I think the first real pair of sunglasses I wanted when I was a kid was a pair of Oakley Frogskins.
It was sometime in the late 80’s and my old $10 knockoffs weren’t getting me any points with the ladies and I was at that awkward age when I needed all the help I could get. They were sitting behind the counter at the local sports shop taunting me and I begged and pleaded for my mom to buy me a pair. It was as if my whole future hinged on that purchase, I was so mad when she flat out refused. In her sensible wisdom she stated in a tone I had heard before ”if you really want them, buy them with your own money”. I knew it wasn’t up for discussion. My mom was always like that when we were growing up. She would get us the basics we needed to look presentable but anything that was deemed “fashionable” we had to step up and get on our own. It would make us appreciate things more was her reasoning and we would thank her later on. So I spent the next couple of months mowing lawns and chopping firewood and I finally saved enough for my new shades. Then hockey season came and I desperately needed new goalie skates.
This was a story I was relating to some friends while I was down at Interbike this past year. We were all milling around reminiscing about our first pair of real sunglasses. I had just been talking with Steve Blick, Oakley's
man on the scene. Blick is Oakley's sports marketing guy and as he describes his job title- “I deal with everything on two wheels…without a motor…and speed skating.” He had just invited me to swing by the World Headquarters the next week. It couldn’t have been better timing, I had a week to kill before meeting my girl for a surf/ride trip in Oregon so I jumped at the chance to check out the scene in SoCal.
The first thing I noticed when rolling into that place was the sheer size of it. It must have taken up a couple of city blocks. The second was the Tank. Sitting out front they have a fully functional (the barrel is plugged) military tank sitting there. I guess the US Government wants to be sure they get their glasses when they need them.
Blick met me at the front gates, we signed in and over the course of the next few days he proceeded to show me the inner workings of this massive machine. The 675 000sqft building houses every facet of the company. From design, R&D, sales forces to an eyeglass factory. They even have an enforcement agency on site that deals with those shady people who sell knock offs out of their trench coats. One thing most people don’t know is that they make their own lenses and glasses on site. Most of what I saw in those two days , I needed an escort and a retina scan to get too, but for the man walking off the street wanting the Oakley experience there is a retail section in the main hall complete with an Oakley museum. It chronicles the first grips to the latest eyewear and a walk through brought past memories flooding back. Ahhh remember the ”Over the Tops”…haha.
I can be a bit clumsy sometimes. Well actually, I like to call it focused. Spending your life with a camera in hand you tend to focus on only what you see through the lens and as a result I tend to scratch a lot of lenses. They fall off my head in the desert or get put in pockets with sharp camera gear in a rush to capture the action. So it was somewhat of a revelation to me when I found out they had a lens replacement station in the lobby. Could it be? If I brought my scratched lenses in I could get them replaced for a fee. If only I would of known this sooner. The beauty is any one can walk off the street and get this done.
As we wandered around looking for the tank driver, he turned out to be off that week, I very quickly realized that Oakley is a company that likes to take care of the people that support them. From athletes to employees, the company strives to enrich those around it. On site they have access to bike lockers and a weight room, a games area and a gourmet cafeteria, as well as the pump track out back and the full moto track out the front. Not to mention hundreds of acres of trails out the back door.
It’s pretty sweet when you can hit up a pump track on your lunch break. In all there are over 1800 employees working there around the clock to bring Oakley products to the shelves. I know towns smaller than that!
After a few days of touring and some filming it was time to move north. As I was crawling through the infamous LA traffic on my way to Santa Cruz for a surf session with McCaul, I had a thought about the distant past. I never did get those Frogskins when I was a kid. “That’s ok” I thought, “at that age I wouldn’t have known what to do with a girl if I had a caught one.”