Who Showed Up To This Year’s Surf Expo?
In short: everyone.
Day 1 of Surf Expo revealed a lively crowd of surf industry folk excited to be back on the convention center floor.
With the big brands showing out in full force and a wide variety of surfing’s accessory, tech, and hardware brands putting forth impressive displays, the one exception was surfboard manufacturers. And honestly, who can blame them? With reports that some shapers could turn off their phones/Instagrams and still be on backorder till March, it makes sense that they would avoid the marketing expense of this year’s expo. With that being said, there is no doubt that they’ll be back for more as the East Coast’s surf market continues to grow in these post-COVID times.
Having touched on the presence of some of the larger brands at this year’s Expo, let’s discuss who else shows up for the world’s biggest surf tradeshow.
You Gotta Respect History
Even due to a slightly subdued crowd as a result of COVID, this year’s Surf Expo still included a sea of booths as far as my sunburnt eyes could see. While making my way to the back of the showroom, I noticed an impressive arrangement of some of skateboarding’s first completes. Upon further inspection (he had plenty of old surfboards too), I was greeted by a man named Craig Snyder, who had just finished taking a panorama video of his booth while riding one of his archaic possessions. In speaking with Craig, a history of skateboarding’s East Coast roots was revealed, starting with Craig’s early obsession from his notoriously flat childhood home of Hollywood, Florida.
With his pre-Covid plans to open a skateboard museum unfortunately foiled, this was one of Craig’s first exhibitions for his ongoing MOSAIC project. You could feel the enthusiasm of someone who truly lives and breathes the history of their desired passion coming to light. If skateboard nostalgia is your thing, keep your eyes peeled for more from MOSAIC and check out Craig’s impressive book highlighting ’70s skateboarding titled A Secret History Of The Ollie here.
New Brands Test The Waters (Or Conversely, Dive In Head First)
The East and West coast markets for surf apparel are decidedly different places. While the average surf apparel consumer dresses entirely different over the 3,000-mile span between Orlando and San Diego (as well as the 1,000-between Orlando and New York), one thing remains certain: if you want raw, honest opinions on your brand prior to launch, Surf Expo is the place to go. With reps from every major surf brand in attendance as well as buyers for shops whose consumer base covers the whole spectrum of potential loyalists, if played correctly, Surf Expo can act as an important litmus test for one’s brand success.
One of this year’s more eye-popping new additions is SITO. Perhaps you recognize the name? OTIS Eyewear’s latest offshoot includes colorful, fun additions as well as serious daily drivers at an affordable price point… and while I detest a cheap pair of sunglasses more than anyone, these are definitely NOT that. After trying on essentially every pair in the booth, I’ve already told them to expect a sizeable order request upon their March ’22 launch…
Local Brands Aren’t Going Anywhere… A Fact For Which We Should All Be Grateful
I wanted to work in the surf industry since I was a kid… turns out I’m not alone. With surfing often reaching an obsessive inflection point in the lives of its victims (in the form of taking over all of their waking and non-waking thoughts), it makes sense one would want to combine business and pleasure when building their career. The abundance of grassroots, highly impassioned surf brands present at Surf Expo spoke volumes — the dream of making it big in the surf industry is still very much kicking.
One of the more tongue-in-cheek brands in attendance is Marina Del Rey-based Sister Betsy’s surf wax (one of two wax companies in the area, the second being sustainable bees wax-based Yew Stoked). To see the amount of entrepreneurs working the floor, grinding in the hopes of making their brand a household name amongst a sea of hundred million dollar brands was incredibly inspiring. Who knows, maybe you can do it too…
Industry Leaders Discuss A Variety Of Topics
Surf Expo isn’t all sales talk. With major players in our industry traveling far and wide to to amalgamate under a single roof, the leader’s of Surf Expo do a fantastic job of setting the stage for the dissemination of knowledge (and I mean that literally). With a full stage set up and a posted panel of speakers and panel discussions all throughout the show, why not grab lunch, kick back for 45 minutes and enjoy learning from some of surfing’s seasoned professionals? After working in surfing for 2.5 year’s I have to say… it’s hard to find this formal setting anywhere else.
Reckless Isolation Hits Florida Full Force
After two banger premeiers in Southern California Kolohe Andino, Ian Crane, Luke Davis and the brothers Colapinto have headed East for a full tour schedule to screen their latest film ‘Reckless Isolation’. As one could expect, the surfing in the film is world class, but what’s truly impressive is that Kolohe not only directed and produced this film, but is paying out of pocket to execute the entirety of this tour, giving the rich and vibrant East Coast surfing community something to be truly excited about. They say what goes around comes around… so it’s no surprise that the boys have lucked into a solid swell after a months-long flat spell. Karma? Is that you?
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