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686’s Twenty Years of Inspiration, Collaboration and Innovation


By: Mike Lewis
TransWorld Business
February 6, 2012

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.

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