Level Six had its modest beginnings back in 1997 during an eight month surfing trip from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Jose, Costa Rica. Our founders and current directors Stig Larsson and Tyler Lawlor took some time to train, surf and paddle in Costa Rica during the winter to prepare for Slalom National Team Trials. While there, an idea to create a line of apparel for paddlers was born.
Level Six start up was small. In their first year they produced only one piece of technical paddling gear -The Chubb- a lycra/rubber/neoprene combination rash guard/paddling top as well as a few choice board shorts for girls and guys. Acting as designers, sewers, salesmen and even models, the boys employed their extensive paddling experience to ensure the product was the best it could be and defied the skeptics who thought that a little Canadian company could not compete with the big industry names. But this is exactly what the industry needed – a core paddling company with no ties to the corporate world.
Over the eleven years of business the small company had its challenges. Frequent trips to Montreal fabric warehouses, finding willing seamstresses, searching for materials and creating designs from scratch was just part of the fun. With no designing background, designs and materials were a little off the norm, but that is what made Level Six different. Stig and Tyler designed what they wanted to wear on and off the water, and it just worked.
While paddling full time on the Canadian Slalom Team, Stig and Tyler survived by selling Level Six gear to other World Cup Circuit paddlers and friends, often through classic “out of the back of their truck” selling at races and rodeos.
The Olympics and beyond
The year 2000 proved to be a thrilling and challenging year. Paddling in Level Six gear Tyler participated in the Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia making a top ten finish. Keeping business going, training and working proved difficult but they persevered and came out even stronger.
After the Sydney Olympics, Tyler and Stig decided it was time to move the company ahead. Dry tops, lightweight paddling jackets, paddling pants, waterproof breathables and a whole new line of clothing filled their line to match the needs of the industry. They found a wealth of knowledge from their own personal paddling experience as well as from their friends and co-paddlers.
The hard work and designs began to pay off – stores were calling from around the world looking to get their hands on some Level Six. They seemed to be doing something right. People were inspired by the innovative designs, progressive styles, the modest and friendly Canadian way we do things and above all, the fact that the testing ground for the gear was the mighty Ottawa River.
The future shines bright. Level Six continues to redesign, challenge and recreate paddling gear as we know it today. Like other industries, Level Six believes the paddling world needs an identity of its own and that is what Level Six will continue to provide with innovative, distinctive casual apparel and the best working gear on the market.
With our passion for paddling and the outdoors linked so directly to the natural environment, we have been leading the charge with respect to river and environmental conservation. New projects and partnerships will allow us to make great strides in conservation, and help ensure our great waterways are around for future generations.
Introducing the Journey Blog, a collection of stories that document those formative years of Level Six. In the blog you’ll hear often untold tales that detail the journey that has lead the company to where it is today. See the first post here, and stay tuned, it’s well worth a read.
And don't forget to write your own chapter in the Level Six story. Join us on Facebook, or send us an email and let us know about your latest journey. Hey, it's a long road, might as well have some company!