by Sean "Wattie" Watkins

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Ed. Note—2019 marked Wattie Ink.'s 10th birthday, and like any tween, we're really looking forward to the impact our brand and athletes can wreak on the world in our second decade of life. Today we get started on that second decade by launching our yearly applications for membership on the 2020 teams, The Elite Team and Hit Squad, and we want you to be a part of that journey. Our teams—whether it’s our team of employees, professionals, or age group athletes—all came together as strangers, but then developed into close friends and family. We sure hope that you’re next.

I always tell people "There was the team before there was the brand," and it's completely true. Years before we sewed our first stitch into some cloth, Wattie Ink. first existed in the minds of a few athletes who believed we could do something different in the triathlon market. Triathlon—if you weren't here yet or don't remember—needed a little kick in the butt ten years ago: a fresh look, a team approach to an individual sport, a community that wanted something bigger than personal achievements. With Heather's help, and the confidence of our founding members, we began building something by athletes, for athletes, knowing that what we wanted to do was to provide triathlon the best apparel possible with which to excel at the sport.

This "by athletes, for athletes" is more important to us than it may seem at first, and it's central to our existence. The Wattie Ink. Elite Team first launched in 2010 and provides (straight up to this day) the crucial testing ground for our look, our ideas, and our brand. In many ways, the team is the brand. Several founding members from that first team still remain on board, and they, along with our professional athletes and the input of our employees, shape everything that we do. That kind of commitment speaks to something big and important in their lives, something we had no idea we were making when we started, but something we're incredibly proud of, because it means we've made something bigger than a brand, bigger than any simple apparel company—we've managed to make a difference in our athletes' lives. Is this an extravagant claim? We don't think so. We've seen firsthand the commitment of the athletes on The Wattie Ink. Elite Team, and we feel lucky to have empowered that enthusiasm and commitment.

Image Courtesy of Durst Breneiser

Each year we are blown away by the number of applicants we have for the Elite Team—over 4,000 for only 120 spots—and can't thank those athletes enough for their passion about the brand. It spawned The Wattie Ink. Hit Squad, our ambassador program now in its fourth season. We wanted to grow our family while preserving the tight-knit nature of the Elite Team, to build the team presence at races and events around the globe, and to make the same awesome team experience available to more athletes. The Hit Squad and Elite Team have developed a brotherhood of sorts, the scrappy younger sibling to its seasoned elder, and today, at races, you can hear members of both communities calling out to each other as they pursue their shared goals: fun, personal growth and achievement, community, support.

image courtesy of Dylan Haskin

But, to steal directly from Levar Burton, you don’t have to take our word for it. We met Cory Rose at Team Camp in Carlsbad this past April, and he impressed us with his dedication to the team. We reached out to him to ask him what the team means to him, and his answer speaks volumes about both the Elite Team and the Hit Squad.

"I grew up being an outsider: I’ve had long hair and tattoos since high school. I was this grungy punk rock kid who came from a running background before eventually transitioning to triathlon. In 2015 I bought my first Wattie kit and found a clothing athletic company that celebrated difference and was so punk rock. The kit literally read “Rock the W.” I finally felt like I had a voice in a race and on the roads. I found out about the team and with all my heart wanted to be on it—I would Rock the W harder than anybody ever had ever. I never knew or thought I’d ever become a part of something so much greater. The relationships I’ve built are like none other I’ve experienced. This April I attended my first team camp and I once again never knew I was going to experience relationships like the ones I built there. At the end of the week I sat alone in the San Diego airport leaning against the wall, crying and reflecting on all these beautiful people I got to connect with. This team is truly a fast, fierce family. I’ve driven hours to see them. I’ve dropped everything to make lunch plans with them. You ask why I come back to this team and will continue to come back: it’s the people. I openly tell my teammates I love them. I plan racecations with them. This year before Boulder 70.3 I had some of the hardest weeks of my life. Relationships were ending, pets were dying, and work was eating me alive. I could barely make it through any of my workouts and I confessed and leaned on teammates. Their confidence in me and willingness to share my burden was the only reason I was able to pull off a 4th place AG and qualify to Worlds 70.3 next year in New Zealand. I love this team and I love Wattie Ink. I’ll forever 'Rock the W.'”

Cory Rose in Action at Oceanside 70.3, image courtesy of Durst Breneiser

We couldn’t more clearly say what it is we value about our teams than Cory’s reflection, and we’re confident that you’ll find the same, should you give us the chance. Sift through the questions below but then, when you’re ready, join this fast, fierce family.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the structure of Team Wattie Ink.?
There are two (soon to be more) teams within Team Wattie Ink.: The Elite Team and the Hit Squad. You can consider the Hit Squad as a traditional ambassadorship program while the Elite Team is a sponsored team.

Is there a difference between the two?
Yes and No. Both teams are tightly knit and support each other through amazing bonds. The family atmosphere exists within (and between!) both teams. However, the Elite Team has support in the character of bike sponsors, wheel sponsors, nutrition sponsors, and more, whereas the Hit Squad has one primary sponsor – Wattie Ink. There are tighter obligations with the Elite Team when it comes to racing and supporting the sponsors. Additionally, membership to the Elite Team comes at no cost. The Hit Squad has a membership fee, but that fee is put towards a credit to the team clothing store, to which members receive a discount.

Image Courtesy of Durst Breneiser

How much does the Hit Squad membership cost?
It is $250 USD. However, you will receive a credit to the Hit Squad team store for that amount plus your discount.

Is there criteria to be on either of the teams?
Yes, there is. The criteria revolve around what type of athlete you are in the community of triathlon. Are you an upstanding member of your local and regional triathlon community? Do you represent yourself and your brands in good faith to a wide audience?

Do I need to be on The Hit Squad before the Elite Team?
No, you don’t. Hit Squad members, however, may have exclusive opportunities to be on the Elite Team. While you don’t need to be a Hit Squad member to be accepted to the Elite Team, your chances to be on the Elite Team do increase by being a member of the Hit Squad.

Image Courtesy of Dylan Haskin

What if I have sponsors?
For the Hit Squad, you can have other sponsors if they’re not clothing sponsors. However, for the Elite Team we need to ensure any sponsors you have are not in conflict with the Elite Team.

Am I required to purchase sponsored products?
No, you’re not required to do so. However, we do require you to support our sponsors through social media posting and advocating for their products, and that does not have to include purchasing any of their products.

When Does The Application Close?
The teams application will close at the end of the day (11:59pm PST) on October 13th.

When Will I Hear if I'm on One of the Teams?
Follow our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter), and we will announce the team by the end of October.

How to Do I Apply?
Click on the link and select which team you want to apply for. And yes, you can apply for both!

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