Thoughts on a Longboard Trade Show

Concrete Wave sent out a press release February 21 announcing the first longboard tradeshow in New York City on March 11. I didn’t think about it much at first, but as some time passed, a few questions occurred to me.

The first was, “Why does longboarding need its own trade show?” Maybe it doesn’t need it, but apparently the longboarding part of the skateboard industry wants it. Given the growth of longboarding, I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t have it. I’ve heard estimates that longboarding represents up to 50% of the skateboard hard goods market (personally, I think that’s a little high).   It also seems logical to me that these longboarding companies, many of which are pretty small, can’t really afford, and maybe don’t need (yet?) a big, longer show like Surf Expo.

The second question was, “What, exactly, is a trade show?” This one will last only from noon to 8PM on March 11, will be streamed live over the internet (at www.pushculture.com), and is being held at the new and second location of The Longboard Loft, a retailer in New York City. The reason they are doing it there, I gather, is because the place isn’t quite completely open yet and there’s room. The show will be followed by the presentation of the Second Annual Concrete Wave/AXS Gear Reader’s Choice Awards.
 
Following the demise of ASR, there was a lot of ringing of hands, meetings and phone calls as organizations dependent on ASR scurried around to figure out how to replace their lost revenue. There was talk that those organizations might decide to combine forces and put on their own trade show. Honestly, I don’t expect it to happen if only because of the significant cash that would have to be committed and the fact that putting on an ASR type trade show is a complicated management undertaking- a fact that may not be appreciated until you start to think about doing it yourself. Done on a large scale it requires a long lead time and experienced trade show management.
 
This longboard show is called a trade show, but I think another term might be appropriate. How about “organic industry gathering?” All I know is that about 32 longboard brands decided to get together for day, show product, talk to their customers (consumers as well as retailers), exchange information, and probably have a good time.
 
Actually, there’s a waiting list of another 13 brands. They’ve been invited to come anyway, hang out with their product and, if necessary, display it at the bar next door. Brands that are attending include Sector 9, Globe, Earthwing, Triple 8, and Bustin.0   I’m guessing the people putting this on aren’t even certain how it will all work out.
 
If there was still an ASR, would this show even be happening? Yes. Longboard brands aren’t participating in this show instead of going to ASR. They needed something that met their needs, and they needed it on the East coast. Longboard is a distinct and growing industry segment. That’s not my opinion- it’s what the consumer has decided.   Action sports is no longer quite so distinctive and is not growing very quickly unless you include new sports in it, and then one wonders if it’s still action sports.
 
Organic industry gatherings work when there are common interests and rationales for participating. Part of ASR’s problem was that it lost that as the definition of action sports changed.
 
My third and last question was, “How come long and short skateboard companies aren’t in this together putting on a single skate industry show?” Different cultures and customers? Partly. Because they are competitors? That’s an interesting question I don’t know
the answer to. 

I expect to watch this show on the internet for at least a little while. Maybe what makes an organic industry gathering successful isn’t the location, the size, how long it lasts, how many people come or how much business is done there, but the common interests of the participants. Just a thought.        

 

10 replies
  1. Rick Hurst
    Rick Hurst says:

    Why wouldn’t a long and shortboard trade show work together? It’s predominantly about culture – mainstream “shortboarding” (AKA skateboarding!) doesn’t focus much on equipment – most skateboards are pretty similar, and there’s no technical advantage of any pro board over any other really. There’s been no real innovation over the last 20 years, because a skateboard is a pretty simple piece of kit, and the market is driven by skating, skaters and which companies are popular, rather than equipment. Longboarders on the other hand are obsessed by equipment and innovation, and so a trade show makes sense. Longboarding could possibly be grouped in with other skateboarding sub-disciplines (such as slalom and street luge), but not mainstream skating.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Rick,
      Well, personally, I’d like to see them in one show bringing all skaters together. There really is room for everybody and besides, it’s the consumers- not the companies, not the industry, not the marketing guys- who are going to shape skate. It always is. Having said that, you make a great distinction between shortboarders and longboarders and what they are interested in. The question from a trade show (any trade show- not skate specifically) perspective is when do the differences get so great that it makes no sense to have one show.

      Thanks for the comment.

      J.

  2. Brian Davenport
    Brian Davenport says:

    This is awesome! A comprehensive way of looking at WHY we are doing this. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it. We kinda just thought, “If you build it, they will come.” Michael Brooke said he wanted to make it happen and it sounded like a fun idea so why not? And let me say here in the beginning – I don’t speak for the entire industry by any means, just myself, these are my thoughts and I thought this would be a discussion worth being a part of. So to answer your questions as one of many people involved with this Longboard Party of sorts…
    1. I don’t think longboarding “needs” it’s own trade show, but like you said the industry has evolved out of what was once a small niche market to something that demand has driven into a major business. Having our own trade show just sounded like something we would all enjoy. Nobody is trying to be exclusive here we just knew there was enough interest to not have to invite different sports, not to mention the venue was packed full almost immediately- with longboarders.
    2. What is a trade show? In talking with lots of people about this event I’ve wondered the same thing. It’s certainly not going to be a big sprawling sea of vendor booths like what comes to mind when you think “trade show.” Honestly I like, maybe prefer, “Organic Industry Gathering,” it has a nice subtle ring to it. And you’re absolutely right, we’re not entirely sure how it will all work out – but we’re working very hard to make it work well.
    It was decided to have the event in the future location of The Longboard Loft because (you guessed it) there was nothing in it. As a matter of fact we were all very lucky that they were able to get the space in time. The “space” was a blank canvas which is currently being converted into an organic industry gathering facility that is designed to cater to this type of event. When the event is over then it will be converted into a “skate shop,” but the event is not being held in a retail establishment, The Longboard Loft was kind and generous enough to allow their space to be specifically constructed for this purpose before they open shop.
    3. Why aren’t we working with short skateboard companies? Ask them. We would love to have acceptance across the board of all things boarding but it’s not gonna happen until the short skateboard companies are willing to let us in, until then we’ll have to fend for ourselves (which is working out quite well.) And again, we don’t need to, our sport is growing and flourishing and if we can fill the space with long skateboarders why not? The ironic part is most of us started on short decks and many of us still ride ’em. It doesn’t matter to me what you choose to ride, just enjoy it! And if you decide to branch out into different disciplines of skateboarding – you’ll just be a better rider because of it.
    I really do hope you’ll enjoy our coverage of the event, we’re working very hard to make it something truly worth your time… And if nothing else thanks for helping to spread the word!

    Ride Fast! Ride Safe!
    Brian Davenport
    pushculture.com

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Well Brian, it seems we’re in violent agreement. What I would really like is to be there, but maybe the next time. It’s such an interesting time to be doing this. Not just because of the growth of long boarding, but because of all the thought and transition around trade shows. I like organic industry gathering a lot better too, by the way. I think it would be a huge success for everybody if all forms of skate could agree to have one trade show with only skate in it. Why hasn’t it happened? Egos? Politics? Vested Interests? Fear of doing something new? Disbelief? Entrenched market positions? Probably all of those. Hmmm. I think I see my next article forming in my head.

      Thanks for the comment.

      J.

  3. Brady Mitchell
    Brady Mitchell says:

    As long as it continues to promote product innovation, and not tanscend into mass produced peices of graphics, I say, GO FOR IT!

    I bought my first “longboard” 15 years ago. Never in my wild dreams did I expect skateboards with flow become “in”. Loving it! BRING IT!

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Brady,
      You know products- all products- have life cycles. I can almost guarantee that there will be “mass produced pieces of graphics” in longboards if there aren’t already. Because some customer will want them and the customer always gets what they want. And if “the industry” doesn’t make it for them, somebody outside of the industry will. Ask the short board skate brands about China and their attempts to resist that. Keep your passions and preferences, but don’t delude yourself- especially if you’re in business.

      Thanks,
      J.

  4. Central Park Longboarder
    Central Park Longboarder says:

    Hello Jeff,

    I’m not going to make any perceived value distinctions at all here between skateboards. I’d like to simply share a very potent vision with you based on fact. I have been riding a skateboard since age 6 FYI. I have a quiver of over 17 decks. Every discipline represented in this quiver.

    Most people these days, I believe, might agree with 90% of university educators studying the subjects of global warming, peak oil and sedentary lifestyle side affects when they rightly claim that ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATIONS, of a carbon free nature, based on human energy, lessen the negative effects of the three mentioned conditions.

    Regardless of economic markets. Regardless of social cliques. Regardless of what anyone might feel or not feel towards the vehicle called a skateboard. It is with a skateboard of a certain dimension atop wheels of related size that the average person will choose to use this vehicle to transport themselves effectively on a daily basis once they have mastered the skill.

    In general, if we were to be truly honest with ourselves, that skateboard would be one, 40″ in length roughly with 65mm-97mm wheels. I suppose one might be a die hard and say they would honestly commute 4 k on a street deck, but when no one was looking and they arrived late one to many times, they would finally cave to this particular board I mention. A longboard.

    Given the severity of the sustainability issue on the plant today as well as sedentary lifestyle side effects, any gathering in mass of people seriously meditating and actively enhancing the story , myth and tradition of ANY TRANSPORT SPORT, is a gathering of the highest order of importance.

    All other issues reside second to this one. If the planet does not reach sustainability, then fun and games will also stop. The difference between long and short boards, the issue of “is it” or “is it not a trade show” are relatively of no concern.

    ANYTHING TO DO WITH TRANSPORT SPORT is of the HIGHEST order OF IMPORTANCE.

    The more people commute via carbon free vehicles the better the world will be. If you want to commute on a street deck with 23mm wheels as hard as rocks, enjoy yourself. Just keep riding it more and using your petroleum based transport less.

    The world is as you dream it.

    Skateboarding’s day to capitalize on Story-Myth-Tradition towards becoming a form of transport after it’s use as SPORT has come.

    The racing of skateboards nationally will lead to a generation of citizens that will possess the Story-Myth-Tradition to meditate and contemplate towards actualizing daily commutes via , yes say it, LongBoards as a lifelong lifestyle. All human growth in the future will be nearly all urban and the LONGBOARD is one of the most perfect forms of urban transport at 1-7 k on the face of the planet.

    This issue dwarfs all others and should be at the front and center of the industry. Making this a mainstream issue in DC with the federal government all the way down to the smallest little town and city.

    The time has come to heal the earth and a board with 4 wheels, the devil’s toy for so long, has now finally become one of the answers to what ails us, amazing as it might seem.

    This vision opens doors to the mainstream wider, farther and more powerfully then any contemplation regarding social or market differences of the vehicle.

    The faster we as people that understand the vehicle, drive towards, educate governments and demand the proper rights for the vehicle as an alternative transport modality the better the planet will be and.. what do you know.. the larger the market shall be.

    Ride Well Ride Often, commute with respect.

    Central Park LongBoarder

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Great vision. In fact I think most skateboards, of whatever size or construction, are used mostly for transportation. Somebody should start a company making products specifically for that use, or maybe that’s how longboard companies already see themselves?

      Thanks for thinking globally and strategically.

      J.

  5. Guto Jimenez
    Guto Jimenez says:

    Jeff, this “one trade show for skateboarding” would only be possible if soft goods companies (shoes and clothing) get as much interested in longboarding as they are in short boarding. This is where the money in corporate skateboarding is, not on board/truck/wheel manufacturing anymore. They’re two different cultures under the same hat, and the biggest difference is that longboarders seem more connected to the “function before fashion” motto that used to motivate skateboarding as a whole some years ago. Only when further respect is obtained among skateboarders, regardless of their board size, is when we’d have ideal conditions for a “one and only” trade show to happen.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Guto,
      Just knowing what I think I know about prices and margins, my sense is that long board hard goods make okay money. It’s in the short boards where margins have gotten a bit difficult. The short board brands have hung their hat on the branded deck/pro rider model. That’s still a valid model for some brands, but it just isn’t as big as it use to be. Fewer kids are willing to spend the cash for a branded/pro deck when they can get the same sense of belonging from a branded shop deck and save a bunch of money. As usual, the consumer gets what they want.

      With regards to your one trade show comment, this whole discussion got started because the long boards are having their own show, or organic industry gathering. It’s going to work because it’s low cost and low risk and all the participants share a clearly defined interest. What if the next time this happened, we just said, “Anybody who makes any kind of four wheeled board or hard good for one can come?” I think there’s a danger in overanalyzing what might or might now work and why. I’m thinking that the community of common interests should be allowed to find itself.

      Thanks for the comment and if you’re at the post something about how it goes.

      J.

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