In 2005, we were just a few guys building gear designed for hunting, worthy of mountaineering. Our small team was working around the clock trying to run a business and get product out the door, and we just weren't hunting enough to do the kind of field testing that results in game-changing innovation. So we recruited a couple elite hunters to help us beat the hell out of gear in the most demanding weather and terrain imaginable, and to tell us what to change. The Sitka Athlete program was born.
This idea wasn't new to the outdoor gear world, but it was revolutionary within the hunting industry. People joked. They asked how athletic a guy had to be to drink beer, shoot stuff, and talk to the camera.
But the Athletes have earned the badge. They have prepared, scouted, and executed with intense focus. They are not celebrities, and none of them have TV shows. They are remarkable hunters, passionate and authentic sages. Guys anyone would be lucky to learn from. They understand our mission of Turning Clothing Into Gear, of inventing tools that help them achieve their goals. And with that understanding, they give us bare-knuckle, laser-focused feedback that continues to push the boundaries of what we think is possible. They are the pinnacle of field testers, the subjects of some of our favorite stories.
With their help, our gear has progressed to the point that mountaineering companies we always looked up to now use some of our innovations.
So that's what an Athlete is. But before you learn how to become one, you should know that no Athlete is paid to wear or endorse Sitka. In fact, each of them independently came to the same conclusion that I did, and began assembling and testing their own Sitka Systems long before we asked them to join the team.
OK, now to the question: how do you become a Sitka Athlete?
We seek you out. We've heard your name from hunters we respect. We've heard your stories and seen your photos – maybe in magazines, but more likely in forwarded emails or faded photo albums or the annals of social media. You inspire those around you to hunt with more integrity and grit. For you, good enough is never good enough.
When we meet you, we'll see that you're more walk than talk. And when you talk about hunting, your words will drip with passion and authenticity, with respect for the animals and the land. You probably won't pitch us out of the blue to become a Sitka Athlete. Those who've come before you were on our radar, and they made sure we knew they had Sitka in their DNA before we ever began the Athlete conversation.
So that's what it takes. These guys inspire us -- push us -- to be more remarkable. We hope they do the same for you.