Surf Expo: Rumors And Lies

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surf expo, lost booth

With Hurricane Florence spinning off Bermuda and Hurricane Gordon actually chasing everyone away early the final day, the aisles at the annual September Surf Expo Trade Show in Orlando, Florida last weekend were buzzing with good surf stories and overall stoke. It’s the East Coast after all, where legendary hurricanes are remembered for lifetimes and even moderate storms bring some of the best waves of the year. When they come, people drop just about everything for the chance to catch the swell. [IMAGE 1]The show opened Friday morning with many people bragging about clean, warm, head-high waves caught earlier in the week from Florida to North Carolina. (SURF Business didn’t make it to the show until noon Friday — Cocoa Beach at first light, chest-high surf, water 83 degrees, no shark sightings.) As the show picked up pace, so did Gordon coming from the Gulf of Mexico, bringing rainy weather threatened to wreck havoc all over Florida.

Despite the hurricanes, Surf Expo delivered what it always promises: a mellower, business-oriented trade show that gave buyers and manufacturers an opportunity to do business, preview and order spring lines, and have a pretty good time. Most retailers seemed positive about the state of the surf industry, noting increased sales and good product offerings from manufacturers.

Topping the surf-industry news charts was Reef’s hiring of Jeff Cutler as its new marketing director. Cutler, former Globe marketing manager, says he’ll miss his Globe/Gallaz colleagues, but he’s stoked to work for Santiago and Fernando. Word has is it the new job stirred the Globe waters a bit, and Cutler’s Surf Expo trip was cut short.

Rumors were all but confirmed that The Realm would be launching a rubber program called, simply, Realm Rubber. Longtime wetsuit guy Marty Gilcrest will be involved and hopes to do a bit better this time than with his recent outing with Freedom. With the backing of The Realm (and Op if the deal is ever really signed), it could rock.

Body Glove is hoping kids will flock to surf shops next spring searching for its new Gavin Beschen signature jacket, which is possibly the first-ever signature wetsuit series. The jacket features artwork by Beschen in black and white on the outside chest and underarm panels. Surf Brand Manager Rick Petri says the jacket is the first of three in the Beschen series, with long-sleeve springs and fullsuits to follow. And yes, Brucie will get a signature suit, too.

Speaking of suits, Billabong Girls is going full bore into the Juniors’ swimwear market. Its first-ever line of swimsuits is big — 30 pieces in all. Teamrider input played a major role in the design, which has some super fashiony touches like rhinestones and intricate embroidery. New Juniors’ Marketing Manager Jessica Trent says the line has a little sumpin’ for everyone.

In related Billabong news, the brand has launched its initial series of stylish watches. There are five models in all, with a tide watch and a Juniors’ line to be released next summer. Head’s up Nixon.[IMAGE 2]Rusty and Redsand are hitting the road with different grassroots campaigns centered on surf shops. Rusty is taking to the streets on its “2001: Surf Odyssey” tour, which is designed to spread Rusty goodwill at its coastal accouts through board demos (including the new Piranha fish) and sportswear line presentations. Scheduled stops include Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Virginia Beach.

Redsand will continue to hold its surf-shop contest series, which gives its dealers a chance to go mono-y-mono for best-shop bragging rights. When the Redsand staff wasn’t lurking at the Wake Designs booth checking out The Popcorn Girl, they were planning their next contest.

Gotcha and MCD are on to a new campaign of its own. With a new licensing agreement with Ederal Sportswear, the brands have been able to focus on revamping their looks. For MCD, it means more techie; for Gotcha, “more street and lifestyle influence with international and clean look,” says Michael Buchalter, director of branding, marketing, and business development.

Cell phones were blowing up all weekend. It was nice to see all the conventioneers offering a hand to those in need who were patting themselves down trying to figure out, A) which pocket their phone was in, and B) if it really was their phone ringing. For those of you who may have missed calls searching aimlessly for your phone, HIC has stepped up to the call with its new Fusion short, perfect for geeks and important VIP types.

Partygoers could also use a short like the Fusion. While Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon had a stronghold on the party scene, there was so much going on that Palm Pilots and cell phones were necessary to stay on top of the game. Surf Expo threw a huge Typhoon Lagoon party, which was trumped Saturday night by O’Neill’s Typhoon Lagoon private party (open bar, free food, free waves).

The Black Flys crew is not dead. They actually threw a huge party at the Icon in downtown Orlando Friday night. Proof of bleach and surgical enhancements (plus a ten-dollar cover) were required at the door. If you could actually make it through traffic on International Drive and had money left after the cab ride (they charge by the second, not the mile) the parties went off.

Back at the show, the skate section was pretty slow compared to ASR, but there were very well-attended street and vert ramp skate demos. Volcom, whose booth was across from the vert ramp, once again used basic instincts to rile people up. At one point Saturday afternoon, staff members just started throwing free T-shirts, videos, and other stuff out of their booth and a huge crowd swarmed on every giveaway.

Continuing on the skate vibe that has been gaining momentum at recent Surf Expos, DVS is super stoked about the recent signing of Flea, and will also be pushing Cory Lopez, Mike Morrisey, and Gabe Kling. Owner Kevin Dunlap will be overseeing the company’s surf program and is super stoked about it. He hopes the surf expansion will ultimately help out the skate retailers. “We want kids to go into skate shops to buy shoes,” he says.

Kids will probably be wanting to buy the G-Bag by Osiris, too — that is if they can find a shop lucky enough to get its hands on the first 5,000 bags produced. For those of you in the dark, the G-Bag backpack is a walking boom box, complete with a longlife battery back and a pair of built-in speakers (bring your own Discman).

Airwalk is finally heading in the right direction with the launch of a cool stand alone, core-shop only skate brand called Genetic. The four-shoe line looks great, and will only go to skate shops. Heading up the new program is former Airwalk and Duffs employee Rob Dotson and designing is John Eades. This is Dotson’s two cents on the show: “Who needs Viagra when you have Surf Expo?” Genetic will be setting up an office back in Airwalk’s old home base of Carlsbad, California.

People are just getting used to the fact that there will be not one, but two different Hawk brands in the market. One, a shoe company owned by Adio (which is owned by K2) will be working with the other, Hawk clothing company (Quiksilver-owned) to ensure the credibility of the brand. But Hawk is going to be a lot bigger than it already is. Quik is planning to do a whole series of Hawk skate-inspired stores across the country in the same vein as the Quiksilver Boardriders Clubs. Sources close to Quiksilver say world domination is in the company’s short-term plans.

Maybe the biggest crowds in the aisles were around the Op booth, where it’s go-go inspired Fembots were back for the final stop of the triple crown of trade shows, after blowing minds (and confusing some buyers) at Magic and ASR. The whole Op booth was designed by the legendary Peter Schroff, and obviously had people talking about Op more than anyone could remember. Rumor has it the brand dropped more than 350 grand on the apple-green veneer booth.[IMAGE 3]The Lost booth was packed as boards were sold right on the spot, and the Lost mascot Randall cartoon head was seen wandering the halls, spreading the love. Most are waiting for the final confrontation between Randall and Mickey Mouse, but Mickey is afraid to leave the Magic Kingdom. One of the other highlights at the Lost booth were the new Tech Deck Lost series of finger surfboards.

Unlike ASR where nobody would be caught dead riding one of those silly scooters, Surf Expo had way too many kids cruising on those damn things. Sector 9 and other longboard skateboard companies should have a free exchange program: bring in your scooter and trade it for a skateboard. Let’s stop the madness now.

According to Surf Expo Marketing Director Beth Morin, by the end of show on Saturday, total attendance was up ten percent. The company is waiting for final numbers from Sunday, but thinks they might be slightly off of last year’s total because of Gordon.

That’s just a short glimpse of what took place at this year’s Surf Expo. Just remember, the next one’s only four months away, to be held conveniently not during hurricane season, January 5-7, 2001.MAGE 3]The Lost booth was packed as boards were sold right on the spot, and the Lost mascot Randall cartoon head was seen wandering the halls, spreading the love. Most are waiting for the final confrontation between Randall and Mickey Mouse, but Mickey is afraid to leave the Magic Kingdom. One of the other highlights at the Lost booth were the new Tech Deck Lost series of finger surfboards.

Unlike ASR where nobody would be caught dead riding one of those silly scooters, Surf Expo had way too many kids cruising on those damn things. Sector 9 and other longboard skateboard companies should have a free exchange program: bring in your scooter and trade it for a skateboard. Let’s stop the madness now.

According to Surf Expo Marketing Director Beth Morin, by the end of show on Saturday, total attendance was up ten percent. The company is waiting for final numbers from Sunday, but thinks they might be slightly off of last year’s total because of Gordon.

That’s just a short glimpse of what took place at this year’s Surf Expo. Just remember, the next one’s only four months away, to be held conveniently not during hurricane season, January 5-7, 2001.