Hold onto your Wave Sport kayak and Bomber Gear drytop: they’re soon to become collector’s items. As part of “an aggressive five-year plan which maps our direction and priorities,” parent company Confluence recently announced that Wave Sport will no longer be sold to North American retailers (only in Europe) and that Bomber Gear is ceasing production. . .
In a notice to its employees, Confluence CEO Sue Rechner said that the company “is creating a solid foundation for responding to business and industry growth and driving toward our five-year plan goals by setting priorities and focusing resources. To support these plans, we are making a multi-million dollar investment in people, equipment and systems.”
But even as they’ve added new leadership in production, purchasing, operations and finance, invested $1.5 million in manufacturing equipment to better meet in-season demand, and completed the recent acquisition of Boardworks Surf to enter the SUP market, they’ve also made big changes to two of their esteemed brands: Wave Sport and Bomber Gear.
“Effective with the new retail season, Bomber Gear will cease distribution and no longer be sold in North American or international markets. As a thank you, a portion of all sale proceeds on bombergear.com, from 7/10-9/7, will be donated to the national non-profit, American Whitewater,” wrote Rechner.
“In addition, Wave Sport will concentrate on the large European whitewater market, where the brand enjoys great popularity and offers continued retail opportunity. Working in conjunction with our long-standing international partners, we are excited about the continued development and growth of the brand in Europe. We will work closely with our international partners to ensure the brand’s continued development and growth in Europe.”
The shift for Wave Sport, she adds, “allows us to place significant resources and amplified focus on the entire Dagger brand, including performance whitewater models. Dagger will deliver on the promise of its whitewater roots with renewed vigor and innovative spirit. We already have a competition-level play boat in the works using new materials and will be working with Team Dagger on the development of a race boat.
“By consolidating our brand portfolio, we will be able deepen our commitment to the fastest growing sectors of paddlesports-SUP and kayak fishing-while continuing to drive our market-dominant recreation and touring business. With increased capital expenditures and investment planned for design, engineering, materials and human ingenuity, we are confident in our ability to continue to deliver innovative, market-right products for our retailers and consumers.”
In hearing of the news, Wave Sport founder Chan Zwanzig was less saddened than surprised. “Truthfully, I don’t really pay attention anymore,” says Zwanzig, who founded the company in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1986 before selling to Confluence in 1998. “But I find it stunning that they were unable to make money off of it.”
As for Wave Sport’s original presence in Europe, Zwanzig adds, “it was minor, maybe 10 percent of our gross sales. At the time I was unwilling to build a low-margin market over there when over here it was great.” But Wave Sport, he adds, “has always had a strong international athlete presence, as well as support from its European distribution points. I just don’t think they supported the brand as well in this country as their distributors have in Europe.”
He adds, “Frankly, I’m not the least bit sad because I have all the Wave Sport EZG-42s I need for the rest of my life.
As for Bomber Gear, whose late founder, Rick Franken, also based his business in Steamboat Springs before selling to Confluence, Zwanzig adds: “I’m going to buy one of their skirts as soon as possible. They’re the best on the market.”
Confluence, meanwhile, is flying its flags half-mast. “We honor the legacy of Wave Sport, Bomber Gear, and all the people behind these brands who have contributed to the sport,” writes Rechner. “We want to particularly thank the Bomber Gear design team, our devoted Bomber Gear and Wave Sport team athletes and ambassadors, as well as the retailers who have been loyal to these brands. It is our intention to carry the essence of that heritage and passion forward.
“In the context of a vibrant paddlesports market and our goal of becoming a diversified outdoor sports company, we’re excited and optimistic about these brand changes. They allow us to concentrate our efforts on where we can have the biggest and most positive impact.”