At the end of the day on Friday I stopped by Riviera and greeted Helga, Mike, Ryan, Brad, and Taylor. I think I said something like “Hey.” and then “I’m just gonna sit down here on your bench.” Brad gave me a beer and I grinned dopily at everyone walking through. Two days of swimsuit models, bicycling around the exhibit hall, jumping up and down on inflatables, sacking out on blow up couches, absorbing wisdom from industry legends, and trying to remember what I knew that I could not say made me crave a beer.

Then I went to Lahui Kai and their cooler of PBR.

10933953_10205768521918473_2963053229196946454_nMy next conscious realization was that I was in Cape Canaveral (which I discovered because I looked at the fishing boat docked in the harbor next to the restaurant) at the Hobie Beach Party celebrating the life of Hobie Alter. Did I teleport? Was the time gap because of alien invasion? Did they drop me back off there because it was a convenient place for them to launch back home? We may never know. (I’m just kidding. I know how I got there but if I told you I’d have to kill you.)

And that was just Friday. We still had Saturday.

John has the plague so we left for home straight after Surf Expo instead of going to the Neptunalia race. We alternated my boy band playlists with John’s TED talks, making it back this afternoon with gear to try and lots of excitement for 2015.

A Quiet Show

The general consensus was that there were fewer people at this show, but they seemed to be buying. I stopped by to chat with Mullet advertisers and partners and everyone there seemed to be having a good run. Lots of new accounts opening up, which was great. Most manufacturers were displaying the goods they launched in the fall, with a few new items in the mix here and there.

IMG_7654New in 2015:

-Annabel Anderson Touring board from Lahui Kai: It comes “fully kitted out” (in her words) with a LiftSup handle for easy carrying, ConnexSUP plugs, a “Shizzyshelf” and tie downs so you can carry your gear and the trademark Szymanski tail to make the board effortlessly stable to paddle. We have a video where Annabel takes us through the whole board. We’ll post that next week.IMG_7655

-Titan pump from Red Paddle Co.: This pump makes pumping up and paddling out 50% faster and 50% easier. It’s two pumps in one. One pump allows you to quickly inflate the board almost to pressure. The other pump allows you to top it off to achieve optimum pressure. There’s a pressure gauge. You switch back and forth between pumps with a valve. Right now they’re producing to include with their boards, but eventually they hope to be caught up enough with demand to offer them at retail as stand-alone purchases.

IMG_7672Blofield loveseat: There is a company from the Netherlands that got started by a marketing guy who developed a promotion for a bank whereby every student who signed up for a new bank account got a sofa. A blow-up sofa, but a sofa nonetheless. The person who developed that has refined it and added other items to their line and is breaking into the U.S. market. I have to say, their boards look good and the sofas are pretty comfy. I’m hoping we get some to review!

-High-performance surf: Riviera and Fanatic have debuted smaller high-performance surf models.

-Adventure/Whitewater: C4 has a new whitewater board designed in combination with Trey Knight at the US National Whitewater Center (We have a video that takes you through that coming up). Hobie, Riviera, and Speedboard have pretty tricked out fishing boards. Hobie’s is inflatable, making it ideal for longer excursions, including hiking and camping. Almost makes me want to visit the WILDERNESS. Almost.

-Nice Graphics: Form and function are not mutually exclusive anymore. Hovie, Pulse, and Kings have offered more vibrant colorways and graphics on recreational, touring, and race boards alike. Surftech has gorgeous graphics on their new SHOCKINGLY LIGHTWEIGHT all-around boards.

-Paddles: The paddle landscape is changing. The price of high performance race paddles is dropping, putting top-level gear within reach for a wider audience. Board brands are developing their paddle lines further, aiding the price drop. I enjoyed trying out the new carbon pro-t grip on Kialoa’s adjustable paddle, which gives a much more comfortable feel and shaves some weight off the paddle.

I did not spend a lot of time with the apparel and accessories. John will have more on most of those. I did see a SUP lift that looks intriguing. BanxBlock has a new sunscreen that is a little lighter weight than the original formula and Watermans has a new formula on offer, with new packaging. We’ll review both.

People First; Equipment Second

There’s always so much at these events that you can’t possibly see everything. I feel like, this show, I spent a lot of time “talking story.”

There’s so much history within our industry, so many stories, and so much of it all goes unreported or untold or whispered (Or shouted. People I shared a van with Friday night, you know who you are.) away from the media, away from the spotlight.

One of my favorite things about this show was just talking to reps and team riders and legends from different companies and seeing what they were excited about and, while some of them were excited about new equipment, many of them were excited to tell me stories about people–customers, shapers, ambassadors, shop owners.

John took the Lazy Dogs over to talk to Johnny Puakea, paddle maker, about his paddle shape. He’s been a champion outrigger paddler and has been working with Danny Ching since he was a pup. What was fascinating was that he started with a talk about technique. THEN he started talking paddles. People then the paddle.

So here’s the thing: everyone at Surf Expo makes money selling stuff, but they sell stuff to people. It’s not about the stuff. It’s about the people. Their stories. How YOUR gear helps ACTUAL PEOPLE have more fun, get fit, and improve their lifestyles.

Sorry for the radio silence over the past few days. I blame the aliens.

Much more to come! Big thank you to all of the companies who chatted with us, gave us water and candy and beer and a place to sit and conch fritters. Thank you to our supporters. It was so good to see so many of you at Expo–advertisers, retailers, and readers.

Here’s to a great 2015!