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The Outdoor Retailer show 2008 leaves precious little to report – this year the only whitewater kayak manufacturers to make it to the show were the larger companies. With Fluid, Bliss-Stick, Drago Rossi, Jackson, Prijon, Eskimo, etc. etc. no longer in attendance, the absence of independent and non-US whitewater kayak manufacturers seems to be complete. There are many reasons for this that can probably be guessed: the dollar/euro exchange rate, the rising cost of travel, the cost of booth space. The overall trend is clear – the Outdoor Retailer show just ain’t what it used to be. Look to Kanumesse to be competing directly with OR from now on as the place to premier new WW products, and there is the perennial rumor of paddlesports breaking away from OR and heading elsewhere in the near future.
Liquid Logic Biscuit – This is it, folks: the lone whitewater kayak premier to make it to the showroom floor this year. Fortunately, it’s a very interesting looking boat.
The outfitting is exceptionally comfortable (as has become the standard in LL boats) and it can even be outfitted with the 40 oz. and 12 oz. beverage holders, should you so desire it. Not spilling your drink when you helix might be another issue altogether, however.
PeakUK Dry Suit – possibly the innovation highlight of the show, PeakUK now has a patented system for entering the suit through the crotch. Off-colored jokes aside, this is a significant improvement in convenience and comfort getting in and out, and it eliminates the need for a retro-fitted “relief zipper” to boot. Having tried it on at the show, it seems to avoid a lot of the problems you’d assume (like chaffing and interfering with the thigh-braces) by having an unusually flexible and lightweight zipper as dry zippers go.
H20 Paddles – H20 is working on a Lexan polycarbonate blade in their touring line and claims a whitewater version is in the works as well, for the stylish kayaker we all wish we were.
NRS – in addition to having a very swanky plaid dry suit (speaking of stylish), NRS fixed the main problem with their creeking gloves for next year by switching to neoprene instead of the simulated leather fabric currently used. I, for one, found the leather a little too cold in the spring run-off, so this is a highly welcomed revision on a great glove.
Esquif Raven – this was a totally unexpected show highlight for me. I’m not a WW canoeist, but the lines on this are quite original. Specifically, there is a pronounced sidewall flare that travels the length of the boat reaching maximum width well in front of the middle of the boat. That probably doesn’t make sense in words, so I’ve included photos, but to really understand what’s going on, you almost have to see the thing in person – it really does make you stop and look.
Stand-Up Paddleboards – they seem to be the next rising star of the outdoor industry, so be sure to get yours before all the posers start buying them; that way you can be sure to say “I was into SUP way before these other losers were doing it” in the eddyline circa 2010. Go. Buy. Now.
That’s about it. There were plenty of people covering the show this year and I had a cold, so I’ll restrict myself to what I found interesting and leave the heavy journalistic lifting to more capable hands than mine.
PS For loads of photo coverage (appr. 40 brands) from the Outdoor Retailer 2008 Summer Market on Playak, see Seanymph's galleries.