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Army CWO2 Ryan Wells flies over Afghanistan on Sept. 11 with the Bat Waves flag in his window.  Wells, 29,  is serving a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan. Army CWO2 Ryan Wells flies over Afghanistan on Sept. 11 with the Bat Waves flag in his window. Wells, 29, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Batwaves is Back!

I can remember when Bat Waves was the rage among young people around Sandpoint. I can also remember when the distinctive Bat Waves logo seemed ubiquitous, with stickers of the smiling bat wearing sunglasses appearing on sweatshirts, school lockers, signs around town, store windows and notebook covers.

That was all by design, according to one of the original Bat Waves owners, Del Sanborn, a Sandpoint High grad now living in Wallace where he owns a general contracting business, specializing in masonry.

“We gave away stickers for free,” Sanborn told me recently. “Our philosophy was to get the stickiest glue possible [to render stickers almost impossible to remove]. That way you’ll be advertising me forever.”

Del also told me that another SHS grad, Lance Hruza who works in the movie industry, was instrumental in seeing that the logo even appeared in the radio station scenes of the television program “Northern Exposure.” It also appeared in old MTV segments. For sure, Bat Waves got plenty of its own literal exposure at Northwest snow resorts appearing on mitts, jackets, and hats of snowboarders flying through the air.

In 1987, Sandpoint’s Sanborn brothers, Chase and Del, along with partner Keith Snyder, helped found the Bat Waves concept, influenced, in part, by a scene from the Hunter Thompson movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Chase Sanborn, who’s now embarking on a new career with micro-brews in Wallace, asked his college roommate Scott Walters, a U of I art major, to sketch the final logo.

They forged a successful business sewing and selling Bat Waves snowboard mitts, hats and lots of other gear with the recognizable image. We Loves, as a family, always applauded and supported their efforts, especially because Del and Chase had been active members of Bill’s local Boy Scout Troop 111.

The mitts “made us big,” Del Sanborn says. “At one time we were selling in nine different countries.”

The Bat Waves mitt “could withstand the beating snowboarders would put their gear through,” according to a press release recounting Bat Waves’ early history. “At the time only ski gloves were available to boarders. On the hands of these knuckle draggers, ski gloves would become shredded in a matter of a week.”

So, the Sanborns and Snyder came up with an adaptation of a mitt designed for the Iditabike race, a 200-mile trek across the Iditarod trail in Alaska. Bat Waves, operating from Wallace, Idaho, quickly became a top name in the exploding world of snowboarding.

Back in the ‘90s, I recall making a stop in Wallace to visit the store where Bat Waves put out its product. After the grand tour, I walked out with a bagful of colorful nylon and velcro neck wallets with Bat Waves logos. The Sanborn brothers gave them to me to pass on to my staff of teen-aged journalists back in Sandpoint who, I figured, would go wild about them.

They did. My daughter Annie, now 30, still carries hers more than a dozen years later.

I was saddened to hear a few years ago that Bat Waves had gone out of business. This, according to Del Sanborn, occurred because of situations beyond their control, resulting from their lending institution being bought out by another bank.

Now, I’m happy to report in this column that Bat Waves, doing business as “Batwaves,” is back. Same distinctive logo. Same high-quality snowboard mitt. Same seamstress. New owner and a former student of mine.

Sandpoint native 33-year-old Josh Moon and his wife Rebecca have assumed Bat Wave rights. They’re once again promoting the logo and its distinctive snowboard mitt. I can also report my own purchase, this summer, of three black, hooded Bat Waves sweatshirts, and I’ve been proudly wearing mine.

Josh delivered those sweatshirts directly to me one day while Joyce Campbell was giving me my bi-monthly hair zap at Hair Tenders on North Boyer. He brought along a pile of mitts, and we all gave them a try. They’re colorful, comfortable and masterfully constructed.

I learned a little about that construction from seamstress Betty Ann Custis who sews the mitts in her Kellogg home. She knows what she’s doing too, having assembled about 45,000 mitts for the Sanborns and about a dozen pair for Josh. Production has just gotten underway during the past couple of months with Betty working a few hours each day to complete orders, some of which are custom. She estimates that she’ll be up to 40-hour weeks of sewing once the word gets out that Batwaves is back.

Why is the Batmitt so durable? Well, a visit with Betty answers that. A lifelong seamstress with experience sewing for Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, The Silver Needle in Kellogg and KL Manufacturing in Post Falls, Betty has 15 sewing machines in her home.

She uses five of those machines to complete a mitt. The Battmitt includes velcro, rubberized material, polar fleece, and cordura. Every pair includes a pocket of rubberized nylon, usually on the bottom opening of the left mitt, but on the right for custom orders.

“People are excited that have seen them and know they’re back out there,” she says. And, Betty seems genuinely excited herself to be working with the product again. She’s also proud to proclaim that the product is 100 percent “made in the USA.”

Bat Waves has returned because of Josh Moon’s steadfast perseverance over the past several years to revive the concept and thanks to Del Sanborn’s guidance, which has allowed Josh and his wife to move forward without having to re-invent the mitt.

“Our screen printing is done locally in Sandpoint,” Josh says. “Plans are in progress to create a larger production facility here. Batwaves is also taking on investors to help grow production capabilities. Our website www.batwaves.com is operational... we are beginning to market our stuff in multiple ways.”

Recent marketing strategy has even included an Army Kiowa Warrior helicopter flight over Afghanistan September 11 by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Wells of Sandpoint with a bright-red Bat Waves flag draped over a side window. Wells, a 1997 SHS grad and a veteran of four short Iraqi tours, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment of Fort Campbell, Kent.

Josh, a father of four, attributes his newfound passion to old-time bombardment of Bat Waves while growing up. He’s already enjoying all levels of satisfaction.

“To me, it was like ‘Gotcha’ or ‘Swatch’ watches,” he says. “It’s like owning a piece of my childhood... the worldwide domination—seeing the Bat on people everywhere. I also feel comfortable knowing that, at the very least, my family will never have cold hands again.”

Much more information about Bat Waves products, prices, and special programs for athlete sponsorship can be found here. Locally, Bat Waves products are available at Dethbox Board Supply, Ground Zero, and Alpine Designs MTB.

Courtesy Photo at left: Army CWO2 Ryan Wells flies over Afghanistan on Sept. 11 with the Bat Waves flag in his window. Wells, 29, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan.

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

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