Virginia Is For Back To School

The guys who sit around coming up with state slogans decided a long time ago that Virginia is for lovers. The good folks at Surf Expo, keen for restoring some of the love lost after abandoning the Ocean City, Maryland, Back To School show, figured they’d put that motto to the test. After two day of business and pleasure, buyers and exhibitors agreed, the claim is a worthy one.

“It’s a great show and the turnout is even better than I expected,” hailed Billabong’s Rob Willis of the March 4-5 event at the Virginia Beach Pavilion Convention Center. “We’ve had back-to-back appointments since the opening bell. It’s all we could ask for.” Indeed, with a sixty percent increase in buyers over last year in Maryland, the companies were in for more work than they expected.

According to Quiksilver’s Tom Holbrook, “There are only a few ‘key’ core areas in the country for our industry — Southern California, Honolulu, Cocoa Beach, and Virginia Beach. As far as the smaller shows go, this was the best one they’ve ever had. Unlike at Surf Expo in Orlando, where they have to deal with loud music and skate ramps, they could get a lot of work done.”

Show VP Lori Kisner was equally pleased with the choice of venue. “Our goal was to get a location convenient for the entire East Coast … this was perfect,” she insisted. “We see BTS in Virginia Beach becoming the same show for fall as Surf Expo in Orlando is for spring/summer.”

Of course work wasn’t the only thing that made this a successful event. Ambush buyer Lee Elliott was happy about the convenience factor (“You can write all your fall orders in two days and you don’t have to wait for the reps to come to your store”), but he absolutely gushed over the nightlife, “I loved partying in Virginia Beach.”

With a gala affair planned for each night, there was barely time to catch one’s breath before it was all over. First it was Quiksilver, which premiered Kelly Slater’s new short, People Skills, during an open bar pre-show party at Big Sam’s Inlet Café.

But that was merely a warm-up for the main event, as Billabong and Reef co-sponsored the BTS Hoedown at Club Excess the next night. An estimated 500 cowpokes got all gussied up in chaps and boots and took a ride on the bar’s mechanical bull. Once everyone’s bums were plenty sore, the main event pitted four lovely ladies in a tag-team mud wrasslin’ extravaganza. But in Virginia Beach, even this supposedly hostile encounter was void of any ill intent. Following suit with the entire event, it looked more like love than war. Slimy, stinky, raunchy love, but love nonetheless.

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*Dates for the 2004 show are tentatively scheduled for March 2-3. Details will be posted on surfexpo.com as they become available.