Ever since the recession hit, the L.A. Boat Show has been shrinking in size and attendance. However, the 2012 show that went off February 9-12 displayed more boats and accommodated 10% more foot traffic over the 2011 show. Hopefully, this is that start of a growth trend that will continue for years to come for this show as well as others.
As far as wakeboarding goes, it was well represented and dominated the show. Just about every boat manufacturer had at least one attempt at a wake-specific boat on display, while the wake-dedicated brands had huge displays of just about all their models. I think Sun Country Marine gets the prize for buying up the most floor space. In addition to a great Nautique booth, it seems like their non-wake brands must have covered about half the show floor!
I would venture to say that 2012 is about the best-looking crop of wake-specific boats the industry has ever seen! Brands at the show included Axis, Centurion, Malibu, MasterCraft, MB, Moomba, Nautique, Sanger and Tige. Every brand has stepped it up with creative features, great graphics and smooth lines that are taking things to the next level.
Wake gear made a big showing as well with Wakesports Unlimited and Sports LTD grabbing huge swaths of floor space to display their wares. All the major brands were represented with pro riders making appearances to promote their respective sponsors. I ran into Scott Stewart, Shane Bonifay, Phil Soven, Reed Hansen, Melissa Marquardt, Mike Schwenne and a few others.
Probably one of the biggest reasons for the gathering of riders and other industry heavyweights was the Axis Wake Research/Liquid Force Backyard BBQ in the Tilly's Marine booth. Free shirts and free beer were had by all as Axis and LF celebrated their partnership for 2012.
In addition to seeing all the new goodies, I had the chance to talk to a few folks about the latest happenings in our industry. I found out that Wakesports Unlimited is finally going to get themselves a website and make their gear available online. Chuck at California Skier told me all about the two cable systems (one going each direction) that they will be installing in the Lake Elsinore channel at the end of the summer.
We also had a chance to touch base with some fine accessory companies that are sponsors of WakeWorld. Skylon was cranking some crisp clean tunes from their busy booth showing off their new Vector 8 line. Patrick and Zack from Boat Bling gave me some details on the massive growth of their "Sauce" boat cleaning products. It's great to see both of these companies doing so well.
Overall, it was one of the most enjoyable shows I've been to in recent memory. The positive vibe of a recovering industry was felt throughout the show. I hope the strong consumer push continues throughout this year and beyond so that the shows maintain growth and brings boat and gear buyers even more in the future.