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Mike's Mash | September 2012

September 1, 2012

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

I'm square
September 28, 2012

Life's a square.

It never goes as planned, doesn't seem to always fit, but in the end works out.

I like geometric shapes and I love squares.

Besides giving us some Gangnam style, the heads over in South Korea are also on the same page with an exhibition for Hyundai called Hyper-Matrix by Jonpasang.

2012 Yeosu EXPO HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP - Hyper-Matrix from yangsookyun on Vimeo.

Cover boy
September 27, 2012

Back on solid U.S. soil and just got word from INSTA that lifelong Matix ambassador and legend extraordinaire, Marc Johnson is going to be the new cover boy for Thrashers Nov issue.

I think MJ's been hanging around Rodney too much when he did this kickflip to darkslide.

Congrats MJ!

Lions, Tigers and Bears…
September 26, 2012

…Oh my. Well, not really Bears, but we had the opportunity to do a little Safari before heading back to the states.

Previously, I was in the mindset of getting out of dodge after the climb.

However, in hindsight, stoked to spend some time doing something I've never done before.

I've heard from friends whose been on safari and told me that it's worth it if you can do it.

I kept telling myself, "I've been to a Zoo before, so how much better can it be?"

Damn, I was wrong.

To start off with, we're in these bad boys.

To hopefully see these other bad, but good things.

I'm ready for the "Big Five".

Yes, thanks for the notice.

Ok, I get it.

The safari tour was simply out of this world.

Being able to go into the world of nature was dope.

We're cruising in our Land Rovers, blasting Watch the Thrown, beers in the back, armed with my 60D and safari garb, we're on a mission to capture what was out there.

Check it.

The highlight of the ride was seeing an actual "kill" of a female lion and her cubs on a zebra.

It was trippy to see everything go down in front of our eyes.

What we witnessed next took us by surprise.

All of a sudden, we saw the two cubs tugging at something.

At first we thought it was the leg of the zebra, and then we noticed it was the unborn baby of the momma zebra.

It was pregnant and it all seemed to make sense why it was slower than the rest of the pack of zebras.

My heart dropped as the cubs pulled the lifeless baby zebra from the momma.

Damn, its all free reign here.

In all, this was more than a trip to the top of a mountain or a way to give back or even something new to see, it was a life changing experience of being part of something that was completely out of your control, which def is a good thing.

And btw, we're now HUGE in Africa.

Give Back
September 25, 2012

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on behalf of the Challenged Athletes Foundation was an accomplishment.

However getting the chance to show thanks to the support staff of guides, porters, cooks, assistants and everyone else involved, made it all worth it.

How about starting off with Kili in a bottle + 686.

The clan was ready for a party.

High fives and bumps all the way around.

Gotta give some love to the dudes who helped me along the way.

One new 686 ltd ed 3ply eVENT Airflight shell is yours, my man.

Let me guess, you like the 686 Snaggle beanie.

After the Porter Party, we had some unfinished biz to take care of.

As part of the charity work in Africa, we were involved in bringing racing wheelchairs from the states to challenged athletes here.

Say hello to Africa's next Paralympic athletes.

There's obviously a shortage of proper resources for people with disabilities here.

When it comes to athletes with disabilities and there shot to excel in life, let alone competition, forget about it.

Have you heard of Emmanuel's Gift?

So the folks at CAF, along with our guides, Beth, Paul and Denise reached out to a bunch of disabled athletes in the states to donate their used race chairs so we could gratuitously pass it forward to those in need here in Africa. 15 race chairs later, here we are.

This dude is one of contenders of the next Paralympic games-He now has a chance to make it a reality.

Letting go of a device, such as this wheelchair is a huge emotional process.

However when you can connect the dots to someone who embraces it, the process is complete.

Check the photo out of the women who donated it.

Smiles for miles.

Give Back your way.

Big ups CAF.

September 24, 2012

It may not have looked like that much of a long journey to the top, but to my posse and me, it was.

The prepping, paperwork, shots, traveling, hiking, waiting, and everything else in between, it was.

However it's all about to change as it's summit day!

I'll try to make this short and sweet, even though it's gonna be about a full 22 hour day, including the decent all the way down the mountain.

Up until now, I felt incredible. All the other day climbs were cool and besides some normal headaches from the change in altitude, it was all good. For some reason or another, I didn't feel exactly the same tonight.

Besides the lack of sleep from the past few days, I knew my system was a little off.

My stomach was churning, the back of my head was pounding and we haven't even started to summit.

You can tell the mood of the group started to also adjust from a joking and playful attitude to more serious and a bit nervous tone.

All geared up in winter attire, we start the summit from Barafu camp which is at 15,100 ft and get moving around 11pm.

Previous hikes commenced in the morning at much lower altitudes so this was different.

The scene started off funky as we were just trying to find each other in the dark.

As we got our groove, this is pretty much how it looked like for the next 6 hours, step after step, up and over, through the switchbacks, one in front of another like walking zombies.

During the first few days of the climb, we were talking, joking, blasting music and doing what you typically do when you're with homies.

The mood now is a complete juxtaposition from the previous with almost complete silence with the exception of hearing the person in front of you slowly gasping for air.

I was in a dream state of being conscious, as you get extremely fatigued by the smallest things such as looking behind you or trying to get something out of your pocket.

I've finally come to realization that it has little to do with how healthy or fit you are, but how your own body reacts to the altitude.

And unfortunately for me, my body starts to change for the worst.

My stomach adjusts from churning to sharp pains as I have to hobble to the side and get rid of anything in my system.

As I reach for the baby wipes, I find out them frozen, in addition to my water.

After the first set of diarrhea, I immediately start to throw everything up from the day before.

I think I set a record of how much you can puke + shit at the same time.

It was classic Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), but since this happened to me when I did Mt. Whitney, I knew this was different as it also affected my legs, arms, chest and mind.

I started hallucinating and my hearing and eyesight was impaired in a manner I couldn't really understand what was going on.

All I knew that it started to get brighter as the sun was coming up.

I mustered up the strength to have the porter take a photo of me.

Although my body was shot and I had nothing in me, I knew that that I couldn't stop now.

I was close to the top and with the help of my friend Lou and my porter they gradually gave me small bits of frozen slush water enough that I couldn't throw it up.

Step by step with large deep gasps for air, I finally made it to the top.

Check it.

Immediately after this photo was taken, the lead guide, Charles ordered me to be taken down the mountain.

All I remember was that I started to get agitated and confused on why he was having me go down earlier than everyone else.

I recall my friends started to tell me that it was a good idea to listen to Charles and gave me silly reasons why. (keep in mind that I was half awake, hearing and seeing things and talking gibberish).

So my porter propped me up and we started the 4,000 ft decent back to Barafu camp.

As we drifted down the pebbled mountain, my body and mind also adjusted for the better. It was amazing how it all changed.

When I finally made it down to Barafu camp and everyone else followed, I soon realized that it was a good thing that Charles made the call as he hinted that it was leading to Cerebral Edema (HACE) which would definitely rain on my party.

In all, the journey was amazing - Incredible country, cool local people, good friends, appreciation for the simple things, happy to be in the present and a total respect for the mountain.

Live Life.

I spoke too soon
September 21, 2012

The good thing about being outdoors is that you do everything outdoors.

The only thing I have an issue is...

Ooops, I only wish they made it a tad bigger.

Target practice.

Shane knows the way.

We have snow.

It's about 15,000 ft above sea level and surprisingly I feel great.

So great I'm gonna go up there.

Now, down there.

You've heard the expression that mountain weather turns on a dime.

It's true.

Where am I?

Either the altitude is finally hitting me or I am high and seeing double.

Murphy's Law. As soon as you feel good, things start to change.

Shane is praying to the mountain gods that they need to take care of us.

September 20, 2012

Ready and Willing.

Follow the leader.

It kind of feels like I'm in Big Bear, but not really.

Each day of the climb brings new findings.

The surface looks very interesting.

As we take a break, I realize that we're in good hands.

Our porters are our guardian angels.

Did I mention that our crew carries well over 40lbs on their head + another 10lbs on their back all in the highest tech gear including these brand new footwear device that actually straps on to part of your toes.


True Vintage-worn tried and true from the source.

Onwards and Upwards
September 19, 2012

Well, good morning to you.

I had this weird dream that I was in another country and was crazy enough to climb a large hill….

Damn that wasn't a dream, it's tent city….

How cute, a tent bathroom.

Water is essential to keep you alive and well.

We're supposed to have 4 liters a day.

All the water comes from the stream and our trusty porters use a Katadyn filter to make sure its purified.

Kilimanjaro is special.

It's one of the only mountains in the world that allows you to travel through various climate conditions all in one hike.

Yesterday it was wet and muddy through the rainforest.

Today we're coming out of it into a totally different landscape.

My homie, Shane flies the flag, literally.

Design maven, Thomas has finally realized he's not in Kansas (I mean SLC) anymore.

We're going the right way, aren't we?

Onwards and Upwards.

The Long Journey
September 18, 2012

After having this in my calendar so damn long, it feels weird that we’re actually going to start this climb to the top of Kilimanjaro.

How about some “points to remember.”

#1-I wonder if cruising on my bike at sea level counts
#2-Pass the tissue please
#3-My girl still tells me I act like a kid
#4-I’m screwed
#5-I knew I forgot something
#6-I feel tired already
#7-I’m thirsty now

Sign in here.

I’m official now.


These are my heroes.

Can you believe that this dude has about 40+ lbs on top of his head?

My first African sunset.

The Motherland
September 17, 2012

For the past 6 months I’ve been prepping to climb one of the famed 7 summits of the world, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.

Although I take winter expeditions all across the globe when it comes to shredding, climbing a mountain at nearly 20,000 ft above sea level is out of my wheelhouse.

There were various motivations on why I decided to do something like this.

One, I’m doing it to support a rad charity: the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation.

Two, Africa is the only continent I haven’t been to.

Three, I’m going to test our new 686 Airflight series of ultra-lightweight jackets.

In addition of having an incredible support staff at the office and the fact that I love being put in new and challenging situations, I’m ready to do this!

Please excuse the delay in posting this as internet has been spotty at best in Africa.

Fresh off the long ride from LA and finally landed in Tanzania, Africa.

Hello Kilimanjaro!

Quick night sleep and we have an intro meeting about the long hike up.

The owner of the tour is Sebastian from the UK.

He came here close to 30 years ago on a similar trip like the one I’m at and decided not to go back home.

A quick snapshot where we’re going.

Soon after the meeting, they give us a few hours to get ready. It's all about making sure you have the right gear.

Got my 686 Airflight series ready to roll.

Do you think I have enough stuff with me?

We have a posse of 20 climbers. The crazy thing is that our support staff for the entire trip is 66 people.

What this means is that 66 of them will carry our gear, all the tents, sleeping bags, food, water, cookies supplies, everything.

In all, we’ll have an entourage of close to 100 rollin' deep for the 20,000 ft excursion.

Damn that’s a lot of heads. Check out the line-up of our porters.

A snap shot of the cooks and assistants.

Water + Food = weighs a lot and has to be carried by hand close to 50 miles up a large hill.

Damn man.

I found my personal porter.

What's happening Stanley?

Each climber needs to carry their own day pack which consists of 4 liters of water, shell pant/jkt, first aid, snacks, poncho, and misc accessories.

Your personal porter carries the rest of your gear.

It has to weigh less than 35 lbs.

I’m good but some heads on the trip are bringing too much crap.

Everything is weighed to the T.

Stanley carries everything on his head just like this.

We’re now ready to do this.

Legends of the Fall
September 13, 2012

Most of you already know the story on how I started 686 twenty years ago in Big Bear while going to school in LA. However, only a few know the back story on how I actually got into snowboarding from skateboarding in the late 80’s. To make a long story short, I learned how to snowboard in the winter of 1986 at Snow Summit in Big Bear, CA. Coming from street skating, I thought it was silly to try and skate on the snow. I vividly remember the first day on the beginner hill trying to get my toe edge furiously kick turning, while leaning back. It was all wrong and I became severely frustrated. While on my knees about to give up, I recall this one guy in a bright one piece outfit with a fresh mustache who said “Take it easy-don’t try so hard. Just lead forward and move your upper body”. I said to myself, ok I’ll give it a try and it somehow started to click. I asked the lift operator who that dude was and he said it was “Tom Sims.”

There are only a few legends in my book that contributed more to the sport and to the industry than heads will ever know- Tom was definitely one of those dudes. Tom Sims passed away from cardiac arrest yesterday. Without legends like Tom, Snowboarding, Skateboarding and even something as small as 686 would be vastly different (nor might not be here at all).

Thanks Tom for being you. God Bless and Rest in Peace.

September 12, 2012

IN MY EYES – A twenty year global retrospective of 686 presents “1993”

Skateboarding was my life from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s.

There wasn’t day that would go by where I wasn’t street skating somewhere, somehow.

I grew up skateboarding in Hermosa and Venice Beach around the likes of Rocco, Jesse Martinez, Natas, Vallely, Jason Lee, Eric Dressen, Dan Peterka and a grip of other local rippers.

Powell Peralta and Vision ruled the skate world back then but something was missing.

The core of skateboarding is about doing shit yourself and not giving a damn what others do or think.

This rebellious nature resonated with a lot of skateboarders so Steve Rocco decided to make a statement by starting Blind Skateboards with Mark Gonzalez.

The name “Blind” was a jab at Gonz’s former sponsor, “Vision.”

They looked at corporate America and the “Big 3” skate brands (Powell, Vision, Santa Cruz) as made up of everything that skateboarding shouldn’t be.

This was best communicated through their graphics, ads and having legends like Gonz, Jason Lee and Rudy Johnson charging forward.

OG Blind artist, Marc Mckee, recalls, “When Blind and World first started there were no limitations on what we could or couldn't do.”

Besides the mind blowing designs that Marc created, what I remember most were the “Dear George” ads that publicly made fun of George Powell at a time when Powell was still the biggest company in skateboarding.

The more Blind called people out, the more popular it became.

Blind was a huge influence on why I got into snowboarding as it reflected the raw nature and unwritten rules of being free to do whatever the hell you wanted to do.

I started shredding in the mid 80’s but it wasn’t until 1993 that I truly transitioned from skateboarding into snowboarding on a full time basis.

For our 20th anniversary, Marc brought it back for me and created insane hand drawn sketches of 686 that bit off what Blind did (which in turn bit off what Powell did).

Here’s a collage full of some legendary graphics that Marc personally made.

Look closer.

Like what you see?

Check out one of the upcoming joints we did for this winter.

Get it while you still can.

The Ltd Blind x 686 Anniversary Jacket.

Just what I am
September 10, 2012

Cudi cuttin' it up. His first release off the upcoming Indicud album which will drop by the end of the year. Check it.

September 7, 2012

IN MY EYES – A twenty year global retrospective of 686 presents “1992”

When I worked at Bear Mountain as a snowboard instructor in 1992, I had no idea I was in the middle of a revolution in the making as park master, Mike Parillo was creating world’s first snowboard park, Outlaw.

During those days, the progression of freestyle and park riding was high and it all started at Bear.

Legends like Guch, Szabo, Graham, Brush, Parillo, Downing, and Carrougher were the locals of the jib-bonk-butter-rail-gap scene.

One day, I was taking the lift up and met this quirky dude named Mike Maceda.

He was this energetic guy who had all these cool gadgets. He had this crazy jester hat on, a fat leash strapped to his board and funky rubber gloves.

Mike was also the owner-operator of Plain Sane accessories.

Plain Sane ruled it with the edgiest, most radical products and he had every pro rocking his gear.

Mike took me under his wing and showed me what it took to start your own snowboarding company.

He had this large warehouse space in the art district of Los Angeles, where I took a 150 square foot area in the far back corner.

He concentrated on accessories while I wanted to make clothing.

Mike Maceda and his positive and creative mindset inspired me to do better; to think differently, to make cool shit that riders wanted.

Bear on the weekends, Mt. Hood in summertime, my first ASR/SIA tradeshows, and an intro to OG shredders; Mike gave me the chance and the connections.

1992 is the year 686 was born and it will be forever dedicated to the everlasting radical nature of Mike and Plain Sane.


Get your “1992” at our new website and check out the below Ltd Edition hooks.

The ltd edition Plain Sane x 686 hoody.

The ltd edition Plain Sane x 686 beanie.

IN MY EYES – A twenty year global retrospective of 686
September 5, 2012

For twenty years, 686 has been about providing the riding community with innovative and fashionable outerwear and technical apparel that’s inspired directly from the urban and mountaineering principals we were founded upon; living, learning, progression, innovation, quality and DIY.

With an obsession to change the way you look at products, we believe anything is possible.

To commemorate our double decade, I wanted to make it personal and showcase 20 influencers that have inspired us to continually move forward.

Starting from 1992 until 2012, each year will be dedicated to a brand, product or purpose that’s had a positive impact on 686.

It’s been an incredible journey and I’d like to give you a chance to experience it with me.

Nice Hand
September 3, 2012