The Boardroom Surfboard Show Lands At The US Open Of Surfing This July

The Boardroom, now a part of GLM’s Sports and Fashion group along with Surf Expo and LAUNCH LA, is expanding its reach on the West Coast this July. The Boardroom will officially hit the sand in Huntington Beach, California, during the newly re-branded Vans US Open Of Surfing, scheduled for July 20-28, 2013. The exciting news comes on the heels of The Boardroom’s announcement that it will co-locate with Surf Expo during its September 6-8 show and Surf Expo signing a new partnership with e-commerce experts Internet Retailer.

The Boardroom at the Vans US Open will be designed as a two-day industry-only trade show and a two-day consumer show that’s open to the public, according to GLM SVP Roy Turner, who we had a chance to check in with us last week via phone. Turner says he views the show as a multi-purpose event with business getting done, and a chance to get the public excited about our industry as well.

We caught up with Turner, IMG Senior Vice President – Director of Action Sports James Leitz, as well as Group Brand Director Sean O’Brien and The Boardroom Founder Scott Bass, to find out the details behind the news, what it means for the future of the show, and what the West Coast expansion means for the show’s long-term business strategy.

A look at last October’s Boardroom in Del Mar, California.

Photos: Chris Kimball

IMG Senior Vice President – Director of Action Sports James Leitz

What attracted you to the idea of having The Boardroom co-locate with the US Open?

Leitz: I like the idea of bringing the industry back to the beach. And what better way to be inclusive then having the Boardroom of the beach, in the backdrop of the US Open?  With upwards of 300 brands, the country’s top surf and skate retailers, and business leaders from across all of action sports, this B2B component is sure to create a “market week” feel for the industry.

How do you anticipate the addition of The Boardroom and its exhibitors will change the complexion of the event?

Leitz: The Boardroom is a massive footprint.  It is going to be a visual destination by the sheer physicality of it. Combine that with displays, premiums, and promotions from the world’s top surf brands, and the Boardroom is going to be one of the hot spots on the beach.

Has there been any overall change in focus or direction with the  Open this year?

Leitz: Inclusive and not exclusive is the mandate.  Bring back the industry.  Over the past few years, we have worked hard to bring the top surfers, skaters and musical talent back, and we have succeeded.  Now it’s time to show how the US Open, in the epicenter of the Action Sports world, is a vital touchstone to help bring the industry together.

When did talks with IMG begin about partnering to bring the Boardroom show to the US Open?

Turner: We began working with IMG as they were looking for a new title sponsor for the US Open event, with Vans as the leading candidate for title sponsor. We were very happy to learn that Vans was using an open arms approach to bringing the entire surf community back to the beach during the US Open and that IMG agreed with that approach. Given that we have a long-term relationship with Vans from a trade event perspective, and through discussions, we found that our vision and that of IMG and Vans were all pointing in the same direction: bringing boards and brands back to the beach. The timing for all could not have been better.

Why did you feel like the timing was right to bring a show of this kind to Huntington Beach?

Turner: We have been careful students of the Southern California marketplace for a number of years and we’ve seen how market conditions have changed. We feel that the industry could benefit from an event where the soul of surfing is at the forefront. Shapers, surfers, and surfboards will be at the epicenter of the event. Without the surfboard there is no sport, no lifestyle, no look, no industry, no prize money—nothing.

Surfing is cool and we do not need to try to be anything else.

Our goal is to produce an event that brings the essence of surfing back not only from an industry/trade standpoint but community as well. We are producing two days of trade followed by two days of a public event in the heart of the surf community during the biggest event on the mainland, the Vans US Open Of Surfing. It just does not get any better or bigger than this.

Being in the business since the mid ’70s, I have a true passion for surfing and the industry that surrounds it. My career began as a surf retailer, then founder of the Board Retailers Association and now at GLM, where my responsibilities include Surf Expo, LAUNCH LA and The Boardroom events.

As a young retailer my retail partner Mark Allison and I went out on a limb, found a sponsor and brought the ASP tour to a small town on the East Coast for several years, through the Record Bar Pro events. It was an experience I will never forget. it changed a community’s perspective on surfing, launched many careers, influenced business and set in motion the idea that Surf was there to stay.

I personally cannot begin to explain the honor of being able to help create an event I am sure will have a similar effect but on a more global scale.

The timing is right, the Surf Industry needs a marketplace that reflects who and what we are, I cannot think of a better time or place.

Scott Bass and  Photo: Roche
Scott Bass and Korduroy TV’s Cyrus Sutton Photo: Kevin Roche

Will the Boardroom still take place at its original location in San Diego, or will this new show serve as its sole location now?

Scott Bass: All locations, venues, and regions are in discussion and we absolutely look forward to serving as many regions/locales as the market will bare. 

My surfboard show roots in San Diego are strong. I’m in the water everyday—in San Diego. San Diego is the foundational location, the genesis location, if you will,  of The Boardroom shows. A San Diego show will happen again. 

It’s also good to take a break from a locale. I produced five shows in a row, from 2007 to 2012, in San Diego. I’m also very proud of the fact that we have produced shows in Santa Cruz and Ventura.

Our track record indicates that we appreciate and understand that surfers are more or less regional. The opportunity to showcase surf gear and to highlight local shapers and manufacturers in different areas throughout North America—and the world for that matter—is in front of us.

The East Coast is wide open and we know that the East Coast surfer is looking to celebrate at The Boardroom. As you may know, The Boardroom is co-locating with Surf Expo in Orlando Florida this September. I visited out there last September and in January. Surfers are frothing for a consumer show. They are enthusiasts. They are passionate. This is who they are. This is who we are. They embrace everything surf—just as I do, just as my children do, just as my neighbor does. We are all surfers, therefore we love surfboards.

How will the format work?

Scott Bass: From a specific granular view, The Boardroom is two days trade, two days consumer. It’s important to note, however, that from a global perspective The Boardroom is a celebration of everything surf: industry, sport, culture, lifestyle.

All of that of course begins and ends with the surfboard. From that prism, The Boardroom is one big cultural happening and there is something for everyone. Retailers order product. Manufacturers discuss product. Surfers take in the latest innovations. The Boardroom is a multifaceted, five-dimensional surf magazine. Everything comes to life. Don’t just look, pick the gear up. Ride the boards. Test the wetsuit. Pull on the stretch boardies. Quiz the manufacturer. Talk to the pros. Order a board. Get an autograph. Watch fresh new clips. Smell the resin. Ride an alaia. Test a handplane. Compare fins. Watch the shaping. Discuss board design. Talk shop. It’s all there in front of you. Not just 3-d, 5-d.”

What has been the City’s reaction, and how do you see this relationship evolving in the future?

Turner: While IMG manages most of the relationships with the city, I can only say how impressed I am at the support for surfing and the US Open event that the city has shown. 

On a similar note, what is the long-term growth strategy for this deal, and the pending opportunities to partner with SIMA for Market Week?

Turner: Like many others in the industry, the concept of a market week has always been appealing and we are full supporters of the concept. I think that with our event, along with Vans and IMG’s vision for the US Open, we have a truly great foundation for building other events around what will be happening on the beach. It really is an exciting opportunity for the surf industry and as a long time supporter of SIMA and its members, we look forward to continuing to be a great partner in making Market Week a reality over the next several years.

Will it look and feel like previous Boardroom shows in San Diego?  

Let me be clear. It all centers around the alpha and the omega of our surf industry, our surf world, and our surf lifestyle: the surfboard. The look and feel will be the same. The surf manufacturer, the shaping culture, the vibe is centered squarely on the surfboard — our iconic symbol of enduring youth.

Think back. Way back. Way back before instant surf access or a professional world tour, or surfboard mounted cameras. The surf industry was built by surfers named Butte, Downing, Hobie, Velzy, Edwards, Bing, Hap, Noll, Takayama, Aipa, and many many others. Shapers. All of them. Surfboard manufacturers. Their ads filled the surf mags. They dressed a certain way and had their own style. They stood out. Mainstreamers would look at them and scoff. 

In 2013 their legacy — dozens and dozens of core manufacturers, shapers, surfers, surf industry designers  from around the world — will exhibit at The Boardroom. They will be exalted. They will be center stage. Our industry flows from its core — the surfboard.

Thankfully surf equipment has evolved and technology has blossomed. Now surf gear consists of skateboards, boardshorts, wetsuits, fins boxes, watches, leashes, waterproof cameras, rack systems, wax, rash guards, travel, clothing and swimwear made specifically by surfers and for surfing. Paipos are back! Only this time they have GoPro cameras mounted on them. Classic. The Kuhio Groin crew would be stoked!

I love surfboards. Surfers love surfboards. The Boardroom is an extension of that passion. Lots of surf gear, lots of surfers, lots of sincere stoke. At the end of the day surfers really only care about two things, waves and the equipment to ride them with.

Now, to be a little more specific, there will be a Best Of Show exhibit, two shaping bays, live shaping, laminating demonstrations, surfboard exhibits, an Icons of Foam shaping tribute. Legends of shaping. Legends of lifestyle. Short films. Genuine surf stoke and happiness. A few scoffs would be cool too.

What has been the reaction from retailers on a new West Coast Show?

Turner: Reaction from retailers have been very positive. We spend much of the time explaining the concept of combining a retail and trade event — not the need for an event. Having been at BRA, retailer needs are in the forefront, not only from a marketplace perspective, but how we can help retailers in and around the event area grow their business.

What are you hearing from brands about introducing a new show?

Turner: Trade shows are merely a reflection of the marketplace. Many of the manufacturers have reached out to us to let us know that the current market is not being served. On that same note, we understand that “the market” has grown outside of the traditional retail/supplier connection and that consumer brand marketing is as important. By offering our hybrid format we feel that we can give manufacturers the best of both worlds, all located beside the excitement of the US Open.

We have worked hard to put together a team that not only understands the surf industry, but is passionate about what they do.

We are honored to be given the opportunity and — like Vans and IMG — look forward to bringing boards, brands, surfers and family back to the beach at Huntington Beach for a few days of business, surfing, camaraderie and awe.

Follow the jump for Turner, Bass & O’Brien’s thoughts on Surf Expo’s deal with Boardroom, and its new trade show partner Internet Retailer.