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OR 2005 Wrap-up

Outdoor Retailer 2005 Outdoor Retailer 2005 Summer Market: Trends, observations and industrial cannibalization.

Before I start any of this, please be aware that I am also a tech rep for Drago Rossi kayaks. If there's anything I am missing from other manufacturers, it certainly isn't intentional on my part, and I hope everyone will keep in mind that I spent a considerable amount of time making sure I heard from as many other manufacturers as I could get to... and I consider these guys to be friends as well.

Confluence - the official word here is that Confluence has acquired Watermark and the decision has been made to keep both the Dagger and Wave Sport whitewater lines and teams intact and in direct competition, possibly alternating designs each year. For example one year Dagger might make the playboat and Wave Sport will make the creek boat, the next year vice versa or one might focus on a river-running playboat while the other makes a playing river-runner.

  1. Dagger - Dagger is bringing the Prescription ( 1 2 3 4 ) to market this year; a more river-running oriented playboat that has some lines familiar from the Juice.
  2. Wave Sport - has the Project ( 1 2 3 ) coming along; a short, forgiving playboat built for aerial maneuvers.

Riot - Riot has addressed what some people felt were shortcomings in the Air with the new Flair ( 1 2 3 ) In short they "put a stern on it", but more precisely they changed the shape of the tail, added an inch and moved the cockpit forward (by my understanding). The Astro ( 1 2 ) follows on the Disco and has gathered considerable interest. Some new outfitting ( 1 2 3 ) as well.

Fluid - The two main things here are an expedition model of the Solo ( 1 2 ) with a kids sit-on-top (see pic 1) and a river play boat called the Spice ( 1 ) in the works.

Robson - Has taken their thermoplast Prodigy prototype of last year into plastic as the Sportster ( 1 ) seen with the NRG XL. But that doesn't mean they are done with thermoplast, rather they have applied it to an open whitewater canoe, the Homes ( 1 2 3 ).

H2O Audio - Has a waterproof case and headphones for your iPod ( 1 2 )... why is the second letter in iPod capitalized anyway? Probably just to make people like me ask stupid questions like this.

Shred Ready - has the LeKtor ProteKor ( 1 2 3 4 ) close to market. This is a full-face coverage helmet with a face shield which is designed to break-away from the helmet if it gets caught on a rock or stick or the tail hitch of a moving Ford truck or something. Sorry about the blurry shots... they are in a particularly dark corner of the Salt Palace: they hate the light.

Sweet - has some new colors ( 1 ) and a prototype visor.

Astral - has a high buoyancy PFD ( 1 ) out which has a removable back panel making it convertible to either whitewater or touring environments. Also, their new articulating playvest ( 1 2 3 ) has a buoyancy core around the abdomen and a panel across the front that moves with your shoulders.

H2O Paddles - is the brainchild of Steve "Blondie" Horvath formerly of Waterstick. The hollow blades have a locking I-beam construction ( 1 ) attached to a carbon shaft with Santoprene grips ( 1 2 3 ) for a sure grip.

Esquif - I don't know much about open canoes, but Esquif seems to really like them. The Salsa ( 1 ) appears to be a OC-1 playboat, and then they have another one ( 1 2 ) which I don't know anything about. All I know is that looks like that Eli Helbert guy.

Liquid Logic - has the CR 125 and CR 250 ( 1 2 ) which are more river-runner-like playboats in two sizes. One simple, but I must admit probably very effective idea they have devised this year is a foam inset ( 1 2 ) which basically surrounds your feet inside the bow of the boat. New hip pads too ( 1 )

Eskimo kayaks - is back from the grave with redesigns of their earlier models and new molding methods. I really don't even know where to begin here, so here's the shots ( 1 2 3 4 5 ) again, sorry about the blur... they hate light also.

Pyranha - new for this year is the 4twenty ( 1 2 3 4 ) and the Stretch ( 1 2 3 ) and the Burn ( 1 2 ) is in prototype.

WRSI - has finally made it to production with their helmet ( 1 2 )

Shockwave - brought the Turtle ( 1 2 ) along -- this is a pretty interesting system: a combination drytop and PFD with integrated articulating hard shields in the elbows and covering the spine.

Immersion Research - has new colors ( 1 2 ) and a new skirt ( 1 2 ) which uses recycled tires instead of Kevlar on the rim guard.

NRS - Has some new drytops which have a fleece layer laminated into the shell ( 1 2 ), a new technical booties called the Scout ( 1 ), the Hustle is now available in Cordura ( 1 ) and they have a nicely done paddle bag ( 1 2 )

Drago Rossi - has a larger surf-oriented playboat called the Thruster ( 1 2 3 4 5 6 ) in prototype, the Stinger ( 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ) in production, a new performance sit-on-top (the Wake-ski?) ( 1 2 3 4 ) in prototype and 9 ft. long creek boat called the Critical Mass ( 1 2 ) in prototype. Also new for 2006, the Mafia has been overhauled to address complaints and increase safety by integrating a new "safety ring" ( 1 • nice calves, Elvez) roto-molded structural ring that will help prevent deck collapse much more effectively than a structural pillar. Also, the hatch cover has been redesigned without the ratchets that were a source of complaints, now using an elastic band and strap system ( 1 2 ) and the seat has been redesigned to allow easier access behind the backband.

Banshee Riverboards - ( link ) This was just one of the coolest things at the show... these guy have basically combined bungie jumping with skim-boarding and turned the flatwater on the river that all kayakers hate into what looks like a lot of fun. The best way to understand it is to download the videos... what they don't show is that the elastic band is loaded by letting the river take you downstream, then it slingshots you back upstream again and again like a yo-yo I suppose. There's a lot of potential here.

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Marketing schizophrenia - While almost across the board manufacturers are going to safer, bigger, more forgiving and less "extreme" designs, the marketing remains based on the elite pro-paddlers doing things that a fraction of a fraction of the boating community actually does. I suppose it could be likened to the women's fashion industry which pushes an impossible body image on a market that largely bares no resemblance to the average model. Prepare to feel about your lack of a good Helix.

Red Bull "Faces" magazine party - ( 1 2 3 4 5 ) Good hors d'oeuvres here... a nice little mushroom tartlet that in retrospect probably had gelatin in it, but the balsamic basted sun-dried tomato and tortellini skewer was quite good indeed. Open bar, pretty people imported from other sports -- it's become clear that the money in kayaking is to sell the sizzle and keep the fat. But still, this is a pretty nicely made magazine... basically a softbound coffeetable book with super well done portraits. One problem with the graphics: when seen in a dimly lit room, perhaps under the influence of several free drinks, by an unfortunate placement of white background in a photo and a notch in the distressed font of the letter "a" in "faces", it really looks like it says "Feces" magazine. One of those things that's bound to be stirred in the subconscious maybe only bubbling up into the conscious of people like myself who have studied design... but still... "Oh Shit!!" eh.

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