Stronger, lighter, better. The Sweet mantra can be traced back to a school paper from 1988, made by one of the founders and design manager, Ståle Møller. With a group of friends, Ståle had already spent two years on making the best skateboards in his hometown of Trysil. Skateboarding was prohibited in Norway until 1989 – the only country in the world where the government judged it too dangerous.
The local boys from Trysil did not care about the government. They wanted to skate. Growing up in a small town in the mountains of eastern Norway, these kids did not have a clue how illegal skateboarding was developing in other parts of Norway. Ages before Internet and long before cell phones, this crew had more cultural input from California than Oslo. When the skate movie Thrasin' came to Trysil in 1986, four wheels on a board got a kick-start. A local priest, travelling frequently over the nearby Swedish border, was caring enough to smuggle Transworld Skateboarding and Thrasher Magazine to Trysil. Skateboarding's cultural influence had a long route from the west coast of USA to the deep forests of Norway. Ståle made skateboards from fine Norwegian wood, to supply the local shredders with his own label, Bushmade Skates. Together they built a 7 meter high vert ramp hidden in the woods to avoid exposure to the local law enforcement. The moment the unique Norwegian prohibition law was repealed, the Municipality of Trysil helped out with some money to build a better ramp in center of town, and the boys had overcome the first major obstacle in living the life they wanted.
Stronger, lighter, better. With the crew skateboarding and kayaking through the summer or snowboarding and skiing in the winter, Ståle was busy creating better clothing and equipment for the boys, even making his own snowboard. When they wanted to explore the world in the mid 90s, they made the clothes and back packs themselves. Built to stand the harsh conditions on the biggest mountains.
In 1997, freestyle kayaking was taking off. As the local river was closer than the dream of pacific surf, freestyle kayaking became rapidly popular in Trysil. All of a sudden you could make surf moves in the local river! The existing kayaks were crap, and Ståle made a kayak revolution when developing a Kevlar wonder for his friend and top kayaker, Erik Martinsen. The plan was to start a kayak company, SNM (Ståle Norman Møller) Playboats, but it kind of vanished in the haze. Instead the first spark to the Sweet brand was emerging. Still in design school, Ståle made a carbon fiber helmet Erik could use in the freestyle kayak world championships. The kayak equipment in those days was kind of ‘soviet agricultural chic', and Ståle's fresh design was breathtaking. Everybody wanted it, and soon the garage production from the early Bushmade days was keeping family and neighbours awake at night again.
In 1999 Gøran, a friend of Ståle's suggested over a beer the idea of starting up a new company: Sweet North. Integrating their uncompromising demand for quality and functionality into innovative products. Growing up with action activities in mountains, rivers and ramps, they had learned how to protect themselves from the elements. Having a Sweet day, but staying safe. From the challenging environments of kayaking, they had learned to help each other out of dangerous situations. Bringing these values and insights into snowboarding and skiing made sense, right? Yes, Ståle said, but let's drop North. Let's just call it Sweet.
The company was established in 2000, and one of the first moves was to contact another uncompromising Norwegian; Terje Håkonsen. He saw the potential in the helmet prototype that was presented to him and joined the team. With Terje onboard, Sweet made the move from the local garage to International potential. Working closely with Terje in product development on the helmets, Sweet discovered that team involvement is the key to making great products. Today no Sweet products leave Trysil without the team's influence.
In 2003 Sweet made their first ISPO appearance and immediately won the Brand New Award for best newcomer. When the first clothing line is developed, the patterns and materials are much the same as back when the boys were first exploring mountains. On big mountains you need to depend on functionality and quality. No restrictions in making your way up and protected from the elements. Coming down the mountain you want a seamless flow, in the park you want freedom to tweak. Functional and technical clothing that feels good.
The years passed by, but the dream is coming true for the friends from Trysil . The inspiration from the California skateboard and surfing culture is still there, but now it is a way of life too. Cultivating childhood activities as you grow older is a privilege that the Sweet founders enjoy. Spending time on the mountains and in the waves makes both life and products better.