You are a dog. You hate squirrels. You love tennis balls. You get your email by sniffing dog butts. Now throw that dog—you— into a tennis ball fight an a squirrel convention, held in the museum for dog butts. That’s Surf Expo. It’s not pretty, it’s a lot to process, but hot dog, it’s amazing.
What is the Surf Expo
There are two Surf Expos each year: Fall and Winter. Why two? There are two distinct surf and resort seasons. Those who work all summer and into the fall can buy in the winter show because it’s quiet in their shops. Those who are more winter resort focused, like Florida and the Caribbean, hit the fall show. All-around places go to either. They see everything that’s coming for 2016 and can pre-order based on their sales for the previous years and projections for 2016. Imagine you made all your money this summer and have an idea what sold, what will sell next year and have to double down, perhaps paying some on terms, some on credit, and some on cash. Sounds cary to me. These are the buyers.
Companies bring their shiniest products and people to promote their brands. They want to service their existing accounts and open new ones, perhaps make strategic relationships with other brands for distribution co-promotion or licensing opportunities. These are the exhibitors.
Then, there’s me. I’m media. I’m the squirrel-chasing dog. I’m allowed to have a camera.
It’s also a reunion
What you see in the photos are a lot of people who are smiling taking photos. That’s because it’s one of the few times each year when the industry people get to see each other. We have good people in our industry—water people. We aren’t smiling because someone came out with a 10′ SUP board that’s yellow. We’re smiling because it’s our tribe. That’s why it looks so fun.
It’s work, but good work
But make no mistake about it, it’s work. On the exhibitor side, they are in days in advance trying to afford electricity at the convention center (over $200 in electricity at one booth for two utility lights). It’s an expensive proposition. Then, they have to build their booths. After it’s all over, they have to stay and take the booths down and pack them up. EXHAUSTING. I walk 6+ miles each day on the floor and hear the pitches, without taking time away from the buyer/seller time, and share all those wonderful photos and info with you, my amazing Mullet audience. But I wouldn’t trade jumping in the pool in a dry suit for many things.
What I noticed
So far, there are a lot of great new boards. But honestly, many of the board companies are refining their existing line, getting rid of things that weren’t popular, adding pivotal parts to a line that were missing and making sure their manufacturing process is tight. The overall health of the product is high. Boards look solid and durable. Gone are the days of chipping your board with paddles. The Riviera rental board looks like you could throw it off the building and bounce it into a flatbed truck. The color color palette of the Boga Boards, Surftech and KM are poppingly fun. Bamboo, Coconut, cork and other renewable materials are making noticeable inroads into many of the new products.
There are a ton of new board companies. Some seemed like they just grabbed a few containers and popped up a booth. Others look like existing manufacturers of inflatable rafts or kayaks who adapted their manufacturing to ALSO produce a SUP board. These aren’t bad, but I’m in a wait-and-see mode as usual for these. If they are still there in January, we’ll look closer.
The accessories are amazing. I will have more extended reviews and links, but check out a few things for 2016:
Starboard all star sup dry suit
$799, but will replace stand up paddling in a wetsuit. The days of wearing wetsuits out of the water are numbered. Incredibly fluid range of motion, comfortable. I wish I had one. Yes, I have to buy these things, too.
This is a pressurized portable shower for your car holds 2 gallons of water can spray for four minutes and a platform for changing if you don’t want to stand in the dirt. It is amazing.
RESTUBE: Attaches around the hip with the belt super small bag with the CO2 cartridge you can pull it and the rest tube trails behind you on a short rope so it doesn’t impede your swimming but you can hug it and hold onto it float you can also leave it in there if you need to get someone’s attention this is not a US Coast Guard sanctioned PFD. But it would be a great option. Comes with the whistle.
Sloshboard is a new balance board that uses the weight of water to make balance and core workouts more fun and challenging. It’s adjustable and there are two levels for beginner and advanced. I really like these.
Sharkbanz magnetic shark repellant bands
For your wrist or ankle. They say there is 10 years of data to support the tech that repells sharks.