Canoe & Kayak Staff BlogGear and Glitz: Seeing and being seen at Outdoor Retailer

It’s easy to get lost at OR.



There’s no time, even with three days, to get everything done—meet and greet, see all the new product lines, and whet the curious appetite for the latest and greatest. So you shorten words, talk in TXT, apply acronyms, abbreviate. Whoops, too long, I mean “abbrev.”


“OR” itself is the contracted version of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, a trade show marathon that takes over the sprawling Salt Palace Convention Center each August. Think of it as a Trekkie-like gathering for the gear-obsessed. Never mind that it’s managed by an agency named CGPR. For uninitiated industry greenhorns—a category into which I, Canoe & Kayak’s new gear editor, fell one week ago—the jargon comes early and often at this techie-product booth bonanza.


Suddenly you’re caught in the endless array of SKUs, neck deep in EVA insoles, flashing LEDs, DWR coating at NRS, PFDs made from PCR, PIR, or just plain PVC-free materials. WTF.


Let’s back up to what mattered most to the C&K crew making the trek to the Beehive State—getting on the H2O. At the two-day demo prior to the main Salt Lake City event, acronyms began creeping in. The latest breeds of SUP (stand-up paddle) boards easily gained the most on-water miles on the Pineview Reservoir outside of Ogden.



Legacy Paddlesports CEO Andy Zimmerman was on hand to tell the story behind Native Watercraft’s entry into the SUP realm with the Osceola—a modern take on the cypress dugouts its namesake Seminole war chief used to elude U.S. troops in the Everglades. Part board, part boat, and mixing Seminole and Polynesian traditions, the Osceola wasn’t the only hybrid.



A few moving water models garnered crossover labels as well, with whitewater boats rubbing off design elements onto Dagger’s new Alchemy day-tripper and touring style influencing whitewater in Liquidlogic’s new version of the Remix, the XP.


After a long, sunburned session talking boats, Dagger-sponsored paddler Corey Volt offered to give our crew—myself, C&K managing editor Joe Carberry, former gear editor Kate Stepan, and photo intern Brandon Gonski—the local’s tour of nearby Ogden Canyon Narrows. An unheard of water release was filling the drainage in August thanks to negotiations by the Salt Lake Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. We could escape and paddle the new whitewater product on actual “moving water.”



Easily the most famous person on the Ogden Canyon Narrows, Volt pointed out a few of the notable moves on his Class III/IV hometown run between trying to hurl a stray tennis ball at Joe, who was busy searching for spots to throw ends in the new Liquidlogic Biscuit on the otherwise shallow, but busy and entertaining, stretch.


After a little bluegrass by the campfire, courtesy of Fendler Communications, who lined up local quartet Cory Mon and the Starlight Gospel (www.myspace.com/corymon—who said Provo ain’t got no soul?), and downing cold Utah tall boys that tasted like, well, big fake beers, it was back to the beach to ogle new eye-catching models. By eye-catching models, I’m not talking about the Gisele Bundchen variety, but as far as floating prototypes go, the sleek jet-black ninja look of Wilderness Systems’ 39-pound carbon/Kevlar Zephyr 15.5 was turning heads.



Then, another opportunity struck to catch the end that special release from Pineview Dam. This time we rode several larger-volume boats. Kate hopped in the new Wave Sport Diesel, now available in three sizes instead of two, and boasts more turn-and-burn style rocker than its predecessors, and I dabbled with Dagger’s new Axiom, whose axiom is a river cruising/playboat for those who think playboats are “too small, too short, and too slow,” according to Dagger’s press release. This back-to-classic retro update of its close Dagger cousins the Vertigo and the RPM was more cruise than play—which turned out to be key in dodging concrete highway rock and eddy rebar on the surprisingly urban Ogden.


That was the last of the outdoor air and water. It was inside from then on. This is where things blur and days without sunlight in the maze of booths stretch into one another. Like I said, it’s easy to get lost at OR. You sacrifice circadian rhythms but gain appreciation for the details. You focus on specifics and hone in on those acronyms—the BOA on the BA (that’s a steel-lace cable BOA Technology fly tension system on a Big Agnes Slide Mountain Superlight Tent)—or contemplate why-didn’t-I-think-of-that logic in accessories from the removable cutting board in North Water Expedition Deck Bag to the under-leg entry in new dry suits from Peak UK.



To me, it was all novel. I never had a chance to experience OR with the paddle tank. And folks were lamenting its first exclusion from the show.


Fortunately, we harnessed some of that latent paddlesports energy and eased our convention cabin fever on Friday night with the magazine’s 35th anniversary blowout. The C&K ad team of Jim Marsh, Nick Hinds, and Scott Waidelich nailed the rare chance to bring together industry pioneers, innovators, and athletes pushing the envelope all in one room at the downtown Pierpont Place, swankified with meat-skewered apps, free-flowing beer and photo flashes galore.


LVM (that’s Lunch Video Magazine to the non-whitewater vid types) maestro John Grace helped set the stage of C&K’s 35-year past with a quick film displaying equally jarring footage of Waidelich hucking raft rubber and an especially creepy archival Burt Reynolds still. Jeff then took the mic to hand out C&K’s coveted industry awards, naming Native Watercraft as Manufacturer of the Year; Werner Paddles for Accessory Manufacturer of the Year; Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe, Retailer of the Year; and the Necky design team for the Manitou 14 Ultralite, Boat of the Year.


The paparazzi effect of the flashing bulbs, however, trickled down too far to the C&K crew, as Jim put his persuasive sales skills to work after the party and bargained down a quirky horse carriage to roll us in style to the funk’dified, if a little geriatric, George Clinton show at a nearby pub. “Style,” however, was not exactly the word for the misadventures with our bubbly driver and his untamed horse, Cletus. I saw no GPS-compatible product or otherwise miracle wicking fabric that could’ve possibly eased the social friction on this rowdy three-block debacle. But who knows, maybe next year.



—Dave Shively is Canoe and Kayak’s new associate editor.

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