Surf Expo is an annual trade show that takes place in Orlando, Florida where companies from the wakeboard, skateboard, surf, kiteboard, and bathing suit industries gather together to show off their upcoming product lines for the next year. Wakeboarder.com was there to check everything out and bring the best back to you. We also have a photo gallery for you to explore.
It's difficult to cover everything at Expo. There's a ton to see, and you can't always get an explanation from the employees of each company because they're often busy, so I probably missed out on seeing some good stuff.
Liquid Force Fish - This board is a bit of a piece of the old days when Liquid Force brought out the first Squirt board. Similar to the Squirt, the Fish is a board that's designed to be ridden shorter. So, if you ride a 139 cm board normally, you'd ride the 129 cm Fish. The board is made wider than most boards to provide enough surface area to still make it rideable, and the short length and wide width makes it supposedly pop very well and spin easily. I expect it will have a similar impact as the Squirt which means that it will be a fun board to ride for a different feel, but probably won't be the only board fo those who do ride it.
Liquid Force Limited Edition Bindings - Available for shops to order only at Expo, Liquid Force will have limited edition versions of the Sphinx, Minx, Transit, and Team bindings this year (click links for pictures). The difference is that each binding will have different graphics on them than the normal version. For example the Minx has pink snakeskin on it, while the Transits have a camoflauge look. These bindings will be available to be purchased from shops such in mid-February.
Cassette Bi-Level - The top innovation in wakeskating is definitely the Cassette Bi-Level. What's basically a concave deck on top of a flat deck with mountinghardware holding it together. It allows the top concave deck to be able to move more like a skateboard and let the rider pop the tail down against the flat deck. I also got to watch some video footage of the Cassette team putting the Bi-Level to good use. These are available for pre order now from BoardStop.com.
Hyperlite Roam - Seeing the Hyperlite Roam in person gave me a better feel for it than I previously had. I'd say it's definitely not a board that you'll want to be doing wake tricks with, but it would be very fun on sliders, rails, and just screwing around doing various types of slides. It's construction looks very solid and checking it out really made me want to give it a try.
Hyperlite State - The State board is designed specifically to help riders with their toeside edge towards the wake. Before you freak out thinking this makes the board directional, that isn't the case. Whether you're riding regular or switch you always edge on the same side of the board when edging toeside, and the same side when edging heelside. Your body position and weight distribution is different when you edge toeside and heelside, so why does the board need to be designed the same on both edges? Mike Ferraro helped design this board and Hyperlite spent a ton of money making new prototypes to get it right. The toeside edge has a different edge shape and a deeper molded fin. Some other subtle changes make it easier for the rider to hold a proper toeside edge up and through the wake. It'll be interesting to see how the State works on the water.
Hyperlite Bindings - The entire Hyperlite binding line has new core materials and hardware that look much improved. The material seems extremely strong and durable, and should make for one of their best binding years ever.
Hyperlite Lock - Hyperlite added an optional "truck" to their pro model wakeskates to simulate what the Cassette 4-Trac optional fin does allowing a rider to lock in when sliding an obstacle.
O'brien Valhalla - The Valhalla is a new board that has cupped outer fins called Crook fins that are designed to create a loose, fast, and balanced board. They supposedly allow the board to remain very loose when riding it flat, but track extremely well when on it's edge. Definitely a board I'd like to take for a test ride.
LED Tower Lights - Mako and some of the other boat tower/accessory companies have brought LED lights into the mix for tower lights, and it's definitely a cool look.
Fly High Quick Release Sacks - For anyone who has ever used fat sacks, you've experienced what a pain it can be to get your pump to stay in right, twist the caps on and off, and deal with that whole mess. The new sacks and pumps from Fly High have a quick release system so that the pump locks into the valve perfectly, so there's no spilling water or dealing with the hassles of conventional valves and pumps.
Sessions Whale Tale - Sessions Boats, the sponsor of the Cassette Team, has a new innovation called the Whale Tale. This is an apparatus that hangs down underneath the boat. It creates some downward force like the Malibu Wedge to the tune of 900 lbs of weight, but the rudder turns with the boat instead of fighting the turn and helps the boat track. Looks interesting.
Wakeboarding Magazine Wake Awards
The WBM Wake Awards party took place and winners were chosen from a panel of 32 industry judges (myself being one of them). The winners were:
1. Best New Rider: JD Webb
2. Best Wake Rider: Danny Harf
3. Rail Master: Parks Bonifay
4. Photographer Of The Year: Josh Letchworth
5. Best Video: Sfumato
6. Legend: Scott Byerly
7. Best Wakeskater: Danny Hampson
8. Best Wakeboarder: Parks Bonifay
9 Move Of The Year (Wakeboard): Shaun Murray
10: Move Of The Year (Wakeskate): Aaron Reed
Expo is also a great time to see premiers of some new videos. Two premier parties provided first viewings of three new videos.
Pre Pop - This film built a lot of hype with a very cool trailer that was a hit on the web. The trailer was an accurate representation of the film as it featured some innovative angles using a "wing boat" that allowed filming to be done from above the rider in a chase boat type of view. Some great wakeskating shots were done this way. The riding is top notch, and it's edited well with some of Alliance Visual Studios classic unique video graphics. My biggest complaint is that it's pretty short and there was a fairly small number of featured riders. However, the riding is great, the music is good, and there is some insane action including a gigantic rail that the riders dominate. A good combination of wakeboarding and wakeskating as it also includes wakeskating from Thomas Horrell, Danny Hampson, and Aaron Reed. This video is available for pre order from BoardFlix.com for $22.95.
Overdue - The first team video from O'brien was made by Adam Dodd and BoarderX productions. I must say I was plesantly surprised with this film. It focuses on the top members of the O'brien pro team in Shapiro, Sanders, Watkins, Friday, Mickacich, and Nadloski. Friday's part is the best female video part to date, and two sections each for Sanders, Watkins, and Shapiro provides lots of great action. Shapiro's riding was as big and intense as ever, and Watkins and Sanders continue to be underrated in my mind as they two of the best in the sport. This video is available now from BoardFlix.com for $17.95, a great deal.
Fill In The Blanks - The first film from former WakeLounge.com operator Kyle Conrad is an all wakeskating film called Fill In The Blanks. An impressive first film by all means, as Conrad films virtually all of the sport's top wakeskaters doing wake tricks, hitting obstacles, and wreaking havoc. The editing is fast paced, with a good indy soundtrack. If you're into wakeskating, this is a must have. It will be available in November.
That's the highlights from Surf Expo 2004. For a more personal view of what Wakeboarder.com did while there, check out my blog.