Today, I’m happy to share a piece from Justin Castillo, founder of Haika Clothing Company. If you’ve spent some time here, you’ll know I’m a big fan of t-shirts, and even more-so when there’s a story behind the shirt. Today, a true testament to put in the Badassmatics file, Justin shares how he got started, how he refuses to let asthma hold him back from living an active life, and hopes the message within his clothing will help others with asthma live the same through provoking thought and healthier lifestyle choices (though, I can’t say I’d condone his act of leaving his rescue inhaler at home–keep that shit with ya, people, it’s important!).  Thanks, Justin!


It all started in March 2013. 9 long months ago, but for me seemed to go by in a blink of an eye. I was reading an issue of Entrepreneur Magazine and learning about all these companies starting from nothing and seeing where they were headed. I thought to myself, “Why can’t I think of something?” I kept seeing all these clothing companies that would donate or give back to organizations and charities such as breast cancer, autism, the fight against hunger, etc. These are all great causes, don’t get me wrong, but it seemed like everyone was helping the same cause. Also, the shirts these companies would offer, just didn’t fit my style. All they would sell were message tees. For me, I like to wear active/streetwear clothes that fits the surf & skate demographic. My “Ah Ha” moment came when I realized why don’t I create a something that supports a cause I am passionate about and offers t-shirts that fits my sense of style. Thus, Haika was born!
Why asthma you ask? I have had it since childhood, so it made perfect sense. I searched all over the internet and couldn’t find a anyone that supported asthma, in terms of a clothing company. So, I combined my two passions: helping those with asthma, and, creating a clothing line that fits my sense of style. Instead of creating message tees, I wanted to create something where the message was already in the brand. Don’t let asthma take control of you. You must take control of it! I want people to do what they love, and not let anything get in the way of that. Whether is it asthma or not.
I’ve played competitive sports, such as baseball and football, throughout my whole life. Of course there were times where I would induce an asthma attack, but I didn’t want that to be an excuse of why I couldn’t continue to participate. I felt that those experiences made me stronger physically and, more importantly, mentally. In some sort of weird & twisted way, i’m glad to have asthma. In a sense of not to take things for granted.
I took it a step further and incorporated a more healthier style of living by exercising and eating properly. I found out that this has dramatically decreased the use of my inhaler and asthma attacks, as well as increasing my energy level. All I want to do now is get out and enjoy the outdoors. I still take my preventative inhaler two times twice a day, but I can leave the home comfortably without my fast acting inhaler. To know that you have it that well managed and under control is a big step and confidence builder for anyone who has asthma.
From idea to reality, I want to see Haika as a company and project, grow not only throughout the U.S, but worldwide. With help of awesome people like Kerri and Stephen we can spread this message and help millions of people with asthma by supporting research and study efforts. With each purchase, $5 is donated to an asthma organization or charity in our customers community. That way they can have a direct impact and feel great about what they are doing! Visit for more information.


Beyond a potential conversation-starter, 20% of your purchase of a Haika Clothing t-shirt will go towards an asthma-related non-profit organization. If you’re working in the best interests of people with asthma and are interested in partnering with Justin, drop him an e-mail!

A year or so ago, I combined some words to invent the term badassmatic. Simply, a badass living with asthma. To be used in a sentence: Steve is the epitome of badassmatic.

Today, let’s define it. It is an honour to be the first ever guest-poster at my friend Steve’s blog Breathinstephen!

Please join me over there for some conversation on music, asthma, owning your health . . . and badassery!

For the first time in two-plus years, I didn’t complete a 12 of 12. I only took six pictures. I was sick, and at the lake, and nothing really happened. I tried, but they didn’t happen. I was thinking I could cheat and post a bunch of random pictures, but in reality, I feel like it’s not legit if I didn’t take them on the 12th.

And when I say sick on Saturday, I mean full-frontal cold sick. Like absolutely ridiculous. I’ve had bad colds before. I’ve had long-lasting colds before. And I’ve had these with asthma before, but nothing quite like Saturday was.  This is The Plague: Friday night was the Leg Cramp from Hell, thanks bronchodilators leeching all the potassium from my muscles, in which both the posterior and anterior muscles in my right calf cramped up simultaneously.  Saturday was the coughing spasms, a continuation from Friday but incredibly intense and body-wracking. I did two doses of the inhaler and three nebs on Saturday to try to keep the cough to a minimum, and I really can’t stand to think what they’d have been like without the nebs.  Sick with asthma? For me, this is it. It’s countless hits of inhalers and multiple daily breathing treatments. It’s coughing so hard my ears pop. The coughing and the nebs are probably what lead to how my voice sounds:

Because you know what I’ve noticed? It’s all about better treatments. All the research. Never mind that we don’t know what causes this stupid disease, we know the root of it [inflammation and constriction of the muscles surrounding the airways in the lungs] and all research seems to care about is treating it. I benefit every single day from this treatment, and I am so grateful. But when one is to speak of advances in asthma treatment, there have realistically been very few in the recent past. even in the last 20 years, the medications are still much the same as they were in the 80s and 90s, with perhaps some modifications in how we are able to administer or dose our medications.  I’m not saying maximizing treatment options isn’t important. This affects my day-to-day life.

But I really want to see somebody trying to figure out the cause of this disease. How to interfere with that and stop this disease from developing to begin with. And once that’s found, figure out how to reverse the process so that we can cure this thing. It’s not about scientifically bunk treatments like bronchial thermoplasty [because surely burning the inside tissues of the lungs down works to affect the muscle on the outside from constricting, which is the bulk of the significant problem aside from inflammation in more severe asthma], or about the inhalers, or whatever “miracle cure” herb you’re trying to shove down my throat. I’m not into that. I want someone to figure out the pathophysiology and cure me, dang it. I don’t mention the word cure often because it’s too big to even think about. But I want one.

And when better to express my wanting people to actually care about a cure for asthma than asthma awareness month?

Because somewhere along the line, we have to stop settling for “good enough” and start reaching for “gone forever”.

In 2012, Steve Richert and his wife Stefanie will embark on the adventure of a lifetime–three hundred and sixty five days of climbing with a goal of changing people’s perceptions of physical activity and being active with diabetes.  Diagnosed with type one when he was sixteen, I’m blessed to have Steve here today sharing his story of owning his diabetes through changing his perceptions, what he’s doing through climbing to educate and advocate for physical activity as an integral part of diabetes management, and what he’s going to be up to in 2012.


When I woke up in a hospital bed 13 years ago and was told “You have Type 1 diabetes” I had no way of knowing how much it would change my life. Today, this condition I live with has shaped who I am and has caused me to reach greater heights (literally!) than I may have otherwise.

My first reaction to my diagnosis was that I determined to find a way to beat it. I couldn’t stand the idea of being dependent on medicine or hospitals. I wanted to be free—and the fact that the doctors all told me that there was no cure, made me decide that I had to simply find a loophole.

To start with, I decided that I would prioritize my health above everything else. As a 16 year old, that meant explaining my strict diet to other kids in the lunch room and checking my blood sugar before (and during) soccer games, always carrying food in case my sugar dropped low and not getting to treat eating as a recreational activity. Diabetes forces you to redefine your relationship with food—or lose your eyesight, your limbs, your kidneys and circulatory system—so there is a lot at stake!

Fitness became a big part of my life because the insulin injections that I took would work more effectively when I was active—playing sports and working out basically became medicine for me—both to help my body use the insulin I took and also as a means to combat stress. As I grew older and made it through college, the mental aspect of diabetes began to impact me—or at least to the point that I suddenly became aware of it.

Having a chronic illness carries with it some sort of routine that you must adhere to in order to stay well—and while this monotony can allow you a measure of success in dealing with the disease, it causes you to become tired mentally. Depressed. Bored. Hopeless.

I was staying healthy by just eating well and going to the gym, but I knew that I needed to escape the routine if I was going to progress—and that is when I found climbing. I had tried climbing when I was in high school as part of a Phys Ed unit. It initially appealed to me but I didn’t really know how to get into it. So I let it be. Once I revisited the sport after college, it became both a physical activity and mental stimulant. Climbing became my means to explore the world outside my comfort zone: my gateway to the unknown.

I followed the path that my passion led me down and I began learning how to teach others to climb and in 2009 I began working as a climbing guide. I get great enjoyment from being able to teach people to climb and showing them that they CAN do it. Taking something that seems impossible and making it possible is the magic of climbing. Some of the richest experiences I have had climbing have come from situations that held an unknown—that became a success only after the fact.

When I tell people what I do to stay healthy, they frequently smile and shake their head: “That’s fine for you, but I can’t do enough pull ups” or “I am terrified of heights—I could never do that”. Those are the people that I MOST want to take climbing, because turning that can’t into just did is a life-changing experience—and I want others to experience the power of the natural world like I have—through challenging themselves!

Recently, this exact initiative has been my focus. I decided that since I can’t bring people to the mountains, I can bring the mountains to the people—through film. Starting on January 1st 2012, my wife Stefanie and I will begin 365 days of climbing across North America, which we will be filming to make an in depth adventure documentary that will bring you into the high and wild places that we will be climbing! We are selling all of our possessions that won’t fit into our little red hatchback and setting off on a grand adventure. We want everyone to follow along. We will be blogging at where you can keep up with our adventures and support our film if you would like to be part of what we are doing.

My goal at 16 was to overcome diabetes. 13 years later, I still have to take insulin injections 5-10 times daily. I still have to stick my finger 4-6 times a day. There still is no cure. But diabetes has forced me to problem solve, forced me to raise the bar and step up and out of my comfort zone and given me life experience that a pharmaceutical cure would have stolen from me! I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to take on this challenge and I look forward to sharing my successes, struggles, failures and mountain-top experiences with you all during 2012!

Steve is the founder of Living Vertical as well as a climbing instructor.  In 2012, he and his wife Stefanie will be picking up their lives and heading out on the road to spend the year climbing and spreading the message that yes, you CAN do this!  LivingVertical is a non-profit organization that uses climbing and organic nutrition to empower and improve the lives of people living with type 1 diabetes.  To help Steve and Stefaine reach their goal, please consider donating to their project here (all kinds of cool incentives, too!), or contributing through donations of supplies they may need along the way, specifically climbing equipment, snacks and OneTouch blood glucose test strips–gotta keep our friends safe and healthy on the road!

As Steve’s mantra says . . . “Why wait for the ‘cure’?”  What are YOU doing to stay active and healthy with chronic disease and own it — not tomorrow, not next week, but today? Want to share your story?  E-mail me and join the journey.