Rumors And Lies: Long Beach ASR 2002

The circus blew into Long Beach last weekend, and there were signs everywhere that the action-sports community is dodging the worst blows of the surly economy.

This was especially apparent with skateboarding market, and I think it’s now official that ASR is a “skateboarding show with surfing” instead of a “surfing show with skateboarding” — at least when it comes to fashion influence. Even the Orange County Register could see that.

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Part of this has to do with the relentless popularity of the skate market, part of this has to do with the timing of the show which makes it ideal for skate shoe brands, and at least part of it has to do with surfing’s largest brand — Quiksilver — being absent from the mix on the LBC trade-show floor.

According to VNU Sports Group President David Loechner, “Quiksilver will be back at the show next January,” when the show dates are moved up a few week to January 23?25.

So Quiksilver’s absence left a hole that the brand’s “vibe room” on the mezzanine couldn’t plug. However, it was a strange show for other reasons as well, what with the near overlap of SIA Vegas and the fact that the Super Bowl stalled hall traffic right when the show would normally be pushing redline.

But overall the glass remains half full, and retailers had a selection of honest-to-god new clothing and footwear styles to choose from, as well as some of the biggest advancements in wetsuit technology seen since neoprene went super-stretch.

Here’s a from-the-hip report on what caught our eye at the show.

Flashback
There was a lot of buzz about style, and more importantly surf beginning to reclaim some of it. As the fashion pendulum continues its relentless journey from one side of the ring to the other, many shoe and apparel manufacturers have bid adieu to tech, punk, and hesh in favor of a retro look with a fresh spin.

The style isn’t retro in the sense of flared corduroy pants and snap-button shirts. Its more of a shoutout to polyester warm-ups and striped knits — sort of an athletic retro, if you will.

Just about everyone knows — and is excited — about the release of Op’s Classics line. It’s the exact same stuff the brand had some twenty years ago: terry cloth polos, printed knits, and yes! short corduroy shorts (even the tags are OG). Op’s Tommy Gudauskas says distribution will be limited to surf shops.

Lightning Bolt and Hang Ten are also back in the mix with their own batch of retro surfwear.

Billabong is joining the fun with a more modern take on the retro-athletic look. A few pairs of trunks evoke late 70s/early 80s sportswear, featuring color blocking and stripes that run along the outside seam. None of the pieces scream “retro” — they just whisper it. However, Billabong VP of Design Steve Wilson says the trend toward the old-school — but clean — athletic look should be more prevalent for Fall ’02. Look for colors like brown and Carolina blue to be married again.

By the way, I wonder how many designers borrowed threads from Chas and Richie Tenenbaum when drawing up their Summer and Fall ’02 lines. After looking at some of the lines, I so wanted to pitch a tent in my living room and mack my adopted sister.

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From what I could see, the footwear market is beginning to mirror the shift in apparel … or is it the other way around? Anyway, the point is that the shoe guys and the apparel guys seem to be on the same page.

Shoes are becoming less tech. Many companies are dusting the cobwebs off some of their classic styles and reissuing them — often in freshened colorways. Etnies is getting back to its skate roots with an emphasis on its shoes with the simple cap outsole and suede uppers. The fabled Sal 23 is back, along with a host of models along the same line: Midi-Rap, Scam, Callicut, Lo-Cut, etc.

Even éS, Sole Tech’s technical li of skate shoes, is incorporating the casual look into a number of its models. Of course, éS not ignoring its customers who still want all the bells and whistles with shoes like the K4 and Scheme.

In other Etnies news, the company recently signed Keith, Chris, and Dan Malloy to a three-year contract.

Nike is using its low-top Air Force One shoe (circa 1985) to penetrate the skate market. Its humble and nearly anonymous — yet extremely chic — booth showcased just one model in eight colorways, as well as some miscellaneous T-shirts and sweatbands. So far, says Nike’s Marcus Tayui, the company has secured orders with at least 35 specialty shops like Active, HSS, and Jack’s.

Many stopped in their tracks when passing by the Globe booth. Globe has a slew of fresh Trans Element styles that are more street oriented than trail oriented (as they were in the past). The company is also releasing a limited-edition run of the Chet Thomas IV shoe (CT-IV Ltd), which features a full-grain leather upper and shiny lace eyelets. The first 1,000 pairs sold will be numbered and hand-signed by Thomas.

More attention is being given toward lifestyle and casual footwear. Category pioneer Gravis showed its Fall ’02 line in a suite at the Renaissance across from the convention center. The refreshed line now includes a guy’s version of the popular Prima shoe, dubbed Premiere. (Retailers said the Primo, Gravis’ first Prima for guys, was not similar enough.)

Gravis Marketing Coordinator Luis Calderin says the brand has learned a lot about the surf-retail market in its first couple years in business — for example, that retailers like to display sandals on a tree and that they don’t want thongs to come in boxes — and adapted to better serve its accounts.

One noteworthy change at Gravis is lower pricepoints. Gravis is now offering sandals from 30 dollars and shoes and bags from 60 dollars. The goal is to give the brand better entry points into the market. Additionally, Gravis will be distributing some 50,000 full-color consumer catalogs to its dealers, which will help Gravis fans satiate their Gravis needs (the catalog will direct them to Gravis dealers via Internet or a toll-free 800 number). And don’t worry, Gravis won’t be selling directly to consumers.

Gravis has some company in the casual-footwear category — actually lots of it. Sanuk has released its first line of closed-toe footwear, and Reef has revamped its shoe offering, making shoes geared for surfers instead of skateboarders (to the delight of many surf accounts).

The new kid on the block is Podium Distribution-backed Clae. Its small booth behind the Podium booth generated a big buzz. Rumor has it that Clae was solicited by a number of teamriders who wanted to jump ship and ride for them — they liked the product that much.

So what’s all the hype about? It’s a tight (six modes to start) line of high-end footwear with a flavor all to its own. Clae Creative Manager Wei-En Chang calls the look “timeless, not trendy.” Pricepoints are high (ranging from 85 to 110 dollars), but materials are premium grade. Like, you wouldn’t want to skate in them, but you could.

Clae wasn’t the only crew conventioneers were talking about. Getting a good deal of lip service was upstart brand Volc … I mean Jedidiah. You know how in rock and roll there are tribute bands like Think Floyd (Pink Floyd) and Rolling Clones (Rolling Stones)? Well, contrary to popular belief Jedidiah is not a tribute brand for Volcom (even though it had Volcom’s black and white motif down to a tee — even its Pick A Winner finger).

Jedidiah (which means “Beloved of God”) is, in fact, a Christian-oriented company out of San Diego whose “mission and passion continues to be the production of merchandise related to our interests in surfing, skating, and snowboarding with a little spice from the urban hip-hop subculture,” reads its press release. When asked why it had ripped Volcom off, Jedidiah’s Casey Finley says it was merely a co-ink-i-dink. “We’re doing our own thing, and we’re not trying to knock Volcom off or be like them,” Finley says. “I think Volcom realized it wasn’t intentional.”

Volcom Sales Manager Tom Ruiz could only muse, “I’d be embarrassed.”

Jedidiah’s message has caught on with a number of retailers, however. The brand has dealers in San Diego, Santa Cruz, Corona, and Bullhead City, Arizona.

Futures Fin System‘s Curtis Hesselgrave and FCS‘ Tyler Callaway successfully held the first of what many hope to be many meetings of the SIMA-backed Surfboard Builders Association early on Sunday afternoon.

The meeting was a who’s who of shaper’s sect, with Al Merrick, Bob Pearson, Matt Biolas, Steve Walden, Tom Nesbit, and more in attendance. Some of the issues raised included health benefits for association members, reduced shipping charges, and the standardization of health and EPA regulations.

However, one of the fundamental byproducts of the SBA will be increase the prominence of shapers everywhere, giving them a unified voice and strengthening the absolute foundation of the entire surf industry. Look for more on this important first “baby step” in the next issue of TransWorld Surf Business.

Conan Hayes’ Ruca booth located near the entrance of the Long Beach Convention Center was bustling with pro surfers and retailers. Hayes says the new line has been doing well — especially the Artist Network Program, which features T-shirts designed by skateboarders, surfers, and, well, artists.

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Artwork continues to be a fundamental element to HIC‘s line. Designer Baltazar Magdirila says the brand’s Bridget trunk has been a hit with retailers. The admittedly risqué trunks feature a print of “Bridget” in a thong, and the print on her suit is then embossed on rest of the trunk — sort of a print within a print. “If Reef had a clothing line,” says Magdirila, “this would be their trunk.” (Reef does have a clothing line … sort of. More on that later.)

HIC also continues to ramp up its accessories program. Its line of surf bags is in contention for the “most bang for your buck” award. For just 48 dollars retail, HIC is offering a board bag with three-quarter-inch beveled foam complete with an embroidered HIC logo. Sizes will run from 6’0″ to 10’0″. There’s also the ADL (All Day Long) day bag that rolls up into a sleeping bag-like pouch for 24 bucks, retail. Magdirila wouldn’t spill the beans on how HIC can do it for that cheap.

This year Counter Culture says it’s got some cheddar set aside for a beefed-up and well-rounded marketing campaign. “We’re putting together a marketing plan that gets the message out,” says Sales and Marketing Director Chris Raya. CC will be going grassroots, arming its teamriders with stickers, and also backing up its brand at retail with P.O.P., window displays, and a new advertising campaign. Look out for the Folsom trunks — which I’m sure new teamrider Jesse Hines will be rocking this summer. Accessories designer JT Cook was recently promoted to captain the design for the brand.

As alluded earlier Reef will be offering some softgoods beginning in June. But, as Reef Marketing Manager Heather Bensen stresses, “It’s not a clothing line!” Reef is offering some hats, visors, T-shirts, tanks, and sweatshirts as part of its Logo Program. “It’s a natural extension of retail support for the brand,” says Bensen. There are more than 30 pieces in the men’s line, including a run of T-shirts that have the likes of the Miss Reef girls on them. The girls’ logo program is butt-free.

Surfing and music has always gone hand in hand. Redsand has partnered with Fender guitars and will be giving away a custom Redsand/Fender guitar to two lucky winners. Contest information will be on Redsand hang tags — which will include Redsand-branded guitar picks and a Fender keit had ripped Volcom off, Jedidiah’s Casey Finley says it was merely a co-ink-i-dink. “We’re doing our own thing, and we’re not trying to knock Volcom off or be like them,” Finley says. “I think Volcom realized it wasn’t intentional.”

Volcom Sales Manager Tom Ruiz could only muse, “I’d be embarrassed.”

Jedidiah’s message has caught on with a number of retailers, however. The brand has dealers in San Diego, Santa Cruz, Corona, and Bullhead City, Arizona.

Futures Fin System‘s Curtis Hesselgrave and FCS‘ Tyler Callaway successfully held the first of what many hope to be many meetings of the SIMA-backed Surfboard Builders Association early on Sunday afternoon.

The meeting was a who’s who of shaper’s sect, with Al Merrick, Bob Pearson, Matt Biolas, Steve Walden, Tom Nesbit, and more in attendance. Some of the issues raised included health benefits for association members, reduced shipping charges, and the standardization of health and EPA regulations.

However, one of the fundamental byproducts of the SBA will be increase the prominence of shapers everywhere, giving them a unified voice and strengthening the absolute foundation of the entire surf industry. Look for more on this important first “baby step” in the next issue of TransWorld Surf Business.

Conan Hayes’ Ruca booth located near the entrance of the Long Beach Convention Center was bustling with pro surfers and retailers. Hayes says the new line has been doing well — especially the Artist Network Program, which features T-shirts designed by skateboarders, surfers, and, well, artists.

[IMAGE 2]

Artwork continues to be a fundamental element to HIC‘s line. Designer Baltazar Magdirila says the brand’s Bridget trunk has been a hit with retailers. The admittedly risqué trunks feature a print of “Bridget” in a thong, and the print on her suit is then embossed on rest of the trunk — sort of a print within a print. “If Reef had a clothing line,” says Magdirila, “this would be their trunk.” (Reef does have a clothing line … sort of. More on that later.)

HIC also continues to ramp up its accessories program. Its line of surf bags is in contention for the “most bang for your buck” award. For just 48 dollars retail, HIC is offering a board bag with three-quarter-inch beveled foam complete with an embroidered HIC logo. Sizes will run from 6’0″ to 10’0″. There’s also the ADL (All Day Long) day bag that rolls up into a sleeping bag-like pouch for 24 bucks, retail. Magdirila wouldn’t spill the beans on how HIC can do it for that cheap.

This year Counter Culture says it’s got some cheddar set aside for a beefed-up and well-rounded marketing campaign. “We’re putting together a marketing plan that gets the message out,” says Sales and Marketing Director Chris Raya. CC will be going grassroots, arming its teamriders with stickers, and also backing up its brand at retail with P.O.P., window displays, and a new advertising campaign. Look out for the Folsom trunks — which I’m sure new teamrider Jesse Hines will be rocking this summer. Accessories designer JT Cook was recently promoted to captain the design for the brand.

As alluded earlier Reef will be offering some softgoods beginning in June. But, as Reef Marketing Manager Heather Bensen stresses, “It’s not a clothing line!” Reef is offering some hats, visors, T-shirts, tanks, and sweatshirts as part of its Logo Program. “It’s a natural extension of retail support for the brand,” says Bensen. There are more than 30 pieces in the men’s line, including a run of T-shirts that have the likes of the Miss Reef girls on them. The girls’ logo program is butt-free.

Surfing and music has always gone hand in hand. Redsand has partnered with Fender guitars and will be giving away a custom Redsand/Fender guitar to two lucky winners. Contest information will be on Redsand hang tags — which will include Redsand-branded guitar picks and a Fender key chain — and the promotion will be supported by instore P.O.P. Redsand’s Devin Johnson says he’s been working with Ron Jon in Orange, California for a big concert at The Block to cap off the contest. Could this be surf’s answer to the skate demo?

Club Rubber
Last but not least, I’ve gotta mention wetsuits. When we put together our wetsuit preview for our last issue, Rip Curl was coy about its Fall/Winter 2002 program. It said retailers would have to wait until Long Beach to see its upcoming line.

So what was all the hype about? A new seam construction? Entry system? Liquid tape? Super-mega-ultra-stretch rubber? Nope.

Slick Skin.

According to Stephen Koehne, Rip Curl’s chief wetsuit designer, Slick Skin is a material that is applied to the neoprene to make the suit repel water and retain and absorb heat. It looks similar to the screen printing found on wetsuits to prevent Velcro abrasion, but Koehne says it’s a completely different beast. Rip Curl has spent twelve months dialing in the application.

Rip Curl’s Slick Skin technology will be incorporated on the Elasto, as well as a new suit dubbed Core Raptor. The Raptor looks like something out of Star Trek or Star Wars, or, as one person put it, “It looks very Australian.” According to Koehne, the Raptor, which retails for just under 200 bucks, is “for kids who want the flash without the high pricepoint.” Amazingly, Rip Curl has found a way to knock 40 dollars off its Elasto suit, knocking the retail price to 259 dollars for a 3/2.

We’d show you a picture of the Core Raptor but Rip Curl wants us to hold off until March for its official roll out.

For many months surf retailers have been urging manufacturers to reinvent surf style. After roving the halls at ASR, it seems that manufacturers have taking heed in their call.

Of course this is no time to sit back and rest on one’s laurels. Billabong’s Wilson says manufacturers shouldn’t be complacent because if surf’s not on its game, kids will latch onto a different category. Television, radio, magazines, and the Internet have accelerated trends — cool today, gone tomorrow. So brands, don’t be caught flat-footed.

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Don’t forget the ASR Long Beach slide show. Scroll back to the top and click on the “Photo Session” icon on the right.r key chain — and the promotion will be supported by instore P.O.P. Redsand’s Devin Johnson says he’s been working with Ron Jon in Orange, California for a big concert at The Block to cap off the contest. Could this be surf’s answer to the skate demo?

Club Rubber
Last but not least, I’ve gotta mention wetsuits. When we put together our wetsuit preview for our last issue, Rip Curl was coy about its Fall/Winter 2002 program. It said retailers would have to wait until Long Beach to see its upcoming line.

So what was all the hype about? A new seam construction? Entry system? Liquid tape? Super-mega-ultra-stretch rubber? Nope.

Slick Skin.

According to Stephen Koehne, Rip Curl’s chief wetsuit designer, Slick Skin is a material that is applied to the neoprene to make the suit repel water and retain and absorb heat. It looks similar to the screen printing found on wetsuits to prevent Velcro abrasion, but Koehne says it’s a completely different beast. Rip Curl has spent twelve months dialing in the application.

Rip Curl’s Slick Skin technology will be incorporated on the Elasto, as well as a new suit dubbed Core Raptor. The Raptor looks like something out of Star Trek or Star Wars, or, as one person put it, “It looks very Australian.” According to Koehne, the Raptor, which retails for just under 200 bucks, is “for kids who want the flash without the high pricepoint.” Amazingly, Rip Curl has found a way to knock 40 dollars off its Elasto suit, knocking the retail price to 259 dollars for a 3/2.

We’d show you a picture of the Core Raptor but Rip Curl wants us to hold off until March for its official roll out.

For many moonths surf retailers have been urging manufacturers to reinvent surf style. After roving the halls at ASR, it seems that manufacturers have taking heed in their call.

Of course this is no time to sit back and rest on one’s laurels. Billabong’s Wilson says manufacturers shouldn’t be complacent because if surf’s not on its game, kids will latch onto a different category. Television, radio, magazines, and the Internet have accelerated trends — cool today, gone tomorrow. So brands, don’t be caught flat-footed.

========

Don’t forget the ASR Long Beach slide show. Scroll back to the top and click on the “Photo Session” icon on the right.