Above photo from Village of Stokehttps://www.facebook.com/villageofstoke
Like flies to a honey pot, the usual outdoor crowd descended upon the mountains of Utah this week for the annual OR Summer Fair (that’s Outdoor Retailer for the uninitiated).
Once the domain of Teva sandal clad PCT trail walkers, dusty chalk fingered rock hoppers, sit down paddle and huck of water fall types, the rise and rise of SUP has seen their show get hijacked. Hijacked to the point of an entire temporary expo center needing to be erected across the road from the Salt Palace Convention Centre, the erection of a giant paddling pool and event directors having spring nightmares monitoring the snow melt levels to ensure there’s actually more than a mud puddle up the valley to host an on water demo day.
Yes folks, SUP is here, and it’s here to stay. No more the bastard child of the surf and kayak world, 2014 has seen SUP land on its own two feet and likely clad in a SUP specific water shoe designed for maximum traction on your board next time to try to navigate a river rapid and want to remain upright.
As ‘OR’ is mostly for industry insiders only (think brands, media, retailers and the odd hanger-on who wheezled a registration neck tag) we thought we’d cut to the chase and give you the insider’s guide to what’s hot, what to expect and what to put on your wish list to give you approximately nine months to save your pennies before the next round of the latest and greatest graces your local shelves or interweb shopping cart.
I hate to break it to you, but this was the area of least excitement. Now that the SUP industry is starting to emerge from being an angry pre-pubescent tween, this year it started to show some maturity. The one-container-from-China shows that have been present in the past were next to non-existent, the well known brands that have been in the game for a while are becoming more comfortable about carving out the segment of the market they wish to play in and the new kids on the block are entering and simply doing business better than anyone else.
The board game is a war of attrition and in 2015 unless you can get product to market when you say you will, design something that it fit for purpose, is aesthetically pleasing, works and meets the price point for the part of the market it is intended, maybe it’s time to consider a different line of business. No longer can board companies get away with late deliveries (if they do in 2015, it will surely be a death sentence) and poor customer service to both the retail network and consumer. The market has reached the point of maturity where to play the game, you actually have to do a good job. Why? Consumers want. And what the consumer wants, the consumer shall have and if you don’t have it right this minute, that consumer will buy something else or find another place to get it today. In the era of instant gratification and amazon-next-day-delivery consumer expectations have followed. If you want to play the game, you have the winter to get your ducks in a row.
From a category outlook, you’re going to find Touring (mostly aimed at inland areas is my bet), River, Inflatable, Yoga and performance surf lines to complement the already well catered all-around board and traditional race offerings. More and more downwind specific boards are being added but this could be like trying to sell a powder ski in Vermont, the market is limited to the geographic locations which hare predisposed to consistent wind or trade winds. And finally, marketing departments have realized that girls make up at least (if not slightly more) than half the participants who SUP. Gone are the gun ship greys and ugliness and in has rocked the beautiful palettes of the coral reef.
2015 is the year we’re going to see SUP specific products finally reach the market. Born out of need they are not a kayak/surf modified botch up. Products that are 100% designed for SUPers and the needs of the various sub categories of the sport that are exploding at light speed (think River and Yoga).
Apparel is heading the same way too. The surf brands are finally growing up and whether it’s out if sheer financial need to grow and cater to new markets or that they have won the internal battle lines that were drawn by their short board riding, anti-kook contemporaries, surf brands are entering the market and they’re starting to jump in rather than simply dip a toe. Why? SUP is reaching the critical point of general acceptance. Some of the best short board shapers are crossing over and shaping killer performance sup surf boards born out of need and those anti-kook, short board riding anger management victims have now had to shell out and buy their non-surfing girl friends and wives a ‘paddleboard’ for her birthday.
Now that the big kids have swung into action, the niche holding minnows that entered over the past couple of years are really going to have to up their game, design killer product and choose their routes to market carefully.
What you’re going to see, product wise, is apparel for both men and women that is technical, well designed, fashionable and functional and it will come from three corners, the surf kids, the niche holders and the technical sports apparel specialists.
Come next summer, you’re also going to have a reason to lust over ‘I want, I want, I want’ accessories to purchase. In 2015 you’re going to have a paddle cover in 3 colours (because one colour is just plain boring), 3 hydration packs because you really can’t fathom the hassle of cleaning out a bladder every time you paddle, safety gear is going to have some cool factor, your cheap roof racks are really not going to cut it in your local parking lot, you’re going to have a neoprene wardrobe to rival you’re teenage daughter’s closet and you’re going to be convinced to go on some random adventure that is going to require river action and all the kit that goes with it. Sorry, I forgot to add that you’re also going to capture it all on human performance measuring devices, POV cameras and upload it to the internet to make your fellow sweepers steer longingly at their computer wishing they weren’t stuck in the office.
To keep up with all these adventures and become the grilling sensation of the summer, you’re going to start fishing off your SUP and there’ a plethora of SUP fishing kit to whet your appetite for getting fit while paddling instead of pounding beers from the cooler on the back of the boat.
With all this ‘yan’ going on, you’re going to be forced to balance it how with some harmonizing SUP yoga to align your inner SUP chakra (we didn’t know it existed either until we were informed by a couple of SUP Yogis this week).
And while many have looked upon SUP yoga as the batty hippie aunt of the SUP world, SUP insiders are eating their words in droves as the SUP yoga phenomenon sweeps North America. Don’t be surprised if you see it being offered at a local public swimming pool this winter, as this is exactly what you will find. SUP is moving indoors and it’s a whole lot safer from a risk management perspective.
To round out the pulse of Summer 2015, be prepared for more. You’re going to want to do more, buy more, travel more and explore more. You’re going to be inspired by the incredible photography you see in print and you’ll want to share your own personal experiences with others via social media platforms. The industry is growing up, it’s finding its feet and there’s most definitely one winner out of all of it. YOU.
Start saving your pennies, clear out your garage, make room in your closet, next summer will be here before you know it.
“blatant theft of Instagram accounts was used in the reporting of this story. We would like to thank all that have contributed to the pictorial insta-feed as you were everywhere we couldn’t be and captured the moments brilliantly’
EDITOR’S NOTE: We will have a follow up post with all of Annabel’s top pics and moments from OR tomorrow!