By Tara Miller
Just before the 2001 summer began, Ride’s in-house staff couldn’t wait any longer to escape the Northwest drizzle and feel the heat, so they chose Las Vegas, Nevada, to be the location of the first ever Ride Summer Dealer Focus Group (aptly themed “Agua de Loco”) that would take place on Lake Mead. As soon as most of Ride’s regional reps and a handful of major retailers from across the nation arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for the night, Vegas and all that goes along with it took over. It’s certainly not called Sin City for nothing. From dinner and drinks to the New York, NY and Nascar Café roller coasters and drinks to O.G. dancers and drinks, it was an action-packed night … just ask the experienced and all-knowing Benny Pelligrino, who’s a seasoned veteran of Vegas.
After a few minutes of sleep, it was time to get into the “church group” vans and head to the houseboats. Jumping into the 80-degree Lake Mead water was just what everyone needed to refresh themselves from the 100-degree temp outside, and to get over the night before. The houseboats were stocked with booze, food, flotation devices (i.e. blow-up dolls named Vanessa), Vegas-stylie cards sporting pictures of naked chicks, and more. And to top it all off, thanks to Ride’s Rockies rep Bill Markham along with Paul Christianson and Nate Richiens of TIB Wakeboarding School in SLC, Utah, we had the luxury of two totally sick Toyota wakeboarding boats at our service, fully equipped with wakeboards and wakeskates for all.
The next two days consisted of a lot of sun, fun, and relaxation, koozie always in hand.From Larry Kraus spending too much time at “the office” (the only point with cell service was a brisk sandy hike up to the top of a dune, dubbed “the office”) to Jason Garvey stealthily tagging Dwellers stickers here and there on the house boats, to Jeff Hoyal just chillin’ in the hot tub shootin’ the shiznit (yep, it got cool enough in the eves to use the hot tub!) to Pelligrino, Gorio Bustamante, and Kevin Watts throwing down on the wakeboards, good times were had by all. Everyone was certainly entertained watching Ride’s So Cal Rep, Doug Harley, wrestle with his kite boarding kite as it nearly dragged him to Arizona on the other side of the lake.
In between all the excitement that went on, however, a few hours of focus group time were thrown in whenever possible. The crew was split in two for the meetings (one group per houseboat), each containing a few reps and retailers, all from different areas. One boat discussion was based more upon marketing led by Brand Manager Scott Mavis, and the other dealt with sales and customer service led by Sales Manager Chuck Mason.
Not knowing exactly what to expect, the topics of discussion generated incredible feedback and conversation that went on for hours. Ride was more than pleased with the way things went. But once the shish-ka-bobs hit the grill, it was all over and everyone was back in party mode…
The last night’s game of Asshole, a Ride tradition, was when everyone got the most fired up … that’s what will happen when you run out of beer and all you have left is Rum and Vodka to consume.
Hours later and still playing (barely), the late night crew remained. And that’s when all hell broke loose: boxes of wine were thrown around, water balloons flew around the boat so fast that if you weren’t careful you could lose an eye (Northwest Rep Daryl West almost did!), and wrestling matches threw people down left and right. Then, to top the evening off, a certain “binding guy” from Ride got hold of a permanent black marker and those who passed out were ambushed – that would be Ride’s one and only Creative Director/Art Fag Styk, Boot Category Manager Jay Wailer, and Gorio Bustamante. The level of destruction was not fully known until daylight broke.
Ride would like to thank their regional reps who were able to participate, as well as Benny Pellegrino from Milosport in Park City, Utah, Gorio Bustamante from Olympic Sports in Seattle, Washington, Larry Kraus from Emerald City in San Diego, California, Kevin Watts from The Shop in San Ramon, California, Jeff Hoyal from Northshore in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Jason Garvey from Dwellers in Rothschild, Wisconsin. Viva Agua de Loco!