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Lakai Limited Footwear is an American shoe company based in Torrance, California. Their shoes are made for skateboarding and are inspired by it. Mike Carroll and Rick Howard, two famous skateboarders who also started Girl Skateboards with Mike Carroll, started Lakai in 1999.
Carroll and Howard both decided they wanted to make a difference in the skate shoe business by starting their own company instead of being supported. In April 1999, Tim Gavin told Howard he thought they should start a new shoe company. They were at the Largo Comedy Club in Los Angeles at the time. After that, Howard and Carroll chose to launch Lakai Limited Footwear with the help of Podium Distribution.
Carroll called Cairo Foster in August 1999 and asked if he would like to ride for his "unnamed" shoe business. Foster called his current backer to quit and said, "Mike Carroll asked me to ride for his shoe company, that's all I know." After he hung up the phone, he became Lakai's first unofficial team rider.
In the next couple of months, Andy Jenkins hired artist Andy Mueller to create a logo for Lakai, which became known as the "Flare" Soon after, Mueller went to Los Angeles to become the art director for Lakai. Lakai's new team boss is Kelly Bird.
Anthony Pappalardo, Rob Welsh, and Jeff Lenoce agreed to be Lakai's first amateur riders, making a whopping $250 per month. In November 1999, Scott Johnston left his sponsor, DC Shoes, and became the last rider on the company's first team. By May 2000, shops all over the world had received the first line of Lakai shoes, which were called "Howard," "Carroll," "Cohort," "Clay," and "Worthy."
Carroll asked Brandon Biebel to join Lakai in June 2000. They had worked together on the movie Tranworld's Modus Operandi. Scott Johnston's first pro model came out in April 2001, and Danny Garcia joined the team at that time. JJ Rousseau became Lakai's first official European rider in November 2001. Marc Johnson joined the Lakai team in March 2002, after waiting almost a year for his old shoe deal to end. His first pro model came out a little over a year later. In December 2003, Cairo Foster's first pro model came out. In January 2004, Lucas Puig and JB Gillet joined the team. With Rousseau, they officially became "The French Connection," a subgroup of the team.
In May 2004, the first ever co-brand shoe with Girl Skateboards was released, paving the way for several more notable collaborations, including the series "The Art Dump", "Dominion", "Wrench Pilot", "The Quiet Life", and "Where the Wild Things Are". After being away from skateboarding for a long time, Guy Mariano joined Lakai in May 2005. Jesus Fernandez also joined the team, as did "The Royal Family" members Nick Jensen and Danny Brady, who are both from the UK. Alex Olson, the son of pro skateboarder Steve Olson, was Lakai's first beginner in almost five years. This was in September 2005. Eric Koston joined Lakai in May 2006, after months of talk about it.
Danny Garcia was the first skateboarder to leave Lakai. He did so in July 2006 and went to éS Footwear, which sponsored his next pair of shoes. In August 2006, Mike Mo was officially named a team amateur (AM), and Guy Mariano got his first pair of pro shoes. In December 2006, Eric Koston's pro models came out. Scott Johnston went from being an expert skater to designing shoes when he joined the Lakai design team in January 2007. Johnston told ESPN, "...that was my plan, to end on a good note and not bleed this career dry the way some guys do by not letting it go. Skating was so good to me, and I want to be good to it and not be one of those guys that won't go away. I still skate, but I don't need to get paid for it." Fully Flared was Lakai's first full-length film. It came out in November 2007.
After Fully Flared
Alex Olson and Anthony Pappalardo left Lakai in March 2008 to work as shoe designers for Vans and Converse CONS. The next month, Vincent Alvarez became Lakai's newest AM.
In 2009, Lakai's 10th anniversary was marked with a special catalogue that showed the brand's history.
Eric Koston was the next to leave Lakai. He wanted to be sponsored by NIKE SB, so a skit similar to the one that introduced him to Lakai was made to send him off. In 2010, Riley Hawk, Daniel Espinoza, and Raven Tershy joined Lakai as AMs, and their video, Am I Am, was released to present them. In 2011, Lucas Puig left Lakai for Adidas. Sebo Walker is the newest AM for Lakai. His clip in the "Carroll 5: Out of Control" commercial was used to reveal this. Lakai left Podium Distribution to work for Girl Skateboards Distribution. Lakai got 6,060 points and won Thrasher's King of the Road challenge. This was also Mike Mo Capaldi's last trip with Lakai. In December 2011, he started working for DC Shoes.
The Flare Era
Early in 2014, a meeting was held at Spike Jonze's house with people like Stevie Perez, Jon Sciano, Ronnie Sandoval, and Miles Silvas. Discussion was made for Lakai's next full-length video, which would eventually be titled The Flare. During the time that the video was being made, the team went through a lot of changes. Riders like Miles Silvas, Ronnie Sandoval, Brandon Biebel, and, most famously, Guy Mariano and Marc Johnson left the company. In 2015, Kelly Bird, who was in charge of the Lakai brand, and Scott Johnston, who made shoes, left the company. Cody Chapman, Simon Bannerot, Tyler "Manchild" Pacheco, Yonnie Cruz, James Capps, Nico Hiraga, and Johnny Jones, all of whom were amateur riders, joined the company, as did Rick McCrank, who had been a pro for a long time. The Flare came out in July 2017, and it showed that Jimmy Wilkins and Tony Hawk had joined Lakai's team. Lakai left Girl Distribution and joined HUF under Renegade Brands.
Gryphon Gass later joined the team. This was revealed in February 2018.
Similar to the other brands distributed by Girl, Lakai has received a considerable level of attention for its video productions. Most of Lakai's videos have been made by Federico Vitetta and Ty Evans, who are both directors and videographers.
The 2001 trip to Australia
Lakai's first release was a short video of a tour through Australia and New Zealand, featuring original riders Brandon Biebel, Rick Howard, Jeff Lenoce, Anthony Pappalardo, Scott Johnston, and Rob Welsh. A cameraman named Ty Evans, a team manager named Kelly Bird, an art director named Andy Mueller, and a photographer named Mike O' Meally were also on the trip. Mike Carroll and Cairo Foster did not make it on the tour.
The tour's video showcased the personality and skill of rising stars Brandon Biebel and Anthony Pappalardo. It was only sold in skate shops on VHS and came with a magazine with photos and stories from Mueller and O' Meally's trip. Later, the video was remastered, and an extra version of it was added to The Final Flare DVD boxset.
Beware of the Flare is a 2002 film.
Lakai's second release was a 30-minute tour movie through Europe. It was a much bigger project. It brought Marc Johnson onto the team and gave a sneak peek of flow riders JJ Rousseau and Lucas Puig, who were later called "The French Connection" in Fully Flared. Even though some riders, like Cairo Foster and Danny Garcia, were not on the trip, those who were not there were still shown in a team montage at the end of the movie.
The main purpose of the movie was to show what it was like to be on tour. It showed travel, injuries, packed signings, and a lot of demos. The movie talks about all of these things and shows demos and street montages. The movie was made by Ty Evans and Dan Wolfe, and Atiba Jefferson did the photography. It came out on VHS in June 2002.
Fully Flared came out in 2007.
Fully Flared was Lakai's first full-length film. It came out on November 16, 2007. The video was surrounded by a lot of buzz, mostly because high-profile riders like Eric Koston joined the team. There were also rumours of a 13-minute Marc Johnson part and the return of Guy Mariano, and the release date kept getting pushed back from 2005 to 2007.
The video was almost immediately shot after the film Hot Chocolate by Chocolate Skateboards. In November 2003, the first trip to film was to Arizona.
Marc Johnson talks about the beginning of the movie in the book Fully Flared, which came with The Final Flare (2008) box set.
We all pretty much knew that we would start this project. I can't think of a certain phone call. I didn't think anything about the movie at first. I had no idea that it would turn out the way it did. Back then, I just thought, "We're making a video." It was a lot less serious. I'd just go skate with my friends, and if I got a trick, I got a trick. At first, things were a lot calmer...
— Marc Johnson
A few members of the team went to Barcelona and Mallorca in February 2004. The video was supposed to be finished by the end of 2005. During the trip, it snowed, which "never happens" according to the locals. The team met up with European riders JJ Rousseau, JB Gillet, and Lucas Puig.
The trip to Barcelona and Mallorca was the first time I realised, "Oh, this is really happening." It was fucking freezing cold and it snowed. It was sick that the whole gang was there skating. This was the first time you said, "Let's get up early, go to Starbucks, blah, blah, blah." You just keep going and going and don't stop.
— Mike Carroll
The date for the original video was coming up in March 2005, so a rough cut of the video was made. Others had as little as 30 seconds of edited footage, but Marc Johnson already had 15 minutes. Marc was embarrassed that he got more TV time than he should have. It was clear that the team had a lot of work to do if they wanted to finish by the end of the year as planned.
After five years away from skateboarding, Guy Mariano joined the Lakai team a few months later. Guy thought at first that he would just do a few tricks for the movie as a sort of "welcome back," but Ty pushed for Guy to have a full part. Because of this and because the rough cut didn't live up to expectations, the movie wasn't put out until 2006.
By the summer of 2006, the Lakai team had 20 riders, with Eric Koston being the most recent addition. At the end of summer, there was another rough edit because the date was getting close. Even with all the outside hype and pressure from the industry and fans, the team was still not happy with the edit. The date for the video was again moved to the end of 2007.
When the fund for making the video ran out, two vans, the open road, and cheap hotels were the only things that could be done to finish it. This was two years after the original deadline. Riders quickly got used to the "Motel 6 tour life": finding used condoms and bugs in their hotel room, eating food from gas stations, spending hours on the road, peeing in bottles, fixing spots, and staying up all day and night to film for the video.
When all the POP got out, I just felt terrible. Distribution paid for all of these cardboard stand-ups, signs, and other things. They tried to get it before it came out. We had ads that said "out now." There were things in the window. When I realised that it wasn't going to be cut any time soon. It wasn't easy. Then I had to go back and say, "We need to put another year's worth of our marketing budget into this." By the end of the third year, it was clear what was happening with video sales. We were trying to come up with ways to market the movie because we were sure we weren't going to sell any copies of it. We've spent almost a million dollars on this project. It was hard to prove with maths. I was afraid it would always be a problem for the company.
— Kelly Bird
Near the end of making the video, a timer appeared on the website that showed how many seconds were left until the video was released. Alex Olson said that he thought it was "the worst fucking thing they could do to us. It's like knowing the day you're going to die or something."
Ads, names, and times of release
In December 2004, Lakai's 60th ad was the first one to say that they were making a movie. The text that came out of Ty's camera in the ad read, "Another new video... it just seems weird." This was a nod to Carroll's famous answer when he was first asked about the idea.
The next ad that talked about the video was in September 2005, about a year after the first one. In the ad, it said, "Another new video... get ready for the Heat Score suckas." This led to a long process of trying different names for the video and getting them wrong.
In November 2005, ad #71 comes out. The name "The Full Flare" was suggested by Scott Johnston. This was close to the name that stuck, but it took another five months for the name that did stick to change.
I think we were on a tour throwing names around. Carroll was still trying to get "Lakai or Die" out there, but no one was interested because of the Zero or Die film. Someone brought up the video from the Beware of the Flare show, and I said, "We messed up. The original video should have been called that. We only used it in a video about a tour.' Then I said, "Full-length video." Full Flare. The Full Flare.' They were like, "That's not bad. That could happen.
— Scott Johnston
The name "Who Flares?" was taken out of ad #76 in February 2006. This made Ty unhappy, so the working title "The Full Flare" came back. The next month's ad was the first one to use the triangular prism of colours that became the brand's symbol. In April 2006, the video's real name was seen for the first time in ad #81. Kelly Bird came up with the name "Fully Flared," which is a change from "The Full Flare," which Scott Johnston had offered.
The first video, set to the song "Leave Them All Behind" by Whitey, was also released. This song became something of a theme song for Fully Flared, and the main menu music on the DVD was based on it. In the summer of 2006, ads in magazines like Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding said that the movie would be out in 2006. This was the first of many times that the release date was wrong.
In the spring of 2007, when Lakai thought the movie would be done, they devoted their whole spring catalogue to it. On the inside, there was a fake editing schedule at the bottom of each page. This catalogue also had the first Fully Flared shoe that was made in a small number. In ad #102, it was announced that the release date would be November 16, 2007. Ads #103–105 also let people know that the movie was coming out.
When High Definition (HD) came out,
Panasonic came out with the HVX-200 in 2006, which was an HD camera with P2 technology. The HD camera was quickly picked up by Ty Evans, but people had different feelings about it. No one really got the idea of what the movie would be about or how the footage would be used. Later, the HD video was cropped to a 4:3 ratio to make it look like the SD footage. Most of the HD footage was used for b-roll shots like riders dropping their boards, fixing spots, getting kicked out, or photos. Some shots were also used to show tricks from a different angle. All of the HD footage would be put together and shown in the right format on the Blu-Ray disc of The Final Flare (2008).
At first, Ty would use it to make a short personality clip or filler clip. So when the time came to actually film a real trick, you almost felt like, "Sh*t, I'm trying this hard-ass trick and it's just a filler clip?""Which it wasn't, of course, but at first we thought, "If it's getting serious, put on that death lens and get close." It was just the way we used to think about making movies back in the good old days. At first, we didn't think too much about these HD cams. It's clear that this is how things will turn out in the end. It's a great deal better.
— Eric Koston
The release and the response
The first performance of Fully Flared was on Friday, November 16, 2007, at 8:00 p.m. at UCLA's Royce Hall. Along with the world premiere, there was a tour of openings around the world. They took place in Vancouver on September 17, London on September 18, Lyon on September 20, and Tokyo on September 24. The video got a lot of positive comments and won awards, including the Best Video Award at the 10th Transworld Skateboarding Awards. Thrasher's Skater of the Year went to Marc Johnson. Guy Mariano got the TWS Readers' Choice Award, Best Video Part, and Best Street Skater. Fully Flared won the 2007 T-Eddy Award for Best Video. Guy Mariano won the award for Best Comeback, Ever, and Mike Mo Capaldi won the award for AM of the Year.
2017's The Flare
The Flare, Lakai's second full-length video, came out in July 2017, ten years after Fully Flared, their first full-length video. After a meeting at Spike's house in Los Angeles in February 2014, filming began for real. During the movie, the team went through a lot of changes on the inside and on the outside. This movie would show a lot of the younger, rising stars on the team, as well as some of the team's veterans. At the time of the release, Rick Howard, Mike Carroll, Danny Brady, and Jesus Fernandez were the only riders left from Fully Flared. Since Ty Evans left Girl Films in 2013 after Girl & Chocolate Skateboards' video "Pretty Sweet," Federico Vitetta, Daniel Wheatley, Rye Beres, and John Marello have been in charge of the filming.
The first showing of The Flare was at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on June 13, 2017. The podcast The Nine Club with Chris Roberts talked to riders and other people involved with the brand at the launch.
The following riders are part of the Lakai team:
Tyler "Manchild" Pacheco
Scott Johnston Scott Johnston
Mike Mo Capaldi
Australia/NZ Tour (2001)
Beware Of The Flare (2002)
Canada Eh? (2004)
2006's The Red Flare Tour
EMB Carroll (2007)
Fully Flared (2007)
The Final Flare! (2008)
Fully Trippin' in Malaga (2008)
Am I Am (2010)
2010 Video Collection (2010)
Transworld's Skate & Create "LAKAIromania" (2010)
Getting Nordical Tour (2010)
2014's Stupor Tour
Stay Flared (2015) (with Emerica Footwear)
2017's The Flare
La Flareto Rico Tour (2019)
The No Rest in the Northwest Tour (2019)
Flare Canada Tour (2019)
Street Safari Tour (2019)