"For me, it's connecting with nature. You're moving forward with only the help of the wind," says Chris Lee, owner of SAKOS apparel. "But you're dealing with harsh elements. You have 25 mph winds, there's sand blowing, and the weather is cold."
Lee is talking about kiteboarding, a watersport that has only been popular in the U.S. for the past decade or so. It's a combination of wind surfing, regular surfing and wake boarding—but the athletes are weighted down by much more gear. Kiteboarders have a board attached to their feet, and a harness attached to their torso connects to a massive kite. Their bodies bend every which way, and when the wind and sea are just right, they get serious air. As much as Lee loved it, he thought, "There's no way I can do this on a regular basis."
The Vietnamese American used his experience in clothing manufacturing to build a team that could design gear that would withstand the elements, look cool and prolong sessions. Right now, the Long Beach-based apparel company has two products out, with SAKOS' bread-and-butter being the cutting-edge Compression XGuard. Think of it as a wetsuit shirt for superheroes: The long-sleeved, black shirt is made from coffee beans and bio-ceramic fabrics, which, Lee says, when used together, make an incredibly flexible and insulated fabric that dries quickly, protects wearers from UV rays and has odor protection.
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What makes the XGuard radical, though, is the NeoSkin X-Form that stretches across the back shoulders. "This opens up the shoulder and helps your posture so you can breathe better out in the water and recover faster," Lee explains. Seems silly that a little piece of fabric could affect your posture, but, he says, "The reaction of the athletes was awe."
For extra protection or a post-session cover up, SAKOS has the NeoSKYN jacket that will keep you 10 to 15 degrees warmer and resembles something from Back to the Future. Go to sakosapparel.com to order or get updates on Lee's next invention.