Paddle Diva at Surf Expo 2012: The Standup Paddling /SUP Perspective

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If you are interested in reading about anything other than SUP(Standup Paddling)-related stuff — that is, skate boards, skim boards, surfboards, and wake boards— then you better get back on Google and search again! If you’re looking for an old dog’s, it-was-so-much-better-back-in-the-day review, then don’t bother reading any further.  We at Paddle Diva can report only fresh, new enthusiasm for Surf Expo 2012, thanks to SUP, which provided a breath of fresh air to the otherwise staid industry and offers real promise in the upcoming years.

The Expo is incredibly well run, with amazing maps, aids and organization. Waiting time to check in was minimal, and the immense space easily accommodated the thousands of people boasted to have exhibited and attended – it didn’t feel crowded.  There is an intoxicating energy when you enter the Expo floor.  It’s as addicting to a first-timer as the rush you feel when you paddle your first stroke on a SUP!   Instead of poring over magazines, websites and brochures to check out gear, our team of three had an opportunity to stand in front of the equipment, talk to knowledgeable brand managers and athletes, and try on and test out the gear.

The message was clear again this year:  the SUP market is booming and most manufacturers can’t make the boards fast enough.  Everyone from outerwear makers to eyeglasses designers know they need to offer innovate products to feed this burgeoning sport, which is growing in leaps and bounds.  And it’s clear that SUP’s appeal to everyday women is driving an energized market, and an untapped but powerful revenue stream.

Yes, there are still plenty of boards that are tiny, with fish tails and double concave bottoms for SUP surfing, quivers of boards for all weather conditions, and carbon race boards for the masses, but what I saw poking through were some real innovations in SUP boards, gear and accessories for women. Phew, they are finally starting to get it!

The Expo’s SUP Pool needs some re-working, it was too small and other than free style turns, it was limiting as a true “test spot”, there was also not enough buzz around the pool, we need shows and pros to make that place more of the focal spot it should have been. However it still did get some exposure, thanks to guest appearances by Vinina Walsh, Andrew Neimeyer, Kristen Thomas, Julie Roach, and Paddle Diva (that’s me) and a few brave souls who wanted to “try it out,” it did not seem like a total flop. The pool is a great resource.  Situated right in the middle of the show, it was a fantastic opportunity to bring more attention to SUP, and as the sport continues to evolve, so will the SUP Pool.  Overall, the show had the juice we all needed this year to get our summers off to a good start!

Be sure to check out exclusive pics from the expo at the end of this post.

First and foremost I have to mention the women’s SUP by JP. This is their third year making SUP and I believe they are showing great promise. They claim to have perfected their exterior bond to the interior so their rails won’t chip away every mislaid stroke, and they have re-designed their surf 9’3” model with an overall better design (I can’t wait to try that out). The “best in show” prize goes to their women’s model.  After the many hours I painstakingly spent on the phone with the powers that be, JP listened and shazam – the first JP women’s board! Please notice the graphics and then look at my logo…. the Nike swoosh and the Paddle Diva waves may soon live together brand ubiquity!

Other board picks came out of my winter home town in Puerto Rico, from first-time exhibitor Nick Leason, owner of MHL Customs.  Their factory in Aguadilla can produce race boards that are built for speed and sized perfectly for his clients. The MHL is light weight, durable and beautifully crafted. You better get your order in fast!

Boga, and the friendly faces of the owners, stood out in the crowd.   They were willing and happy to put their boards in the pool and encouraged anyone to jump on them, me included!  Debuting their eagerly awaited Boga Yoga Board, they offered me the opportunity to jump on a strike a few poses.  It’s a great board at a great price for the dedicated Yogini who wants to SUP and OM!

SUP accessories are finally making an appearance with two that grabbed my eye and my credit card. The Tegs GripTech paddle grip tape for along the shaft of the paddle looks like the tape we have been waiting for.  As long as it can withstand the elements without curling or peeling off, this could be my solution for paddle grips on all my personal gear.  At the Corebann booth I not only discovered an impressive and complete line up of boards, they are also distributing the water bottle holder solution I have been seeking!

Kiola came in strong with the new adjustable Pu Pu paddles that will be ideal in my school fleet for teaching kids and adults. After a long conversation with Dave Chun, I was left with the same feeling I have always had when it comes to Kiola.  It’s not only the quality of their gear – they know what they are doing and they listen to their customers to continually improve, innovate and deliver.

Violet Love accessories will be part of the new Paddle Diva ensemble this summer.  We’ll be selling her amazing, comfortable, and I’d even say addictive headbands!  Rebecca Michaels is the designer behind the bands and she’s got a line of clothes that is so eye catching and flattering, I had to order a few items for myself!

On a more rugged note, we stopped in on the Ocean Rodeo, one of the leaders in dry suit technology. I had the opportunity to talk to one of the founders and was impressed with their new dry suit called the Soul. It’s been designed specifically for SUP and tested in the cold Canadian waters, so as far as I am concerned, look no further – these guys figured it out! We also spent a fair amount of time at Season 5, makers of outwear that is completely water-resistant but warm and comfortable on the skin. There was plenty of buzz about Season 5 among the dealer community.

There was so much on offer at the show that to sum it up in a few pages is almost impossible. But my overall take is that if you are looking for industry insight to what’s happening on the skate/SUP/surf/beach retail scene, this show has the juice! It’s was well-managed, well-attended and most certainly helpful to newcomers (who often have the BEST ideas) looking to break into the market, and gives the old dogs and opportunity to see what is going on beyond their limited uni-perpective. One thing is for sure: as Paddle Diva strives to bring women the very best of all things SUP, we’ll be back at next year’s Surf Expo to catch the next big wave.


Surf Expo 2012: Paddle Diva’s Pool Adventures


We had a fantastic visit to Surf Expo 2012 in Orlando last weekend.  It’s clear that SUP is starting to gain acceptance in the surf industry.   In addition to finding great gear and accessories to add to the Paddle Diva school fleet (not to mention our personal use), we made good use of the Expo’s SUP Pool to try out some boards.  Situated right in the middle of the show, the SUP Pool was a great resource and offered a fantastic opportunity to bring more attention to the sport.  Guest appearances by Vinina Walsh, Andre Neimeyer, Kristen Thomas, Julie Roach and Paddle Diva’s own Gina Bradley drew crowds, as attendees gathered to watch whenever they were showing off our moves!

The folks from Boga were super friendly – they sent us these pictures of Gina.  Here she is on the Boga Classic — practicing freestyle and tailspins.  And again, in an “up dog” pose.

Gina had a chance to test the highly anticipated Boga Yoga board, making its debut at the Expo.  Here she is in a “boat” pose.  We found the Boga Yoga a great board at a great price for the dedicated Yogini who wants to SUP and OM!

Really, there were so many great products on exhibit that it would be tough to sum them all up in a single post.  Next week we’ll have our “Paddle Diva Picks,” with the highlights from what we thought was an excellent show!

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