Rumors and Lies: ASR Long Beach

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Long Beach ASR, trade show

There’s a ton of dried flaky crap up on the epidermal layer of the trade-show scene — the relentless shaka-bro-bra hoo-hawery, the too-eager security guards, the great unwashed B.O. brigade, and that motherf–ker who intentionally rubbed his snotty nose all over my shirt at the DC party.

But look a little deeper and there was actually a lot that was noteworthy in the trade-show tornado that’s ASR Long Beach. First, the show was packed to beyond looney levels on Saturday. If you tried to get from the urban side of the Long Beach Convention Center all the way to the skate side of the hall that afternoon, you were in for a good twenty minutes of elbowing and torso pinball. The madness continued all the way to the show’s closing on Monday afternoon, according to Volcom’s Richard Wolcott, who said business at Veeco’s banana-yellow tent city was non-stop.

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With Conan Hayes jumping ship to start his own brand, RVCA, Ezekiel has picked up long-time Billabong teamrider Ross Williams. Considering Williams’ exposure in the mags –and his insane sections in all the Taylor Steele films — we’re giving Ezekiel the advantage in the deal. The brand has also signed Joe Curren.

Conan was briefly at the show, but a RVCA booth and product was nowhere to be found — and at least one retailer was looking for it (which is always a good thing). Alistair Craft was also walking the show talking about his new brand Ally, but also didn’t have a booth.

Despite the wall of hulking bodyguard flesh you had to push through to get into the show, there were still a few showgoers who couldn’t resist the five-finger discount. Rip Curl caught one shoplifter in the act and called in security. Planet Earth wasn’t so lucky and didn’t catch its budding felon. This brings us to a touchy subject: just who the hell were all the people walking the show? Sure, the bulk of them were probably retailers or “buyers.” But the halls seemed full of folks content to perch around booths and watch skate videos all day.

Deals, deal. Let’s make a deal. The surf industry is rife with whispers about who’s shopping for what and major announcements could be weeks (days?) away. Some of the rumors make sense — others border on the surreal or downright wacky. What’s the real story? Despite what you may have heard, nothing is signed yet. And in the past the icy road of legalese has sent many a nascent deal skidding off the road and into the ditch of “what could have been.” Stay tuned.

Every show has at least one dubious product. In September it was the Heely Wheelie shoe. This year, the clear winner of the “Where’s Darwin When Ya’ Need Him” award was the skate rollercoaster. It looked goofy and vaguely fun from a distance, but as Local Motion’s Mitch McEwen discovered, looks can be deceiving. Hopefully his severely wrenched back won’t keep him off the hill this week while he’s snowboarding in Tahoe — which is forecasted to be hit with some seriously deep powder.

Electric’s Bruce Beach has a reputation for being almost messianic in his pre-show pep-talk fervor — pumping up employees and reps to almost superhuman levels. But maybe his crew was affected a little too much this show. Saturday night saw more than twenty cops breaking up Electric’s post-show soiree as case upon case of beer was pulled out of their Renaissance hotel room. By the way, Renaissance had the industry pegged perfectly by putting up its numerous “sticker boards” throughout the hotel. As anyone who saw the Physical Science-plastered walkway to the show knows, the board-sports market loves its stickers.

We gotta give props to Swell. The Cortes Bank expedition was going mainstream during the show, and seems to be fueling interest in the XXL $60,000 biggest-wave-takes-it-all contest — which uses the Bill Sharp K2 Challenge blueprint from a few years ago. Cortes Bank nabbed the dot-comers coverage on local tv news and in newsprint, and ao on CNN and Newsweek — to name a few. It was perfect timing for ASR — especially because it shifted industry discussion from the eventual fate of the dotcom to the weight of Snips’ potential 60,000-dollar wave.

Tales of ASR post-show debauchery are legion, but one of the more unusual stories from this past show involves two female employees from a company that shall remain nameless. After being unable to find a way into the Surfing Girl press launch party, the enterprising gals hooked a fire escape and scampered up eight floors outside of the building before finding an open window into the party — all the while one of them was crying with fear because she was afraid of heights.

The Black Flys crew was up to its predictable hijinks — sporting a booth complete with peep holes that shed light on all the “business” being done inside. My brief view (conducted for purely sceintific and “magazine” related reasons) was of two strippers tied up back to back on what appeared to be a large stake — with a third pro ho grinding around the pagan scene. Security guards kept the glimpses to hit-and-run affairs, but apparently some 13-year-old kid had the birthday of his life on Saturday. Some things never change.

The folks at also Split didn’t have time to check out the gratuitous deviance going on at Black Flys — they were too busy doing line presentations. Split’s Marketing Director Mark Sperling says the company is refocusing on the surf market and has seen triple-digit growth in the past year. The addition of Team Manager Ronny Nelson has also been key. Nelson’s capabilities on his bike is another story, however, as his two mangled ankles attest. But talk about a remarkable recovery. Nelson was wheelchair bound on Saturday but was up and walking around just 24 hours later. Was it some sort of miracle healing brought about by all those orders or a blatant playing of the sympathy card?

Reef, Billabong, and O’Neill all had packed booths nearly the entire show and seemed to be rocking not just with shakathon glad handers but also with retailer appointments stacked deep.

O’Neill’s Kelly Gibson is poised to become the go-to guy when it comes to O’Neill brand marketing. This follows the announcement that long-time marketing guru and all-around bright bulb Mark Tinkess is leaving the company after this month’s Cold Water classic. Could this herald the type of industry shuffle we saw in the wake of Joey Santley’s departure? Stay tuned.

The future of Quiksilver’s wetsuit program seems bright. We checked out Quik’s fall offering and it looks good — ask Dave Lester to show you the new hollow-fiber fabric, which he claims is lighter (because it doesn’t absorb that much water) and warmer. Lester and Casey Fleming says the suits are all checking at retail. Senior VP and Wetsuit Division manager Bill Bussiere looked like the cat who ate the canary when asked about Hawk, Quik’s new Fidra golf line, and all the rest of the apparently unstoppable Quiksilver juggernaut — but those comments about were “world domination” were just jokes. Right, Bill? Bill….? Seriously, even with the same ol’ tired trade show booth, Quik had the type of vibe once claimed by only the newcomer brands.

INT Sandals has been doing some business of its own, recently. A newcomer to the open-toed footwear scene, INT President Louis Hayward says his EVA traction-pad topped flip-flops will soon be available nation-wide in Pac Sun stores and other major surf retailers. While there’s just for colorways available right now (red, black, blue, gray), and new series of colors for girls are on the way.

Dan McInerny’s Hub360 booth in the convention center lobby was the location of many a razzle dazzle promo demonstration with quite a few industry shakers doing the hour-long head nod as they were taken through what may become the industry’s B2B portal. McInerny and the rest of his Hub cohorts say the logic behind the system is in place and the price of the backend technology providers Hub will eventually choose continues to fall. The bare-bones demo looked great and key retailers and manufacturers have apparently signed letters of intent. The question is, can the promises of the dreamworld demo live up to the realities of life in the surf retail trenches? McInerny says we’ll see by summer.

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Maybe it was sparked by TransWorld SURF’s Santa Cruz issue, but two well-known Santa Cruz brands are pushing into the surf market. NHS– the company behind Santa Cruz skateboards and snowboards — unveiled a line of surfboards at ASR. Sessions, a long-time mainstay in the snow and skate markets, unveiled its line of more surf-inspired clothing at the show.

Neil Pryde, the second largest manufacturer of wetsuits in the world, has a proven track record building suits for some of the industry’s most successful companies. Now the company is launching its own line of Neil Pryde suits and has signed a roster of talent to the program. Neil says retailers can expect a “slow as it goes” approach but admits the Neil Pryde line, with its improved margins, will eclipse the OEM business in terms of company focus. John Federoff is the designer of the line (which will feature completely separate designs from the OEM offerings) and the suits will be constructed in Neil Pryde’s Thialand facotry (formerly Omareef) and in China. Look for more on this story in the coming days.

Realm Rubber is being shelved in the U.S. for the time being — although it will be available overseas. According to Marty Gilchrist (who’s running the wetsuit program for The Realm), the Realm Rubber line has debuted in Europe, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia with the Realm licensees in those locations. As TransWorld SURF Business reported last issue, the plan here in the U.S. was for Realm Rubber to remain a separate entity with a separate P&L statement. However, just after we went to print, Gilchrist went to The Realm’s new CEO John Vance and asked to be incorporated into the Realm operation. At this point, The Realm’s new backers are unwilling to spend the additional money needed to make that happen. “The Realm in the U.S. has decided to get back up and rolling in garment business before entering the wetsuit business,” says Gilchrist, who doesn’t rule out the possibility that the wetsuits will launch on the U.S. market in about six months. Gilchrist’s other company, Neoprene Tech, has its own line of wetsuit in Japan sold under the Energy label and just signed a deal with Op to produce wetsuits for distribution in the mass market.

The rest of the Realm operation appears on track, however, and Mike Parsons was probably the biggest celebrity of the show because of his Cortes Banks charging. With a upcoming cover of Surfing Magazine likely, Parsons is neatly blurring the line between surf industry leader and leading surfer.

I gotta go wash my shirt, but don’t forget to check out our ASR slide show. Just scroll back to the top and look in the righthand column. the system is in place and the price of the backend technology providers Hub will eventually choose continues to fall. The bare-bones demo looked great and key retailers and manufacturers have apparently signed letters of intent. The question is, can the promises of the dreamworld demo live up to the realities of life in the surf retail trenches? McInerny says we’ll see by summer.

[IMAGE 2]

Maybe it was sparked by TransWorld SURF’s Santa Cruz issue, but two well-known Santa Cruz brands are pushing into the surf market. NHS– the company behind Santa Cruz skateboards and snowboards — unveiled a line of surfboards at ASR. Sessions, a long-time mainstay in the snow and skate markets, unveiled its line of more surf-inspired clothing at the show.

Neil Pryde, the second largest manufacturer of wetsuits in the world, has a proven track record building suits for some of the industry’s most successful companies. Now the company is launching its own line of Neil Pryde suits and has signed a roster of talent to the program. Neil says retailers can expect a “slow as it goes” approach but admits the Neil Pryde line, with its improved margins, will eclipse the OEM business in terms of company focus. John Federoff is the designer of the line (which will feature completely separate designs from the OEM offerings) and the suits will be constructed in Neil Pryde’s Thialand facotry (formerly Omareef) and in China. Look for more on this story in the coming days.

Realm Rubber is being shelved in the U.S. for the time being — although it will be available overseas. According to Marty Gilchrist (who’s running the wetsuit program for The Realm), the Realm Rubber line has debuted in Europe, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia with the Realm licensees in those locations. As TransWorld SURF Business reported last issue, the plan here in the U.S. was for Realm Rubber to remain a separate entity with a separate P&L statement. However, just after we went to print, Gilchrist went to The Realm’s new CEO John Vance and asked to be incorporated into the Realm operation. At this point, The Realm’s new backers are unwilling to spend the additional money needed to make that happen. “The Realm in the U.S. has decided to get back up and rolling in garment business before entering the wetsuit business,” says Gilchrist, who doesn’t rule out the possibility that the wetsuits will launch on the U.S. market in about six months. Gilchrist’s other company, Neoprene Tech, has its own line of wetsuit in Japan sold under the Energy label and just signed a deal with Op to produce wetsuits for distribution in the mass market.

The rest of the Realm operation appears on track, however, and Mike Parsons was probably the biggest celebrity of the show because of his Cortes Banks charging. With a upcoming cover of Surfing Magazine likely, Parsons is neatly blurring the line between surf industry leader and leading surfer.

I gotta go wash my shirt, but don’t forget to check out our ASR slide show. Just scroll back to the top and look in the righthand column.