Fun and exciting, their approach is refreshing in a sometimes-stodgy environment of rapidly advancing technology and hustle-and-bustle sales. Outdoor enthusiasts know industry giants like Marmot, The North Face, Prana and Patagonia, but the real treat at the market—held biannually in January and August at the Salt Palace Convention Center—is finding the small, unexpected oddball booths, from fringe sports to niche equipment. The market is not open to the public, but City Weekly was able to preview a few new products, most of which are available on the retailers’ websites.
Gibbon (GibbonSlacklines.com) is building a business while simultaneously building a sport—beyond the current rock-climber base. Folks sling webbing between two points—say, two trees—with carabiners to track tension, pulled taut by multiple people. The idea is to balance and walk between the two points, possibly doing tricks along the way. Gibbon’s makes a simple, two-piece kit that’s easy to set up.
The sport’s mental and physical challenge makes a fun, exciting workout, aiding balance, coordination and building the smaller muscle groups without the awareness of “working out.”
“It’s a different type of movement than we’re used to, and it takes awhile to wrap your mind around it,” says Jaime Klinetob, marketing and events coordinator. “At shows [like OR], usually within an hour, [newcomers] can walk back and forth on the line. It quickly becomes addicting: you get two steps, and you have to do it again and again to get more.” At this market, they’ll have a smaller booth inside, with an additional booth outside the Salt Palace to demonstrate and offer lessons to market attendees and the general public.
Another fringe sport—hula hooping—is similar to slacklining, says Betty Hoops, owner of Betty Hoops Dance Therapy (BettyHoops.com). “It’s portable, fun fitness. I know people that summit mountains with their hoops. Climbers use it on their rest days,” says Hoops, an extreme sports enthusiast and yoga instructor. She first found the hoop at a music festival, and immediately recognized its cross-training benefits—hip-opening, core-strengthening and flexibility—yet fell in love for the youthful and playful feelings.
In 1998, she began designing and selling PVC pipe hula hoops, now offering three sizes for adults and two for children. This evolved into a multifaceted fitness regime called Four Rhythms, and an online outlet for sales beyond music festivals. In 2003, she created a collapsible hula hoop: The Betty Hoop, her crown jewel, small enough to fit into a yoga mat bag and adjustable to two sizes, for 80-pounds youngsters to 240-pound adults. Its padding is grippable, while the six, flexible segments make it easier to use—helping users avoid embarrassment and frustration. Hoops will have an Open Air Demo (Jordanelle State Park, Aug. 2).
Well-established companies are also branching into uncharted waters. For 30 years, BIC Sport (BICSport.com) has been crafting watersports equipment, with windsurfing and kayaking roots. In 2007, it began making stand-up paddle boards, focusing on entry and intermediate level. Now, that niche is bigger than ever. In the 1990s, surfers like Laird Hamilton began using outrigger canoe paddles on longboards during no-wave days to cross-train—a core-intensive, full-body workout, requiring lower body balance. “People are coming to the sport from a number of areas to ride just about any size wave and get out on the water when there’s no surf at all,” says director of marketing and sales Chris Decerbo, who likens it to cross-country skiing for water.
Recreationists can’t always be uptempo, so some products make downtime more engaging. Prism Kite Technologies (PrismKites.com) manufacture casual, beginner kites to high-performance power kites for ripping downwind on snowboard, skis or feet. PHD Productions’ (PocketDisc.com) flying Pocket Disc—part hacky sack, part Frisbee, looking like a yarmulke/rasta-hat hybrid—is fun for games and tossing, indoors or out.
Then, there are products designed more for entertaining than for training. Porland, Ore.-based Brewshoes (Brewshoes.com) makes “performance beer-drinking shoes” whose marketing is awash in beer-laden jokes and jargon. The three shoes on tap have slip-resistant outsoles for sloppy walking, stain-resistant uppers for brew-spillage and come in colors like Smoke Ale and Hazelnut Brown. Brewshoes exemplify that it’s not all business at the OR Summer Market—there’s room for the wacky and the fun.