Easton History


Easton History
by AbbeyArchery.com.au

In 1922, Doug Easton began crafting custom wood bows and cedar arrows in Watsonville, California, USA. Although Doug produced tournament-grade, footed cedar arrows for the archery champions of that era, he was constantly frustrated with the inconsistency and lack of uniformity of wood shafts. Convinced that consistently straight uniform arrow shafts were impossible to manufacture from wood, Doug turned his attentions to aluminium. In 1939, he began manufacturing aluminium arrows in Los Angeles, California.

Also see Greg Easton visits Abbey Archery

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His instincts about this material were correct and in 1941, California archer, Larry Hughes won the National Championship with a set of Doug's aluminium arrows. This was the beginning of a trend that would change traditional archery and transcend into numerous other sports arenas over the next 50 years. Please see Easton present memento to Abbey Archery

By 2005, Jas. D. Easton, Inc. was still a privately owned manufacturer, marketer and distributor of sporting equipment, headquartered in Van Nuys, California. In 2008, it employs more than 2,248 people worldwide in various distribution, manufacturing, sales and marketing capacities. Other operations are located in Salt Lake City, Utah, Monticello, Indiana, Mexico and Canada.

Part of the Easton company is the archery division. Easton Archery is a world leader in arrow design, as is reflected by the number of top archers shooting their arrows. In addition to arrows and their components, Easton Archery also manufactures stabilisers.

The Easton X10 is, by far, the most commonly used shaft among the world's top recurve archers. After Easton's successes with aluminium/carbon composite shafts such as the ACC and ACE, George Tekmitchov set about designing an arrow specifically for use in the Olympic Games. Designed in time to be used at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Easton X10 is an aluminium alloy tube wrapped in carbon fibre. The carbon is "barreled", meaning it is thicker in the middle section of the shaft and tapered towards either end. It is Easton's thinnest shaft, which means it is not as affected by the wind. A greater weight per inch, means that the X10 holds downrange velocity better than other shafts and enables greater accuracy. The X10 now holds a majority of outdoor world records, especially in recurve archery.

Easton also manufactures a large variety of aluminium alloy arrows for indoor target archery and hunting. With 60+ years of aluminium alloy experience, they have designed what is possibly the most successful arrow to date - the X7. Until the advent of all-carbon and A/C composite arrows, the X7 was used both indoors and outdoors. These days, fewer and fewer archers are using the lighter and larger diameter X7 for distance shooting and prefer to use them specifically for indoor shooting.

Other aluminium-alloy arrow models currently made by Easton include the Jazz, XX75, Stalker, Genesis and Legacy. Other aluminium/carbon composite arrows currently made by Easton include the X10 ProTour, ACE, Navigator and FMJ Navigator.

Easton is a major player in the world of aluminium baseball and softball bats with their only real competition coming from Miken, DeMarini, Louisville Slugger and the Louisville Slugger TPX sub-brand. Among their best known bats is the Stealth.

Easton manufactures Hockey equipment and apparel with its Synergy and Stealth sticks being the most popular among National Hockey League (NHL) players. The Stealth S17 is the first ever elliptical-designed hockey stick and is used by NHLers such as Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik. Both of these lines are on their 3rd edition, showing their popularity. They also make shafts like the outdated Zbubble and Ultralite, blades and protective equipment. Proof of Easton's popularity is the fact that other companies and people who play hockey, call the company the Evil Empire of Hockey. They say this in a good way showing how prevalent and high quality their equipment is.

Easton offers an extensive range of bicycle components including forks, stems, handle bars, seat posts, wheels, pedals and frame tubesets made from aluminium and carbon fibre.

Easton Sports, Inc., has been a consistent innovator, primarily in its use of aluminium in its products. Easton designs and manufactures archery equipment, baseball and softball bats, hockey stick shafts and blades and hockey skate blades. It also makes tent tubes and bicycle components. The company is headed by Jim Easton, the son of the company's founder.

Although Easton Sports, Inc. was not formed until 1985, the company traces it heritage to the youth of James Douglas (Doug) Easton. When he was just 15 years old, Easton became an archery enthusiast under fortuitous circumstances. In the fall (autumn) of 1921, he was hunting near his home in Watsonville, California, when a shotgun propped up against a car fell, discharged and seriously wounded him in both legs. For much of the next year, while recuperating, he was confined to the hospital and his home. To help him pass the time, a friend gave Easton a copy of a new book written by Dr. Saxton T. Pope, "Hunting with the Bow and Arrow". Easton became fascinated with archery and as soon as he was able, he began to craft bows from yew wood and wooden arrows from straight grained woods like cedar and pine. His excellent work was quickly recognised, especially his arrows, which were soon regarded as the best tournament arrows in the country. At 17, while shooting a round of archery at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, he met an older man who complimented him on his craftsmanship. Easton credited his work to a book written by Saxton Pope, only to learn moments later, when the man extended his hand, that he had been conversing with his mentor.

Easton made bows and arrows on a part-time basis for the next ten years, supporting himself primarily by driving a delivery truck. He then decided to devote himself entirely to his craft and in 1932 moved to Los Angeles, opening Easton's Archery Shop. Here he made friends with some of Hollywood's elite who shared his enthusiasm for archery. Easton began producing broadheads and in 1938 toyed with a broadhead design that used an aluminium ferule. Having outgrown his shop, Easton moved to a larger facility in Los Angeles and it was here that be began to experiment with aluminium as an arrow shaft, the result of his frustration with the inconsistencies of wood. He presented his first set of aluminium arrows to Larry Hughes, a local archery champion. Over the next two years, Hughes enjoyed strong results with his experimental arrows, culminating in his winning the 1941 National Championship. However, Easton would not be able to take advantage of Hughes' success because World War II soon intervened and for the next several years, the military commandeered all supplies of aluminium.

A year after the war ended, when aluminium finally became available again, Easton continued his work on metal arrows, which soon led to his first trademarked aluminium arrow shaft, the 24SRT-X. By 1949, Easton stopped making finished aluminium arrows, electing instead to manufacture the shafts and avoid competing with his customers. In 1953, he incorporated the business as Jas. D. Easton Archery, but it was still very much a one-man shop, supplemented with help from his wife, young son James and occasional part-timers. The 24SRT-X was so successful, however, that in 1956 he hired his first two full-time employees. A year later, he needed more room and moved the business to Van Nuys, where he took over a new 10,000-square-foot building. Over the next decade he introduced the XX75, which would become the best selling arrow shaft in history.

Before hiring outside help, Easton attempted to convince his son, who was by now studying engineering, to quit college and come work for him. Jim Easton refused, took a job with an aircraft manufacturer and completed his studies at night. Upon graduation, he kept his job, but after five years, he soured of the idea of working for a large company and in 1960 went to work for his father. The two soon came into conflict over the direction of the business and it was only due to the prodding of the younger Easton that the company began to expand beyond archery. In 1964, Easton introduced aluminium ski-pole shafts. The company even moved beyond sports in 1967 when it used its expertise in precision tubing to make the thermal shroud for the seismometer used on the Apollo moon landing. In 1969, Easton first became involved in team sports through the production of aluminium baseball bats. Although it did not invent the aluminium bat, Easton developed the technology that made them a viable product. The only advantage of early aluminium bats over wooden bats was that they did not break. Otherwise, they were too heavy, poorly balanced and hit the ball no further than their wooden counterparts. Easton's engineers worked on the problem and eventually developed equipment to make the walls of the bat thinner while maintaining their curved shape.

As Easton was working out the technical problems of producing a superior aluminium bat, on 31st December 1972, the company's founder, Doug Easton died from cancer, leaving his son, Jim in charge. At the time, Easton was making aluminium baseball bats under a private-label arrangement with another company. Easton insisted on having its name printed somewhere on the bat to ensure that its work was recognised and prevent the customer from building a reputation due to Easton's quality then later dropping Easton in favour of a cheaper source. When the other company refused, Easton launched its own bat brand in the mid-1970's and sold it through an independent distributor, Curley-Bates Company. By the end of the decade, Easton had developed a superior product that was able to command a premium price.

For a time, Jim Easton attempted to take advantage of the company's expertise developed in drawing aluminium tubes to precision tolerances for arrow shafts. Easton positioned itself as a custom house for companies in need of work that a standard mill could not provide. In the end, Jim Easton felt the company was simply becoming a job shop, one that was vulnerable to the vagaries of economic cycles and he concluded that the business was better off devoting its energies to product development. In 1976, Easton began to make tent tubing and two years later was contracted by Prince to manufacture aluminium tennis racket frames. In the late 1970s, an Easton engineer who was an amateur hockey player began working on an aluminium hockey stick. In 1981, the company gained approval for its stick from the National Hockey League and a marketable model was introduced a year later.

During the 1980's, Easton completed a pair of acquisitions. In 1983 it bought Hoyt Archery Company, maker of high-end bows and accessories. Two years later, Easton acquired Curley-Bates, its aluminium bat distributor. The company was renamed Easton Sports, Inc., and Jim Easton made plans to expand it beyond bats, setting the lofty goal of transforming Easton Sports into the world's top team sports manufacturer of hardgoods. To further that ambition, the Easton brand name would have to gain greater recognition, product lines would have to be expanded to all seasons of the year and the company would have to gain an international presence. In late 1987, Easton Sports opened an automated warehouse in Salt Lake City to better distribute the company's products and support its long-term goals.

In 1986, Easton Sports Canada was launched and the company began to produce mast and boom tubing for sailboards and bike frame tubing. Easton then tried to bring out its own line of bicycles but soon found that the economics did not work - the company's frames were too expensive to factor in the other costly components of the bike. In 1990, the money-losing venture was brought to a halt. The company was more successful in adding to its line of baseball and softball bats and expanding its hockey business. It introduced composite-based golf shafts in 1990 and ventured as far afield as developing aluminium drum sticks. Also in 1990, the company opened the Easton Sports Lab to further its research and development efforts.

Easton saw its revenues grow from $13 million in 1977 to $90 million ten years later, topping the $100 million mark in 1991. It was succeeding in a competitive marketplace, taking on much larger rivals like Wilson, Spalding and Mizuno, as well as Nike, which was aggressively moving beyond the athletic shoe niche. In 1991, Jim Easton explained to California Business the company's three-pronged approach to doing business in such a climate - "Our strategy is to have a performance product first, to break in the sport and get a reputation. And once you've got that, then you can bring out other good quality products. Otherwise, you're in a commodity business and you're just trying to sell by price".

Easton continued to dominate the market for aluminium arrows, enjoying an 80 per cent market share and producing some 16 million aluminium arrows a year. In 1992, nine out of ten Olympic archers used Easton arrows. From 1972, when archery was re-introduced as an Olympic sport, until 1992, every gold medal winner used Easton arrows. All told, archery products accounted for 30 per cent of Easton's total revenues. The company introduced the XX78 arrow shaft in 1992 and in 1995 it expanded externally with the acquisition of French arrow manufacturer Beman.

Easton was also developing a formidable line of hockey products, but they took time to catch on. A major step towards acceptance came in the late 1980's when top goal scoring forward Brett Hull began to use Easton aluminium sticks on the ice, but the turning point took place in 1990 when superstar Wayne Gretzky, who had been traded two years earlier to the Los Angeles Kings, visited Easton to try its sticks. He liked the product so much that he agreed to a seven-year, $2 million endorsement deal, providing Easton with instant credibility in the hockey world. By 1994, more than 150 NHL players would be using Easton hockey products. The company introduced its Ultra Lite composite plastic hockey stick and X-Treme Graphite blade, developed with significant input from Paul Kariya of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and other NHL players. Although Easton was capable of producing hockey sticks and blades much lighter than traditional wood versions, it was the players who advised the developers about the need for weight in certain situations, such as winding up for a slap shot. As a result, Easton added weight to the composite material to produce a stick that was lighter than wood and stronger, yet provided the feel that a player required. The sticks proved so popular with professional players, that Easton signed very few to stick deals, because most of them simply preferred to use Easton sticks whether they were compensated or not. By 2000, nearly 40 per cent of NHL players used Easton sticks, far more than any of the older, traditional brands like Bauer, Titan, CCM and Koho.

Easton also became involved in other ice hockey and roller hockey products. In the late 1990's, the company introduced its parabolic blade technology for ice skates, the patented Razor Blade skating system, which used a flex zone between the holder and the runner to transfer energy from the foot to the blade, resulting in 25 per cent tighter turns and better glide, while allowing the skater to conserve energy. The stainless steel blades could also be removed from the graphite holder and replaced. In 2001, Easton introduced the Z-Air Skate, which created a comfortable, high-performance hockey skate combining a thermally activated composite construction, air-foamed latex ankle pads and side cut tongue to fill in empty space around the foot. These were also the first skates to provide a drainage system to release moisture and keep them lighter, stiffer and dryer after a game. In addition, they were heat mouldable for a tighter fit or to make them ready to wear right out of the box. Along with sticks and skates, Easton developed protective hockey gear - gloves using a special foam to pad the back of the hand where players were often stick checked, shoulder pads and caps using Easton's proprietary Bio-Dri liner treatment to help keep players cool, a spinal pad called Spine Tec and a three piece system that combines all the upper-body pads into a single unit capable of moving in unison. For the lower body, Easton developed pants that also used the Bio-Dri and Spine Tec technology as well as other high-tech padding.

Although Easton enjoyed tremendous growth with its hockey products, it also remained in the forefront of aluminium softball and baseball bat technology. In the early 1990's, however, the company became a victim of its own success when it introduced a titanium softball bat that performed so well that softball associations banned it, maintaining that the bat was dangerous and would add too much of an offensive component to the game. Despite this setback, Easton continued its innovations in bat design. In 1997, it launched the Redline series, introducing the first Scandium bat to the marketplace. Two years later, Easton offered the ConneXion series of bats, the first two-piece system that significantly reduced vibration and offered a more forgiving sweet spot. To round out its bat product lines, Easton began producing wooden bats, which remained the only material allowed in Major League Baseball. The company's use of wood came by way of expansion. In 1999, Easton acquired Stix Baseball Inc., an Orlando, Florida based wooden bat manufacturer. Easton also became involved in a related sport, developing bats for the game of cricket.

During the late 1990's and early 2000's, Easton expanded in a number of directions. In 1998, the company entered the aftermarket bicycle component business. To supplement its tent pole business, it added tent stakes and other accessories, as well as snow shoes that used an aluminium alloy. In the hockey segment, Easton added apparel and equipment bags. Although Easton remained a relatively small player in the sporting equipment industry, it was well respected for its technology and marketing skills and was well positioned to enjoy long-term success. Over the years, Jim Easton was approached by suitors wanting to buy the company and investment bankers looking to take it public, but he remained content to keep the business private and family owned. Jim Easton's son Greg had already held top management positions in the company and appeared poised to carry on the tradition started by his grandfather, who as a teenager, almost died from a gunshot wound and survived to found a sports empire.

In 2006, Easton Sports, Bell Sports and Riddell Sports Group were brought together to form Easton-Bell Sports, Inc. With 31 offices and combined sales in excess of $750m, Easton-Bell Sports has established itself as a worldwide leader in designing, developing and marketing performance sports equipment and a broad spectrum of accessories across athletic and recreational activities.

The Easton-Bell Sports portfolio includes industry-leading brands - Easton, Riddell, Bell and Giro. With its unrivalled history and strong belief in technological innovation, Easton-Bell Sports sets the standard of excellence through multi-brand, multi-sport and multi-channel operations. Each brand holds a strong number 1 status within key product categories, providing unparallelled authenticity within baseball, softball, hockey, football, cycling, snow, action and power sports.

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