Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 5 – 8. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.
There was a lot of buzz at yesterday’s Open Air Demo up at Pineview Reservoir, and it was not all metaphorical. There were drones skimming the water, stand-up paddle- boards with electric motors, electric fat bikes and something that looked like a cross between a Segway and a skateboard skimming the sands. Is this the future of the human-powered outdoor industry? Perhaps.
Seattle-based ElectraFin, exhibiting at its first Outdoor Retailer, offered up a motorized solution that made sense to paddlers at the Demo. The portable electric motor for a SUP, which maxes out at 5 m.p.h. and retails at $1,699, attaches to any paddleboard with a U.S. fin box. But instead of being used simply as a lazy way to SUP, the device has found adherents in outdoor enthusiasts who use it for practical applications.
“We have seen a lot of interest from anglers who use it to match current when trolling, and we have one customer who uses it to reach a difficult-to-access surf break,” said Marimar White-Espin, ElectraFin’s director of business development.
Electric bikes have certainly been making inroads with cyclists. And with a bill in the California legislature figuring out how they can be regulated and allowed on bike paths, they will become more prevalent. Polaris, a company not normally associated with Outdoor Retailer, was at the Demo making hesitant attendees believers by putting them on its new fat-tire e-bikes.
“Usually something that’s offbeat like electric bikes, you think of it as a fly-by-night thing, but to see a big company like Polaris getting behind it and putting in that level of commitment, you have to be convinced there’s a market,” said Rick Thompson of Western Expeditions in Sandy, Utah, who took the Nordic, which retails at $4,799, for a spin.
Even skateboards got in on the electric action. A crowd gathered around Boosted’s booth, looking to try out the 2,000-, 1,500-, and 1,000-watt motorized boards. “It’s an emerging market. We opened up 59 new dealers this year,” said sales director Cody Dumont, who had just come from exhibiting at the X Games and was headed to Surf Expo after OR.
The most attention was around the OneWheel, a motor-powered ball with foot stands, which retails at $1,499. Retailers were riding the toy all over the beach and seemed to be having fun. Asked whether it really qualified as outdoors, the company pointed out that it was fun and speaks to those millennials the outdoor industry so badly wants to engage.
“It really resonates with the younger generation and it gets them outside. It’s an ultimate expression of outdoor fun. You get out on grass or sand and push it to the limit,” said Blake Crowe, prototyping design engineer, who explained that it also connects to an app that tracks data.
When it comes down to it, many attendees said they welcome an easier and more accessible outdoors.
“We are looking for things that are more accessible for all ages and all abilities. There are plenty of people trying to do lightest, fastest. And that’s great for one demographic, but it’s also important to find something that can get the whole family playing,” said Steve Hitchcock, executive director of the nonprofit UpaDowna, which is dedicated to getting more people out and enjoying the outdoors.
There were plenty of companies looking to make the outdoor experience more accessible without an electric motor at the Demo, too.
Colorado-based Kokopelli Packraft brought its fun and very functional inflatables to the show. Boats like the self-bailing Shredder, which retails for $999, stuff down to the size of a sleeping bag and weigh less than 10 pounds, making it easy to take on adventures that would otherwise be limited by the size and complexity of standard boats.
Norwegian brand Ally, a part of Bergans, has found the same type of success with its packable canoes, including a 16.5-foot boat that retails for $2,150 and was originally designed to be hauled into the backcountry in planes. “The main draw is ease of travel and storage,” said Keith Patterson, vice president of sales and marketing at Bergans USA. “But we are also seeing an uptick in urban areas, where people are pressed for storage.”
Ease of storage and transport is also the name of the game at Point 65, a Swedish brand that creates modular kayaks that click together like giant legos and were designed to fit in the trunk of a Prius. Even better, that modular system can be used to instantly change a boat from a single to a tandem, a big plus for families. At the demo, the company even put eight of the middle modules together to create an eight-person version of its Tequila boat.
“Retailers love it from a logistics standpoint. Instead of full boats, these come in easy-to-store-and-stack boxes. It’s very efficient,” said Richard Ohman, Point 65 founder. “And when it comes to consumers, we thought transport would be most important and they certainly like that aspect, but they mostly like the ability to change from solo to tandem.”
Of course there’s no way to talk about the beach, a trade show and fun without mentioning koozies and Yeti showed up with the best koozie this industry has seen to date. The cooler brand’s Colster is a $30 stainless steel koozie that not only will hold a can or bottle, but also keep it cool. Now that’s one piece of gear that will segue seamlessly from the beach at the Demo to the halls of the Salt Palace.
– Doug Schnitzspahn