Melbourne, FL – September 22, 2014 – The month of September triggers the transition from summer outdoor recreations sports and the onset of cooler weather in the northern part of North American. Weather gets a little crazy when cold front start to push down from Canada that meet the hot weather that lingers in the Midwest and South until November and December. These weather fronts give weather forecasters fits and especially for people like myself who are trying to plan outdoor activities.
September also brings the summer Surf Expo to the Orange County Convention Center. As I reflect on this year’s show, I miss seeing some of the big brands that were at the winter Surf Expo in January like Maui Jim and Crocs. That being said, I did have a full two day schedule meeting new exhibitors.
It appeared to me, that after attending numerous Surf Expos in a row, for the most part some of the swim suit and apparel exhibitors seem to be showing designs from the past. I saw nothing new except for different colors and fabric. I am not a fashion expert by any stretch of the imagination, but a bikini is a bikini is a bikini.
There was some movement by apparel designers when it came to undergarments for board shorts. I met Susan Stokes White, who filled me in about the Turq brand. There a few new brands like Turq that were exhibiting board shorts undergarments that reduced chafing and rubbing against the skin when riding a surf board or SUP. The Turq shorts are made using a seamless construction using a quick drying, antimicrobial material. To watch Susan’s elevator pitch at Surf Expo click HERE.
As I walked the isles looking at the all different t-shirt exhibits there was a lot of the same old -same old designs depicting the surf life style but nothing really new that caught my eye until I arrived at the Prawno booth. This was a small mid-row booth tucked away where it seemed to get lost in the shuffle of endless apparel vendors trying to get the attention of the attendees that were roaming the isles. I came to visit this booth because Prawno was smart enough to send me an email before the show inviting me to see the apparel graphic designs inspired by Lia Barrett. Claudia Wilcher gave me a tour around their booth and an understanding of what Prawno was all about. In celebration of the surf and ocean lifestyle Lia Barrett, a creative underwater sea life photographer, has turned her undersea photography into printed apparel designs created from silhouettes of the people and marine life she captured in her undersea photography. These designs have been applied to shirts, sweats and other surf lifestyle clothing.
I did visit a Surf Expo and ICAST exhibitor that has loads of fun apparel for outdoor enthusiast with an urbane pallet, the Howler Brothers’ booth. They were showing a few new graphic designs that were based upon the Howler Brothers’ logo. This is a fun brand that is named after the howler monkey. If you like to wear fun clothing, check out Howler Brothers. To watch their elevator pitch at Surf Expo click HERE. These guys are a blast.
In addition to the surf lifestyle apparel exhibitors, there were those who were showing high functional clothing. Snikwah was one of these brands. I spent some time at this booth learning about the Snikwah shirts from Roy Smith. Roy showed me their patented DriRelease® fabric shirt. This shirt fabric that pulls liquid away from the skin and pushes it outside where it evaporates quickly. Roy said that the technology keeps you dry and because DriRelease® is woven into the yarn and not applied as a coating to the fabric, it won’t wash out over time. These shirts have been independently tested to achieve a UPF factor rating of 50+ for the color shirts and 44+ for white shirts. To watch Roy’s elevator pitch at Surf Expo click HERE.
There are socks and there are Feat Lifestyle socks. Tired wearing black, blue and white socks? Try putting some vivid color below your knee. FEAT designs the socks in the U.S. and has the basic sock is produced overseas and shipped to Amherst, Massachusetts where the sock design is applied in their facility. I spoke with Elijah Grundel, a Feat Manager. He told me that these socks are not mass produced but hand crafted in low quantities. To watch Elijah’s elevator pitch at Surf Expo click HERE. As their website says, “Find Your Feat” and wear color below your knees.
You know how some women have been given a bad rap because of the number of shoes they own? In this day and age, it is easy to have a whole closet full of specialty sport shoes for every type of outdoor condition. On my last day at the Expo, at the end of one of the rows, I visited the ZEM booth. ZEM stands for the Zone of Endless Motion. In the booth was Christina Bracken, the founder of ZEM Gear. We had a great talk about her company’s vision and unique design of her line of sports shoes. I was amazed at the different types of sports shoes in the ZEM product line up. There were shoes for SUP riders, for wearing when playing beach volley ball and to wear while doing yoga or Pilates. Christina explained to me that the ZEM shoe design allowed ones feet to be as natural as possible heightening your awareness and helping you with your posture, balance and agility, all while protecting your feet from the elements. She went on to say that the typical sports shoe we all typically wear actually hinders the foot from performing as it was intended to perform. To watch Christina’s elevator pitch at Surf Expo click HERE. They also have a very good website where you can see all their collection and get more information on the ZEM shoe design. One last thought. While doing some research on ZEM, I discovered that Christina used Kickstarter to raise money for her company. Kickstarter is a website where entrepreneurs go to raise capital.
Another exhibitor that took advantage of the Surf Expo Media list and contacted me was B2 – Bashful Bliss. This is a fun brand that was started by Tara Huff in 2009. B2’s roll in life is to provide people the means to show how happy they are by wearing happy clothing and accessories. One of B2’s tag lines is “I Chose Happy”. For this brand that sums it up. If you chose happy, then take a look at all the Bashful Bliss collection for men and women B2 is a national brand that can be found in 23 states. Here is a link to the B2 Facebook page.
During the two days I attended the September 2014 Surf Expo, I visited two footwear exhibitors that I can depend on to be at both the January and September show. Both of these exhibitors, Chaco and Sanuk, take full advantage of social media and the practice of sending an email invitation to come and visit their booth at Surf Expo.
At the Sanuk booth I was met by Amber Gapasin who gave me the grand tour. She did an excellent job showing me the full line up of new men’s surf style footwear. I have a pair of the Sanuk Shipwreck sidewalk surfer shoes, size 12 I wear all the time. I love these shoes with only one drawback. I have to wear them with no socks. Oh, I forgot, these are not shoes, they are sandals. But the feel and fit without socks is spot on. These are great summer shoes for hot weather. If you like to wear socks with your shoes, then purchasing them online may not be the best choice.
At the Chaco booth I met Todd Gordon. Todd like Amber gave me the run down on what’s new at Chaco for 2015. He showed me the new Outcross styles coming out next year and the new kids’ sandals. A new sandal that caught my eye was the three strap sandal. Like their full lineup of one and two strap sandals, the three strap webbing sandal will surely be a big hit with their customer base.
I also got to see Bethany Hamilton in the Cobain booth signing autograph posters. She is the surfer girl extraordinaire who lost her left arm to a shark. She will be on this year’s Amazing Race. I did capture some video of the Cobain booth with Bethany in it. Lick HERE to see the video.
To round out my Surf Expo Part 1 summary, I want to mention the Simbi Haiti booth. Simbi is a Haitian company that uses local Haitian artist to create really cool hair and wrist bracelets. I cover met them at the 2014 January Surf Expo. Their new line of wrist bracelets for 2015 where no bracelet is the same are just amazing. Visit their website often until you can buy them online. Or you can find a retail store near you.
All and all, this was a great show. Check out my Part 2 article on the technology side of the 2014 Surf Expo.
Until next time, be safe in the sun and have a great day in the great outdoors.