Summer Outdoor Retailer Recap

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Whoo-boy. We’re back from OR Summer Market tradeshow and our heads are reeling from product, partying and overall schmoozing. What was the buzz there this year (besides, ahem, the news of Paddling Life and BoaterTalk joining forces)? Read on for a blow-by-blow narrative of PL’s time at the show…

It started at the Demo Day at Pineview Reservoir, which we barely made it to after volunteering to deliver a trailer whose lights kept blowing out our truck’s fuse. This left us lurching into Utah cop country at night a few bulbs short, paranoid of a visit from The Man at every turn. We finally made it, however, veering off the dark highway (after a few wrong turns) to the lake and arriving to a campout bash hosted by Confluence PR firm Fendler Communications, complete with vittles and a bluegrass band. We missed the grub, but made do with potato chips and that lovely 3.2 Utah beer while catching the band’s last act. Then we got into the fray, whittling the night away jamming guitar and belting out tunes around a fire with rock star Frank Whiting of Chicago (not Chicago the band, Chicago the city).

The next morning, after Fendler and company made a bold drive to Ogden for a Starbucks run, we hit the beach. While some members of the whitewater set headed down the Odgen River thanks to a special 11 a.m. release negotiated by Outdoor Retailer, we hit the lake, testing out everything from new whitewater boats and canoes to breakdown sea kayaks. It’s a chance to see products in the setting they were made for, the water, rather than a sterile showroom floor. What stood out were people standing up. Hobie, C4 Waterman and other companies all had new stand-up paddle boards, making the water look like a scene from Venice. Even Werner Paddles hopped on the bandwagon, showcasing a new line of elongated paddle board paddles.

On the way out we had ice cream cones forced down our throats by marketing madman Mike Steck of Yakima, who was hawking confections out of an ice cream cart. Chips for dinner, coffee for breakfast, and ice cream for lunch…we were on a calorie- and sleep-deprived roll and the show hadn’t even started.

That roll took us straight to the new Salomon Center in Ogden, where we tested out its sky-dive-simulating wind tunnel and surf wave. Though we pined for our kayaks, we made do with the surfboards, shredding an inside version of Garberator for a good two hours until our fully douched sinuses and biff-kinked necks said no more. A quick dinner in Salt Lake with the Outdoor Idols saw us sore and ready for show time the next morning.

Confluence was there in full force in a booth shaped like a giant wave, with new interim CEO Tom Nathanson touting the company’s new hires and attention to quality and customer service. Since joining the company in June, Nathanson has expanded the customer service department by 40 percent, so look for great things (like the new Wave Sport Fuse). “We’re phyched with Tom,” says longtime Wave Sport rep. Joel McBride.

The other big boys were out in force too, with Legacy, including its new acquisition Liquidlogic and brands Heritage and Native, commanding the top real estate by the paddle tank and touting its new lightweight Tegris material; and Johnson turning heads with new models from Ocean Kayak (including the see-through Peekaboo), Necky and Old Town Canoe. Not that we looked, but they also had a new dry suit from ExtraSport behind a special curtain. As well as paddleboards, Hobie debuted a new inflatable kayak using its patented Mirage Drive pedal system, and Wenonah rolled out a whopping 12 new boats between sea kayaks and canoes (most notable: its Vision transition boats). Boothwise, it came down to derrieres, with Aire showcasing a new inflatable couch and Nova Craft a new canoe couch. Both were great places to rest after walking the floor in flimsy sandals.

The festivities carried on well into the night, with Scot Lindgren debuting his new release, Black Book, chronicling the life of kayaker Steve Fisher. The premier took place at a Red Bull party off Pierpont, with free red bull and vodkas ensuring no droopy eyelids. Teva, meanwhile, hosted the latest LVM video from John Grace, as well as NBC’s coverage of this year’s Teva Mountain Games (nice pin and swim, Drevo). Canoe & Kayak magazine’s annual tug-of-war in the paddle tank pitted industry veterans against one another, and the paddle relay race for the Outdoor Idols saw Nick Troutman finally best EJ in the event’s first leg (alas, age and treachery won out as the old schoolers topped them in the end, despite the Idols’ claims of only having nine instead of 10 participants). EJ’s redemption: he’s featured in the September ’07 issue of Outside.

The partying and dancing continued, from free concerts featuring Sam Bush and Dave Grisman to a rager thrown by Keen to the tunes of Hot Buttered Rum. We ventured outside the industry also, to a premier of the new King Lines climbing film by Josh Lowell, showcasing the Spiderman antics of Chris Sharma. We wrapped it with a visit to a breakfast benefiting the Conservation Alliance, featuring a presentation by Jon Waterman on his 2006 journey through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

All in all, it showed that paddling is still very much alive and well, with new energy showing up in the form of new products, and new hangovers and baggy eyes proving that paddlers can hold their own with the best of them.

Gossip News and Notes from the Show

Nikki Kelly has more than an overthruster below her skirt. The New Zealand native is said to be expecting a little one sometime in the next year. Look out Dane Jackson.

Johnny and Willy Kern paddled Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison after OR to place a memorial for their brother Chuck, who died there in 1997.

In rotating paddlesports heads, Dan Gavere went to Werner and former Werner employee Tracy Clapp signed on with Canoe and Kayak as an add salesman.

After an insane night of partying, Dagger’s Ken Hoeve, one of Paddling Life’s favorite hooligans, almost got arrested for not doing anything at Scott Lindgren’s premiere of Black Book. “I had to pay for a Red Bull induced wall crashing,” he says. “The cops and restaurant staff were as cool to me as I was to them. It was all good and I was NEVER arrested, cuffed, read my rights, etc…. They just asked I pay for a hole in the wall (that I didn’t make).” Such is life when you’re the head cheese.

In the Canoe & Kayak magazine-sponsored tug-of-war in the Paddle Tank, adversaries pared off for top bragging rights. Scott Waidelich of C&K upset Paddler magazine’s Christian Knight, but hte real loser was Tao Berman, who bet $100 on Christian. C&K Ad Director Jim Marsh bested Old Town Canoe’s Chris Jacobs (how’d the heck youlet him do that, Chris?), while heavyweight main event man Woody Calloway of Liquidlogic defeated Ray Fusco. For the women, the freshly married Anna Levesque crushed Brooke Winger in 1.5 seconds.

In other paddle tank news, Stratham, N.H.’s Miōn Footwear is donating $950 to the Utah Rivers Council as a result of its first annual Speed Rolling Contest. The event pitted kayakers against one another in rolling rivalry to determine who could pull off the greatest number in a 30-second time period. Miōn athlete Tao Berman provided the commentary.

Paddlers used several strategies, including hand-rolling, to nail gain the most rolls. After round one, the three top contenders competed head-to-head. The rolling champion title went to Jared Seiler, from Gladwyne, Penn., who pulled off 22 rolls for a first place win and a $200 cash prize. Corey Volt (Beachburg, Ontario) and Todd Baker (Dillsburg, Penn.) tied for second place, each gaining 17 rolls and winning $75 cash.

The first round of paddlers produced 134 rolls from all paddlers while the final round concluded with a total of 56 rolls – for a grand total of 190 rolls accumulated. Miōn will be giving a $5 donation per roll, or $950, to the Utah Rivers Council, a grassroots advocacy group that helps to protect rivers and clean water sources in Utah.

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