. Peeps were straight out freakin' out.


I think Kearl (Chairman, Skullcandy) and Rick (Founder, Skullcandy) were diggin' the ride


So was OG, Trent Bush (Nomis, Technine)

Outside the booth, we at 686 had our 20 year history boards outlining our inspirations from 1992-2012. Stay tuned for more on this


Towards the front, we presented our RECLAIM PROJECT (with the support of SIA and Malakye) and brought 3 aspiring designers from across the nation to produce a technical jacket from reclaimed materials in 72 hours. Scott (Holden), Pat (Volcom) and Jen (Coal) were cool enough to act as mentors and judge the entire thing.


Say hello to Paul from Brooklyn


Paul’s favorite brand is Acronym. Can you tell?


Jillian from Ohio is in the zone


Jonathan from Hollywood making it loud and proud


Too many characters around the show to mention. My head is about to burst. However, when legendary freestyle master and my idol growing up, TK stops by and says whats up, I realize that it's all good.


TW's natural rider of the year, Jake Blauvelt, his lady and 686 general, Pat McCarthy


About 6 months ago, I mentioned that we were doing a one-of-a-kind concept car with Toyota to my friend Tom (CEO of Spyder). He immediately said “Super Cool.” He also said that Spyder was doing a car with Audi. I’m like “Damn, that’s pretty ill.” So of course, I wanted to see what they did. It was much different than our concept, but in all, still pretty ill. Say Cheese, Tom


Follow the line


If you know SOS Outreach, you know Arn and all the incredible things he and his crew do to support the less fortunate youth in snow sports. However I’d rather not know what he does in his spare time

Do X Don’t
Feb. 3, 2012 




Feb.1, 2012 

Winter’s finally here, get yours before I get mine From light insulator to package neck pillow-The Mannual Warp Packable Puffy


History already made- TheMannual Legacy Jacket

A 7-in-1 juggernaut- The Smarty Complete Jacket

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January 2012 
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March 2011
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December 2010
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May 2010: Part 1
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March 2010: Part 1
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February 2010