Surf’s Up With Record Attendance at the Latest Edition of Surf Expo



The aisles were filled with excitement at Surf Expo, held Sept. 8–10 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The watersports and coastal-lifestyle trade show had an energetic, fun and upbeat vibe reminiscent of pre-pandemic times.

“With each edition of Surf Expo since the pandemic, we continue to see retailer attendance increasing, and this show was a continuance of that with a 16 percent increase year over year,” said Roy Turner, Surf Expo senior vice president and show director. “We drew retailers who had not attended since the pandemic. Buyers and brands alike were glad to be back at Surf Expo and getting back to normal,” Turner added.

Dale Rhodes, vice president of sales for the Compton, Calif.–based surf brand Katin, said, “Surf Expo has been our extended family from the beginning. Consistency is key in being successful, and they’ve been consistent from the start, always providing amazing results. We booked 40 appointments and saw 65 accounts over three days with 10 being new accounts.”



Rhodes also said that the biggest trend he’s seen is the new end user. “It’s been incredible. When everyone was on lockdown due to COVID, the surfing craze really took off and introduced a new customer base through outdoor activities that Katin really caters to, and that’s really cool. Another trend has been the consistency of the repeat customer making multiple purchases.”

Notable new brands on the show floor included Bartolo Beachwear, Carver Skateboards and Guy Fox California fragrances.

“It was nice to be back at Surf Expo,” said Liza Blok-Ponse of the Tee Company in Noord, Aruba. “I ended up buying all day and staying until the show turned off their lights every night.”

Laguna Beach, Calif.–based lifestyle brand Roark officially launches Roark Women’s Nov. 19. “The energy surrounding our women’s line was epic. We couldn’t have asked for a better response,” said Dayna Cottee, women’s brand manager for Roark. “The biggest trend for us is about setting the foundation of our women’s line. While maintaining the Roark brand’s ethos of functional clothing that can take you from the trail to the bar, we’ve added a layer of femininity and grit to the women’s styles, inspiring her to take the road less traveled,” added Cottee, who was wearing the Roark Passport Jacket.


Surf Expo Show Director Roy Turner (left) with World Champion Surfer Shaun Tomson

Katie Imswiler grew up surfing competitively and launched her North Kingstown, R.I.–based swimwear brand IMSY in 2011 out of a need for functional swimwear that stayed on while surfing. “I saw a huge void in the market and wanted to bring something unique to the table. If I was having that frustration, other females would be too,” said Imswiler, the brand’s owner and designer.

“IMSY is designed for a free-spirited, confident and adventurous woman ready to make a statement no matter where she is. IMSY swimwear bridges the gap between fashion and function, encompassing signature prints, reversibility and a patented slide-closure system,” Imswiler added. “Each suit is handcrafted and surf tested to achieve a secure and flattering fit.”

IMSY has been an exhibitor at Surf Expo since 2013. “I’m happy to incorporate and fully transition to using all recycled Repreve fibers. In recent years we’ve expanded our swim offerings to apparel, bags, accessories. I look forward to continuing to grow and expand the brand,” said Imswiler.



Provo, Utah–based wallet and accessories brand Thread showcased its new crossbody bags. “The show was great for us,” said Chief Brand Officer Trevor Reese. “We partnered with Sun Bum, Pura Vida and Sand Cloud on a ‘neighborhood’-like setup where we put grass down, lunch tables, had a keg or two each day and played music from the Sun Bums retro van. Overall it was electric. We had great responses from buyers and industry members alike.”

In addition to a bustling show floor, Surf Expo hosted special happenings for buyers including a keynote address, “Transformation After Disruption: The Code to Ride the Next Wave,” from world champion surfer and entrepreneur Shaun Tomson.