Rumors and Lies: ASR San Diego 2001

A newly expanded San Diego Convention Center greeted more than 19,000 bros and industry pros at the ASR show this past weekend. The expansion, which took more than 130 weeks to complete, increased interior space from 931,919 square feet to 1.7-million square feet and cleared up some of the human logjams that have characterized the ASR show in the past.

While some thought the lack of jostling was a sign of a weak economy, the attendance figures were remarkably similar to last year’s event. The number of buyers was up 107, from 8,429 last year to 8,536. The store count was also up, from 4,058 to 4,088. The only dip was in the number of exhibitor personnel (down 346) — although there was still 379 scantily clad models and more than 1,000 teamriders in attendance.

However, the health of the economy was on many exhibitors’ minds, and at least one mainstay brand is feeling the pinch. During the first day of the show, Quiksilver announced to Wall Street analysts that it was lowering its fourth quarter profit estimates. Quik now predicts that fourth-quarter sales will be between 175-million dollars and 185-million dollars, with earnings per share falling in a range of 30 to 32 cents — far below prior estimates of 48 cents per share.Some of that loss, however, is due to the brand’s plans to significantly increase its national media campaign. Nevertheless, the Quiksilver booth — complete with new paint job — seemed typically busy.

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Quiksilver was hardly the only brand that was hopping. Globe, Billabong, Sole Technology, Rusty Girls, Reef, and others all report having amazing shows — pointing to busy booths and back-to-back appointments as proof.

Also busy was O’Neill, which is preparing to celebrate its 50 (50!) year anniversary as a brand. There was news on just about every front from the brand: new liquid tape on some of its suits, a new level of commitment and involvement in Japan, and a blowout movie premiere featuring Social Distortion and OO Soul on the first night. The premiere was hoot, with beer by the tray, and a solid surf movie to boot. Teahupoo and some mysto West Oz spot were highlights.

Aaron Chang National Sales Manager Bob Tanner said the growing brand had its best ASR ever. Coming off a successful fall season, Tanner says Spring 2002′s line is even stronger and judging by the buzz in the booth he’s not alone in his thinking — buyers are feeling it, too. If you haven’t already, ask Tanner about the Leilani trunks.

Volcom was up to its usual tricks. The banana motif was gone — replaced by artwork — but the booth had the usual, busy vibe. In case you haven’t figured it out, there’s a damn serious company underneath all that mayhem. “We turned out almost 400 appointments at the show,” says Veeco Sales Manager Tom Ruiz. “That’s almost 100 more than last year’s Spring ASR. The girls line looks especially strong.”

Of course, not everyone hit it out of the park. Hounded for months by rumors that it was being sold, Gotcha was a shadow of its former glory with a booth located near the back end of the trade-show Gulag. In order to dispel some of the rumors, the licensee issued a short press release before the show. It should be noted that both the Girl Star and MCD brands had better booth locations and seemed to be enjoying far more retailer traffic.

Footwear companies are paying more attention to the kids’ market. Reef is making both shoes and sandals based on a kid’s last. Etnies is offering six kids-specific shoes, two sandals, and a solid line of softgoods for the under-twelve crowd. DC and Sanük have their own lines of grom footwear, too. If you think about it, it’s a great strategy: ween kids on your brand and you’ll have lol customers for life (that’s what all the car makers do).

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Apparel companies are also capturing the youth at an earlier age. Quiksilver’s Hawk line has dedicated its entire operation to the boy’s market. Billabong Girls is introducing a 25-piece line aimed at the nine- to twelve-year-old girl called Billy Girls. Rip Curl has a Teenie Wahine fighter of its own called Rip Curl Mini Girl.

Speaking of Rip Curl, the brand’s booth was out of control on Saturday. After seeing his circus act on The Discovery Channel, Rip Curl tracked down contortionist Daniel Bowden-Smith, quite possibly the most flexible (and lucky?) human on earth. This guy wooed the crowd as he slithered his way in and out of a tennis racket. Doing so required him to pop his arm out of its socket and jam it behind his neck (see picture in slide show). He also ran circles around his hands — don’t ask, you had to be there.

But the body bender was only the tip of the iceberg at Rip Curl. Tiago Gil (son of Aloha Surfboards’ Mauricio Gil) won a tide watch, T-shirt, video, hat, and 21 dollars for stomaching a can of dog food playing Rip Curl’s Wheel of Misfortune. Another woman won some loot for brushing her teeth with wasabi — and swallowing it. Another kid let Rip Curl teamriders Matt Gilligan and Jamie O’Brien give him a no-hawk and spray paint his head pink for a t-shirt and Super Computer DVD.

If you’re talking freak shows, you can’t forget Black Flys. Although there weren’t any peep shows, the booth was still a spectacle. With complete disregard for the energy crisis, the blinding booth was a fence of fluorescent lights. Good thing nobody walked by with a spray bottle.

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Apparently SurfCo Hawaii received a summary judgment supporting its position in its lawsuit with FCS. Look for FCS compatible Pro Teck fins to return to retailers’ shelves in a few months, says SurfCo Hawaii President Dave Skedeleski. More on this soon.

Alex De La Peña, who said in the last issue of TransWorld SURF Business that the surf industry has been on cruise control for the last decade, has been hired by Billabong-owned Element.

September is just a bad month for Bluetorch. Things continue to look sketchy for the media brand, with two more high-level executives leaving the fold. It’s rumored that its future may have been decided during a board meeting last Friday. Anyone want to buy a slightly used editing bay?

Nestled among the skate brands was a new girl’s brand called Copia. Backed by Alias Distribution (Osiris, Arcade, Elenex), Copia is taking aim at the eighteen to 26-year-old women’s fashion marketplace. A sneak peak at the line showed colorful threads and footwear that work as a collection.

Deesse, another upstart juniors’ brand, is taking an aggressive stab at the marketplace. It’s been working hard to get its name out, having sponsored the U.S. Open and Shiva Shock. One hurdle it still needs to overcome is its name — no one can say it (we’ve heard “dee cee,” “dee-z,” “daisy,” etc. …) We asked president Olary Yim, a Wellesley College alum, how to pronounce Deesse, which means “goddess” in French: “DA es.” Anyhow, however you say it the product looks good — especially the “Tits” t-shirts.

Solitude (pronounced “sol E twoed”), is happy with the new deal it signed with BC Ethic Founder Jeff Shafer. Shafer joins Shaun and Carla Tomson as equal partners and will manage the operations side of the biz, giving Carla more time to focus on design and Shaun more time to be the brand’s frontman.

Gravis was taking some solitude of its own at ASR. Rather than diving into the mix, the Burton-supported footwear brand was hiding out next door in its eagle’s nest at the Marriott. Actually, the move for a suite over a ten-by-ten is fitting for the brand, because it really isn’t a skate brand nor a surf brand — and it’s not trying to be one or the other, either. It’s on a trip of its own, and so far it’s heading down the right road (absolutely killing it Japan, and winning over more and more retailers in the States).

Sanük also continues to stomp out its own path. New to the mix this year is a budding line of closed-toe footwear. Chill, a fur-lined leather boot, is the first of many to hit the shelves. For the record, it’s refreshing to see a beach brand not bite so hard on skate. Sanük’s accessories line is also solid and should do well in the boutique world.

There were some exciting things coming out of the Rusty booth as well. On the softgoods level, Rusty has codeveloped the Amphibious surf shirt (with Rusty Australia), a rashguard and T-shirt in one. The shirt is 95 percent cotton, five percent Lycra, and wholesales for $13.50. A product that’s cool and functional — what a concept. Shooy also said that Rusty’s boardshorts offering is the best it’s ever been. There’s a focus on sublimated images including money shot trunks, which have a bunch of Benjamin’s printed on it. Shooy said Flea wouldn’t give the sample back and he had to wrestle the trunks off him. Didn’t know they had that kind of relationship.

As softgoods and apparel are checking back to the 80s, so are hardgoods — at least at Rusty. Enter the “84″ — easily the coolest looking board in, well, seventeen years. The 84 incorporates the exact template Rusty used for Occy’s board in 1984, complete with a flat deck and mammoth rails. So why did Rusty decide to resurrect the Occy board? “Derek Hynd ordered an Occy replica four years ago and a certain six-time world champ got his hands on it, rode it, and went, ‘Wow! This is real!,’” says Rusty. The only challenge is getting blanks that are flat enough to recreate the masterpiece.

Body Glove is offering some artwork of its own. The Gavin Beschen suit has a new print and comes in two colors. The real deal, however, is a new liquid tape the brand is using on its EST suits. It’s stretchier and could finally do justice to the noteworthy seam technology. Body Glove is also offering new rubber that resists pilling. Joe McNulty showed it to me, and I’m a believer. Body Glove is also developing a PFD designed for tow-in surfing. No word on which poor soul drew the short straw to test the new life jacket.

Bic had a lot of people stopping by the booth (mostly guys from BZ) to check out its new closed-cell-foam softboards. The new learner boards are new to the states, but have been a longtime hit in Australia under the name G Boards. A double stringer made of epoxy keeps the boards structurally sound, while the closed-cell foam means it won’t suck up any water.

And now a word from our sponsor… While I may sound like a total TransWorld-promoting jackass, the TransWorld SURF video game for the Xbox had to have been one of the cooler diversions at the show — even better than the Body Boarding Magazine T-shirts (and everyone knows exactly how cool those were).

Note: In the 3#5 issue of TransWorld SURF Business we incorrectly listed the dates for ASR’s upcoming back2skool trade show, which will be held March 19 and 20 in Huntington Beach, California.sn’t a skate brand nor a surf brand — and it’s not trying to be one or the other, either. It’s on a trip of its own, and so far it’s heading down the right road (absolutely killing it Japan, and winning over more and more retailers in the States).

Sanük also continues to stomp out its own path. New to the mix this year is a budding line of closed-toe footwear. Chill, a fur-lined leather boot, is the first of many to hit the shelves. For the record, it’s refreshing to see a beach brand not bite so hard on skate. Sanük’s accessories line is also solid and should do well in the boutique world.

There were some exciting things coming out of the Rusty booth as well. On the softgoods level, Rusty has codeveloped the Amphibious surf shirt (with Rusty Australia), a rashguard and T-shirt in one. The shirt is 95 percent cotton, five percent Lycra, and wholesales for $13.50. A product that’s cool and functional — what a concept. Shooy also said that Rusty’s boardshorts offering is the best it’s ever been. There’s a focus on sublimated images including money shot trunks, which have a bunch of Benjamin’s printed on it. Shooy said Flea wouldn’t give the sample back and he had to wrestle the trunks off him. Didn’t know they had that kind of relationship.

As softgoods and apparel are checking back to the 80s, so are hardgoods — at least at Rusty. Enter the “84″ — easily the coolest looking board in, well, seventeen years. The 84 incorporates the exact template Rusty used for Occy’s board in 1984, complete with a flat deck and mammoth rails. So why did Rusty decide to resurrect the Occy board? “Derek Hynd ordered an Occy replica four years ago and a certain six-time world champ got his hands on it, rode it, and went, ‘Wow! This is real!,’” says Rusty. The only challenge is getting blanks that are flat enough to recreate the masterpiece.

Body Glove is offering some artwork of its own. The Gavin Beschen suit has a new print and comes in two colors. The real deal, however, is a new liquid tape the brand is using on its EST suits. It’s stretchier and could finally do justice to the noteworthy seam technology. Body Glove is also offering new rubber that resists pilling. Joe McNulty showed it to me, and I’m a believer. Body Glove is also developing a PFD designed for tow-in surfing. No word on which poor soul drew the short straw to test the new life jacket.

Bic had a lot of people stopping by the booth (mostly guys from BZ) to check out its new closed-cell-foam softboards. The new learner boards are new to the states, but have been a longtime hit in Australia under the name G Boards. A double stringer made of epoxy keeps the boards structurally sound, while the closed-cell foam means it won’t suck up any water.

And now a word from our sponsor… While I may sound like a total TransWorld-promoting jackass, the TransWorld SURF video game for the Xbox had to have been one of the cooler diversions at the show — even better than the Body Boarding Magazine T-shirts (and everyone knows exactly how cool those were).

Note: In the 3#5 issue of TransWorld SURF Business we incorrectly listed the dates for ASR’s upcoming back2skool trade show, which will be held March 19 and 20 in Huntington Beach, California.