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Surf Expo gets better with age

Surf Expo visited booths.
Surf Expo visited booths.
Robert J Wiebel

Melbourne, FL (February 2, 2014) Surf Expo kicked off the 2014 show season with the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Bruce Brown’s film The Endless Summer on January 9th, 2014 . This iconic surfing movie is still being enjoyed by surfers everywhere. This exclusive screening of The Endless Summer was shown in the Orange County Convention Center’s Chapin Theater. All the stars of the movie, Robert August and Mike Hynson and Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, star of The Endless Summer II, were present along with the movie’s director Bruce Brown to give live commentary. It was such an enjoyable time watching the movie and listening to the surfers talk about the time of their life.

This January’s Surf Expo was another big success following two record-breaking shows. All the exhibitors I spoke with told me over and over that this event was very good for them. According to the Surf Expo Show Director, Roy Turner, "With more exhibitor booths, and more first-time buyers and stores in attendance, the result was a vibrant marketplace. We always strive to bring together a quality mix of exhibitors and buyers—and the feedback confirms that we achieved this goal. We are pleased that we continue to be a show known for generating business”.
The Surf Expo Show has reported that there were over 2,500 booths with more than 230 first time exhibitors. That was an increase of 6% from the January 2013 show. One has to give the Surf Expo Show staff credit….they know how to put on a great show.

While visiting the Original Waterman booth and speaking with Jeff Jones I was asked how did I pick what booths to visit. I explained that prior to this show; I received many invitations from some of the most popular surf lifestyle brands to come and visit their booths and learn about their new products for the up and coming season. I went on to explain that if the brand took the time to find me on the media list, I would schedule time to visit their booth. For this show I received invites from the Howler Brothers, Go Pro, Sanuk, Spy Optics, Chaco Footwear, The Fin Project and Hobie Polarized. As I moved from appointment to appointment I took the time to visit other interesting brand booths along the way. I also visited, Freaker USA, Simbi, Maui Jim, Pukka Headwear, and Crocs. I also took time to walk the many isles taking photographs. See my Surf Expo Photo Essay on www.examiner.com.

Go Pro: During my past visits to Surf Expo, I never took the time to speak with Go Pro marketing folks because the booth was always packed and I did not have an appointment. But this year it was different. I hooked up with Kati Kilbride, Go Pro Media Relations Manager, prior to the show. I had a great visit with her as she showed me the Go Pro Hero 3+ Black video and still camera and explained all the camera’s features. I really enjoyed learning about this very small compact camera. I plan to do a separate product review but my take away from our talk is that no matter how many other digital point and shoot or Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) fixed or removable lens cameras you have, the tiny, very light weight Go Pro Hero 3+ Black camera, with wifi, that comes with a water proof case will give you photographic capabilities that these other cameras do not. Now that I have had my Go Pro Hero 3+ Black camera for only about three weeks, I can say first hand that you need to get a Go Pro sooner the better.

Howler Brothers: This brand hales from Austin, Texas. It is named after the Howler Monkeys and uses a monkey’s face as their logo. This brand was born on trip to Costa Rica by a group of friends who loved the great outdoors. In reading about the brand, I did not know that the Howler Monkeys in Costa Rica have the loudest call in the jungle. The brand offers a nice selection of shirts, t-shirts, shorts, pants and outerwear constructed with latest high performing fabrics for men, women and children. In addition, you will find an interesting selection of gear and accessories all proudly displaying the Howler Monkey and the Howler Brothers brand name. All the artwork shown on the Howler Brothers products is very simple keeping the howler monkey and the front and center. Visit the Howler Brothers wed site and see for yourself all the Howler Brothers’ products.

Original Watermen: This is a brand with an interesting history starting back in the 1970s where a bunch of California surfers started making board shorts that grew into a company that designed and marketed their products to life-saving organizations, fire fighters and special operations military all across the world. The company grew to the point where 1900 organizations were using their products. The company was called Thousand Mile. During April 2005, Thousand Mile was sold to bigger company and the rest is history. The Original Waterman brand was started shortly thereafter. The brand today is focused on the best quality, fit, and performance for every garment sold to lifeguards the world over. Visit their great website to see all their Waterman products.

Freaker USA: In world of sales and marketing there is one give a way that you see at every trade show, the Koozie. By definition the koozie is a fabric or foam device that is designed to thermally insulate a beverage can or bottle. You must suspect that by attending many trade shows, I would have a nice collection of koozies and rightly so I do have a few lying around my house. But until this Surf Expo, I never had the crème da la crème of koozies until now. The crazy guys who started Freaker USA in 2011 really hit the mark. Their knitted koozie is truly a one size fits all. I did not believe it at first but it is true. I saw it first hand at the show and tried it at home and I can say first hand it is the best koozie I have ever seen. My wife uses one turned upside down to keep her wine glass chilled. Plain and simple, it works. These are American Made in the sleepy coastal town of Wilmington, NC. Visit their great website to see all their crazy koozie artwork. Get a few today. You will not be disappointed.

Spy Optics: As an aficionado of high quality sunglasses, I always scope out the latest designs and trends in the eyewear business when I attend Surf Expo. This year, I was invited to visit the Spy Optics both and get “Happy”.

Simbi, Inc.: Because the Surf Expo exhibitor’s list has over 2,000 brands, it is hard to pick out which boot h to visit. What I usually do is make my short list prior to the show and then keep my eye out, as I walk the isles, for a brand that really stands out for me. Simbi is just that brand. What made it stop is that this brand’s profits support the distribution of clean water to Haiti by providing water filtration systems provided by Life Giving Force. Simbi created an elastic cloth product called the hair-bracelet. You can either wear it as a bracelet or use it to tie back your hair. It comes in more colored designs than the rainbow. When you purchase a hair-bracelet you get a functional elastic band and you are donating to the Simbi mission to bring clean water to Haiti. You can purchase bracelet 6 and 12 packs and headband 6 packs on line by visiting the Simbi web site. If you are interested in learning more about the NGO that provides the water purification systems, you can visit the Life Giving Force web site.

Body Glove Surge: This energy drink is a groundbreaking energy product that has improved over the formula they used last year. It is now available as a shot and gel. Body Glove SURGE is an all‐natural energy shot that provides instant and long‐lasting energy and the added power of protein, green tea and natural antioxidants. You can feel the effects of Surge shortly after taking it. When other energy drinks leave you with a letdown feeling sometime after taking it, the new Surge formulation has solved this energy drink reaction. According to Body Glove, consumed before and during exercise, university studies show that Body Glove SURGE extends endurance and improves reaction time. However, Body Glove SURGE is more than just a performance breakthrough. Proven more effective than the leading energy shot, Body Glove SURGE reduces fatigue, increases alertness and enhances mental concentration.

Hobie Polarized: I have been wearing Hobie Polarized sunglasses when I kayak fish for about three years. When I purchased these I was looking for a high quality pair of sunglasses at a price that did not break the bank. Hobie Polarized fit my criteria. I currently have three pairs of Hobies that are part of my collection of Maui Jim, Zeal, Flying Fisherman, Berkley, and Carve sunglasses. Also part of my collection is my 20 plus year old pair of vintage mirror-lens Killer Loops. You see I am a sunglass junkie. This year Hobie has rolled out a revolutionary HydroClean lens top coating that repels water or any other liquid. This coating is featured on the entire Heritage Glass lens collection. You can also find this technology on the Motion series of the Hobie® Polarized sunglasses. Hobie uses their proven polarized film technology which is enhanced with hydrophobic and anti-reflective coatings are applied under carefully controlled conditions. The result are a lens that sheds water, resists dust and grime, is easy to clean and reduces distracting reflections from light sources behind you. You will not go wrong by adding a pair of the Hobie’s great sunglasses with the HydroClean Plus lens to your collection.

Maui Jim: As a sunglass junkie, I have sunglasses for all occasions. My go to sunglasses off the water are my Maui Jims. These high-end, high quality sunglasses are hard to beat. The frame and lens construction is what you would expect from this brand. When I thought that Maui Jim could not push the sunglasses envelop any further, they caught me by surprise at Surf Expo. Maui Jim has rolled out their new line of “Pure Air” eyewear with the most amazingly clear non-glass lens and an ultra-light frame. According to Richard Walker, Maui Jim’s Director of Product Development, “When you’re in the sun for a long time, the weight of your sunglasses can become a big factor. Until this point, the only way to lighten a frame was to remove material from its construction. This had the potential to weaken the frame. We now have the ability to produce a thin, yet tough, frame that is extremely lightweight and flexible.” To see the entire collection of “Pure Air” sunglasses visit the Maui Jim web site or your local Maui Jim retailer.

Chaco: This brand is full line of premium men’s, women’s and children’s adventure sandals, flips, shoes and boots. Outdoor enthusiast all across the globe have been trekking their hearts out wearing Chaco rugged footwear. Chaco is one of those brands where their customers, once they have owned their first pair, keep coming back for more. All the different styles of Chaco adventure sandals, flips, shoes and boots will give you miles and miles of comfort.
Sanuk: This brand is just funky. I am still trying to figure it out. Is their footwear really a sandal, a relaxed shoe or even a slipper? I have two pairs and I am still trying to make my mind up. Here is what Sanuk is not. It is not made for adventure where you really need great foot and ankle support and traction. What it is – is a full line of laid-back footwear made for the beach, pool and Tiki huts everywhere or just to wear around the house. Sanuk has more colors than M&Ms and designs for every pallet. So when you are in the market for a new pair of sandals, relaxed shoes or even a slippers, get funky – Go Sanuk.

The Fin Project: From time to time in the outdoor recreation market place, one comes across an artist that exemplifies a sport. Timothy Hogan is such an artist. He is the creator of the “The Fin Project”, a photographic journey into the world of surf board fins. According to Timothy, “through the FIN Project's photographic study and documentary film I want to thank them and to tell their story, which is ultimately the story of the FIN.” He brought to Surf Expo many of his fin photographs to display. Timothy is working with the Surf Channel to bring his film to surfers everywhere. His partnership with Steve Bellamy, the owner of the Ski and Tennis channels, is a win, win. Steve has many great successes bringing documentary sports films into the mainstream. The Ski Channel’s high energy film “The Sound of Winter” about extraordinary people is just amazing. The films theme song is by Bush. I expect none the less from Timothy’s documentary film about surfers and fins. Keep your eye out for this film when it comes to avenue near you.

Pukka Headwear: I visit this booth each show to see what new styles they have come up with. New for 2014 are their core, tech and lifestyle collections of hat designs. They have 48 piece minimum order where one can get 12 hats in each design. I support many fishing tournaments that have t-shirts. A Pukka hat can be a great substitute where you do not have to worry about shirt sizes. Check’em out, your next hat just may be a Pukka.

Crocs: What can I say about Crocs? I have 8 pairs. This brand, over the years since it was introduced in 2002 as a clog style, super gripping boat shoe has increased its market share. In a short 12 years Crocs had barnstormed the footwear industry bringing their new innovative styles to the market each year. All Crocs are based upon the characteristic of their sole. This month Crocs will roll out their new stretch sole based upon the Crocs Fit2U Technology™. Crocs can be seen everywhere you go. My favorite Crocs super star is Mario Batali, the famous Italian chef who has as one of his trademarks are his orange Crocs. Mario loves his Crocs so much that when he got wind that Crocs was going to stop make the orange Crocs any more, he had Crocs make a special 200 pair run just for him. So if you need to have a pair of the Mario Batali Crocs, you had better act now.

The January 2014 Surf Expo was a blast, I cannot wait until the September show when I am going to wear my Go Pro to record all the hot action each brand brings to the surfing lifestyle market place.

So until next time, be safe in the sun and have a great day in the great outdoors.