Surf Expo January 2015

By Kailee Bradstreet & Kelsey Smith

Day Three & Wrap Up Report

Another Surf Expo is on the books for the surf industry. Although we are still waiting for final attendance numbers to be released from Surf Expo, we heard from many throughout the three-day event that the show is a major one for them in terms of writing orders—not just with retailers in the region, but from across the country and internationally, as well.  

“This is more of a working show for us,” says VonZipper VP Sales and Merchandising Curt Fry. “Everyone shows up here more awake, focused and wanting to see the product.”

We heard similar sentiments from many at the show, including big brands like O’Neill who had dedicated an even larger space than normal for their booth, and brought a full hands-on-deck staff to educate buyers. Several emerging brands were also riding that same wave of energy. For COVA, a men’s premium brand backed by an impressive roster of industry veterans, the show brought renewed support and several additional accounts to the table, according to Ambassador/Advisor Tom Holbrook, who hails from a long legacy at Quiksilver. The brand saw retail accounts including North Carolina’s Whalebone, Bob and Ronny Abdel from Jack’s in Huntington Beach, and Tyler’s out of Texas. Emerging brand OurCaste was also particularly hyped on opening a new door with Florida’s Curl.

Rip Curl and Billabong used this show to make a stronger push to sell their year-round swim lines. Rip Curl’s women’s swim line is robust and had success at the show from their Caribbean and International clientele, in addition to Amuse and Catch Surf.

Along those same lines, Rusty is updating its distribution strategy this year, coordinating a new global campaign, Metal Aloha, which will be hitting retail simultaneously for the first-time ever—domestically in late June, and Australia and other key regions Internationally in late July.

Companies are constantly searching for new ways to partner with key retailers to continue driving and supporting business. …LOST has launched an interesting platform on its e-commerce site to sell and distribute shop’s private label T-shirts. So far, the crew has partnered with 20 of its accounts on the program.

Day Two

We saw a big push today from brands in the activewear category, and many were focusing in on the technical aspects of their product in order to set them apart at retail. Hurley is continuing to update its Dri-Fit technology, borrowed from sister company Nike, and has implemented it across the brand’s active and lounge wear collections for women. The technology also carries over into Hurley’s men’s collection, with the John John Phantom signature boardies that utilize Nike’s Flywire construction at the waist, making them impossible to stretch out  and giving them a grip so that they hold in place. At Vans, the ISO 2, an update to last season’s ISO, is new to the collection for Fall 2015, and diverges from the brand’s typical offering to provide a more active trainer-style shoe.

Emerging brand OurCaste is putting an interesting twist on technical stylings that lean toward a more fashion-forward appeal yet still serve a purpose. For example, the brand is offering a classic silhouette black pant with DWR coating for everyday wear, but that will also keep you dry if you get caught out in the rain riding a motorcycle or skating, explains Marketing Manager LJ O’Leary. The brand has also incorporated moisture wicking in several button down shirts and pullover thermals with thumb holes, to keep sleeves from blowing up and exposing arms to the cold while riding, and thermal weld zippers that add a pop of functional detailing to both technical and fashion-forward pieces. Fox is following suit with the continuation of its activewear collection for both men’s and women’s, which emphasize an active to lifestyle transition story featuring pieces with mixed material such as cotton and polyester.

Progressive technology is also motivating brands to create more innovative product for Fall 2015. Nixon just unveiled its UltraTide watch, a partnership with Surfline that updates you with conditions at your favorite break, and even lets you save the details of your best day surfing, and then alerts you the next time the conditions are similar at that same location. On top of that Nixon has also rolled out a series of educational clinics for its core accounts that gives shop employees a chance to “graduate” in the Nixon watch program through different chapters dedicated to each new product.

Over at SurfTech, a brand that is celebrating its 25 year anniversary in 2015, innovation is key to what they create. We ran into Channel Islands’ Scott Anderson at the booth, who was checking out the new 5’7 TL Pro Carbon Biscuit, which is weighing in just under 5 lbs. The board is constructed with carbon patches and a light PVC core, which gives it a more lively feel. The model was a best seller for CI for the past several years, fueling the brand to raise the bar on the product by partnering with SurfTech to create a more innovative spin on the board.

We were equally impressed with Firewire’s latest boards, the Evo and the Vader, shaped by Daniel ‘Tomo” Thomson. Thomson has created a quad concave bottom that allows the board to lift from the water as it gains speed—”It’s like flying,” explains Tomo—and is a very modern, cutting edge design with no nose, and a shorter, narrower design for a high performance board. Thomson draws his design inspiration from an algorithm discovered by scientists, called the Fibonacci sequence, which utilities the geometry of nature, including ocean waves. Thomson says he wants to see surfboard shaping evolve and elevate, and for performance surfboards to become stronger and break through the plateau of sameness that currently exists.

 Day One

One major recurring theme we saw on the floor at Surf Expo today was brands streamlining and simplifying their product and in turn aiming at telling better stories to reach a more targeted consumer base. At Reef, the brand has extended its “Just Passing Through” campaign across the entire collection for Fall 2015. Based on design inspiration from travels to Japan, the brand is launching a new footwear technology called Swellular, which consists of a three-layer “Triple Density Construction,” all under its Reef Rover men’s and women’s shoe lines. The other pillar of concentration for Reef is boardshorts, and the two will go hand in hand as part of an effort to appeal to a younger, more inclusive consumer, says Vice President of Marketing Mike Matey.

At Quiksilver, the brand created a focus group of high schoolers and late teens—their target demographic ages 16-20— in Huntington Beach, California in order to shape its latest collection for Fall 2015. The result is two new capsules, Dark Rituals and Surf Trippin’, which are meant to appeal to a more youthful, fashion forward consumer, and open new retail doors that the brand hasn’t been in previously. Both capsules were also designed closely with team riders like Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson, and feature some of the riders’ own art—a step to include its athletes more actively in the product design process, explains Global Marketing Manager Bradley Margol.

Tech and diversification stories were also abound across the board. Matix is leaning on parent company Westlife Distribution, which also owns 686, to incorporate a new Infradry & DWR coating into 4 styles of its denim and chinos. The patented materials are what 686 use to create their snowboarding outerwear, but also lend themselves well to lifestyle apparel. At Body Glove, the brand is launching a new walkshort with drainable pockets called the Landlover, which can be worn in or out of the water. Boardshorts were also a key area of focus for Reef, with its new Surfari collection. Reef is less focused on tech and more focused on providing comfort and a unified story that consumers can easily digest. Quik’s new updated boardshort, the AG47 New Wave Bonded, builds on the first generation of the shorts, and now include the brand’s Ariaprene technology, a ventilated waistband that prevents rashing and keeps the shorts from ballooning in water.

On the hardgoods front, we checked in with Varial Surf Technology, a brand that got its start three years ago and is now working with big name shapers like …LOST’s Matt Biolos and SUPERbrand, and are found in retailers such as Jack’s and Surfride. Surf Prescriptions shaper Jeff “Doc” Lausch shaped and sold 400 boards with Varial’s foam technology this year, speaking to the momentum the company is gaining, says VP of Marketing and Sales Parker Borneman.  Varial is excited for 2015, with Shane Dorian riding the technology, and Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore gearing up to test their boards soon.