• Outdoor Retailer Show is: Twice a year (Summer & Winter Shows), held in Salt Lake City, where outdoor product manufacturers market their goods to retailers (not the general public) who place orders for their stores.
  • Show buzz was the purchase of Watermark by Confluence.
  • Lots of new products..a bazillion new toys
  • Kayak Fishing is big news with lots of new boats
  • Awards: Retailer of the Year: Colorado Kayak Supply
    Boat Manufacturer of the Year: Hobie Kayaks
    Accessory Manufacturer of the Year: NRS

The 2005 OR Show featured lots of energy and a ton of new products for paddlesports. Small product innovations to big strategic marketing initiatives were in abundance at the biannual (summer and winter)trade show for the outdoor recreation industry held in Salt Lake City in August. It was a place for everyone in the industry (this one is not for John Q. Public to attend) to get together and talk business and share a few beers while planning next year’s business and on-the-water adventures.

More OR news on-line has an extensive overview of what's new in the whitewater world.

Over at Billy Harrismakes much ado about everything at OR.

The focus was on Confluence Watersports, making its show debut after acquiring WaterMark in May. The acquisition brought together Wilderness Systems, Perception, Dagger, WaveSport, Mainstream, Mad River Canoes, AT Paddles, and Harmony Gear under one roof, and retailers were watching to see what the mega company would bring to the show, and how it would behave with the retailers.

The company got lots of props for its new Fitness Kayaking initiative. Perception introduced two new kayaks, the Rhythm and Cadence, designed specifically for fitness kayakers, and announced a new marketing initiative to reach out to fitness clubs and to individuals with the idea of kayak training as a way to achieve health goals.

The two-part on-land Kayak Fitness program blends yoga, cardio, and strength training for at home or in a gym or spa. The Kayak Fitness Kit and DVD to complement the program will be available this October in targeted retail stores and health clubs across the country.

The kayaks themselves are beautiful, with simple clean lines, and are easy to paddle. They’re designed to encourage correct posture for paddling, said Dagger brand manager Robin Culver. They’re stable so the paddler can focus on going fast, yet they have a lot of glide and are still easy to turn.

“It’s like paddlesports has been selling the equivalent of mountain bikes for years, and all of a sudden we have a road bike option for the Type A personality,” said Garrett Walters, the buyer for Rutabaga. He also had good words for the attitude he found at Confluence. “I’ve never seen more enthusiasm in either Confluence or WaterMark. The real challenge is going to be distribution. But we’ve seen nothing but good things out of them-they’ve been eager to communicate and we haven’t experienced an pressure from them.

Meanwhile, Johnson Outdoors, parent of the Old Town, Ocean, Necky, Extrasport, and Carlisle paddlesports brands, has been busy with its own innovations, including a new Royalex layup for kayaks called Hydrolite. Walters called that the most interesting thing he saw at the show. “I’ve been looking for a new answer in that niche. This looks like a substantial weight savings and a durable material that is aesthetically appealing.”

Johnson also introduced the Extrasport line of paddles, a higher-end complement to the Carlisle brand.
Other bright spots Walters noted in the show: Necky’s new tandem, P&H’s British-style boats, more beautiful paddles from Werner, Kokatat’s hybrid-inflatable PFD, Lotus’s new Skanorak, Impex’s Force 5, and the new fishing kayak from Liquid Logic.

Jeff Weidman from Rutabaga said he was most impressed by the canoe couch in the Novacraft booth, and most appreciated an adaptive seat for canoeists with disabilities, designed by Chosen Valley Canoe Accessories and on display at the We-No-Nah booth. “I showed that chair to the person who teaches our adaptive-paddling program, and she said ‘Thank God!’ There’s no money in it, but it’s a really cool thing for the people who need it.”

Joanne Turner from Southwind Kayaks said she found lots to like at the show, $750,000 worth of stuff, from little things to big things. “Kent Ford’s new video, “All About Kayaking,” is great for telling people you can paddle with kids, you can paddle with dogs, you can race, you can play, you can tour, you can camp.” She also liked Confluence’s fitness strategy, and was impressed with the Outdoor Industry Association’s program on outreach to youth (see story, page 7). “I’d like to encourage all the retailers to join OIA and get involved in this marketing effort,” she said.

Rich Hage at Jersey Paddler also liked the fitness boats, as well as Wilderness Systems’ expanded Tsunami line of kayaks and a new Extrasport PFD.

He and everyone else we spoke with noted that kayak fishing continues to get bigger and bigger. Even Riot introduced a fishing kayak, and legendary squirt boater Jim Snyder has gotten on the bus with a fishing kayak for Emotion Kayaks. Everyone has accessories for fishing too-a new vest from Extrasport, a “spray tray” from Harmony, rod holders,etc.

Canoe & Kayak’s editors found their own lists of cool things at the show:

  • Astral Buoyancy’s LDB 1 PFD, made with organic kapok, with a foamless back design for ventilation and comfort.
  • Immersion Research’s X-Jacket dry top and RexKwonDo shorts, inspired by the hit movie Napoleon Dynamite.
  • Valley Kayaks’ Rapier 20, 20 feet long and 17 inches wide, used by Ian Tordoff on his record-setting crossing of the English Channel.
  • Ocean Kayak’s Venus 11, specifically designed for women with convenient grab handles and a seat that fits a woman’s bottom. They also showed off a new fishing version of the Mirage 2.
  • Two unique hard-bottomed inflatable kayaks were on display. The Yakka from Bic Sports folds in two for compact storage and easy transportation. The Discovery from Grabner comes in both single and tandem models. Its rigid hull attaches to an aluminum frame inside a durable boat skin with inflatable sidewalls.
  • Liquidlogic showed off the new Cross River series. Kayaks that are as much fun to paddle downstream as they are to play in.
  • MTI debuted new PFDs in their Children’s, Angler, and Womens Series. Most innovative of these was the PFDiva with a patent-pending Adjust-a-Bust system. Not only is the vest shaped for women but it can be adjusted for a custom-fit. It also includes a cargo and small mesh pocket plus reflective trim front and back.
  • Remo the drum making company showed up and had some great products that are sure to show up on paddling trips. They are marketing a set of drums in a dry bag – perfect for paddling trips.
  • Adventure Medical Kits showed off a new waterproof first aid kit – the Ultralight 7.
  • Pentax had a paddler’s dream. A compact waterproof digital camera.

That’s it for this years Summer Show. We’ll be running extensive gear reviews during the coming year on much of the gear we saw.