Words and photos by John Graham
The majority of the Norcal snowboard reps arrived early to the San Mateo Snowboard Show, eager to set up and prepare a seamlessly smooth execution of this year’s event. They were stoked to get a chance to show their lines once again just before most March 1st deadline dates.
The all-inclusive venue and solid layout was prepared by Terry Campion of Santa Cruz Snowboards, who had help from Andrew Boucher of Sims and Derek Appleton with Mervin Mfg., plotting and taping off the booth spaces in the San Mateo Expo Center Oak Hall. All three are long-time veterans of the industry and share a great deal of enthusiasm for the business. While they were fast at it, others unloaded their trucks, setting up the hall in record time.
On the 24th the doors opened at 8:00 a.m. for the prompt dealers with a full agenda. The first day was busy while most brands had double-booked appointments with no time for lunch. The pace was steady and the floor was packed with shop owners and buyers getting the lowdown on next seasons new innovations.
Key new technology like the Recco avalanche recovery system kept people interested. Both Vans and Sessions outerwear were proud to claim the use of this system. And the buzz about Gallium Crystals was a hard topic not to touch on with Rome Snowboards using it in its Anthem series. As the day went on, more and more shops communicated about these killer new features.
“I’m just glad these shows dates are so close to the on-snow demo. That demo is how I do my buy,” says Wendy Woodward of Boards-N-Motion in Auburn. “That way everything is still fresh in my mind.” And that’s just the way the industry architects of the “See It, Try It, Buy It,” mantra envisioned the tradeshow schedule to work.
The feeling from some mountain shop buyers is that true product innovation and the need for change is essential. Without it the industry gets in a rut. The need to test product coming out of snowboarding’s top design houses is crucial. “If I don’t like the way a board rides neither will my customer,” expresses John Kennedy Jr. of the Sportsmen’s Den in Mt. Shasta.
With the plan of a second-night Red Bull party at Scores, the attendees and exhibitors had a mellow evening in hopes of hammering out that second day of business and unwind by topping off the show with a good party.
Day two went on as smooth as day one. New buyers arrived and the buzz still continued. On day two buyers seemed stoked with the industry’s constant change and the next generation of snowboarding business right around the corner.
An overwhelming number of snowboard specialty shops at the show wanted to support more snowboard-only brands on their walls, and preferably downplayed switch-hitter brands. “I didn’t come here to see the ski-based brands. I sell snowboards, that’s why I’m here,” Says Eric Robie of Out of Bounds Board shops. “I am looking at true snowboard only brands.”
It was obvious that the dealers were having a good time with their reps and without a doubt the Norcal rep force has an incredible level of camaraderie. That was apparent as reps and dealers arrived at the post-show Red Bull party, where free drinks and food were served for hours. Everyone had a great time talking shop or just shooting the shit. It was rumored to be the best post-show party to date.
Day three was considerably slower than the two days prior. Was it the Red Bull vodkas or just an efficient show schedule? The word is still out on that, but nonetheless the mood was still up as the last of the orders trickled in. Beers were swilled as the trucks pulled in for the 3:00 p.m. breakdown. The show was a success.
What of next year? Are the rumors true? Will the WWSRA take over this “renegade show” as Laurent Vrigaud of Burton Snowboards puts it? Will snowboarding and skiing come together without animosity? Does a large rep group need to govern individual territories? Is there hope for the rest of the U.S. thhat snowboarding’s regional reps can and do make great things happen without Big Brother?
“I think the show’s success was a direct affect of a combined effort by a solid group of reps and companies that can only be accomplished by this type of event,” says Chris Berger of Ride Snowboards.
All we know is that this is a crucial event for most Norcal reps. There’s an overwhelming need to get orders in on time for most March 1 deadlines. This tightly knit group of industry reps is completely unanimous in respect to the necessity of the February show.
It appears as though the WWSRA hasn’t spent much time communicating with its snowboard members and addressing their needs, since its planned rep show is in Reno on March 11-14, after most snowboard companies’ order deadlines. So what is the bottom line? Maybe it’s about getting the retailers the best discount possible. After all, it’s all about their margins, right?