It's the way outdoor trade shows were meant to be. Outdoors.
For the next four days, the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market -- the country's largest trade show involving outdoor products -- will be held in the less-than-outdoorsy confines of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. But on Tuesday, to kick it all off, the event's Open Air Demo rocked the beach at the Port Ramp Marina on Pineview Reservoir. There in the mountains, at the water's edge, the latest in outdoor products were in their own element.
Active apparel, hiking and camping gear, fly fishing, paddle sports and much more were on display for retailers and media members to try. Held each year to give manufacturers an opportunity to show off new outdoor products for the next year, the summer market is a business-to-business event -- meaning it's not open to the public. But for members of the outdoor industry, it's an opportunity to examine and test products from 140 top brands.
"These buyers need to try out products, evaluate them, make sure it's something they want to carry in their stores," said Nitzan Benhaim, owner of Focus SUP Hawaii, which manufactures Body Glove paddleboards and offered a number of boards for convention-goers to demo on the waters of Pineview.
One such potential buyer Tuesday, Snowbasin Ski Shop assistant manager Brady Exon, tested one of the paddleboards out on the reservoir. Exon and Cindy Beger, retail manager at the Snowbasin shop, said they don't carry paddleboards, but they're open to the idea.
"We don't do a lot with water sports right now, being up on the mountain, but we might in the future," Beger said.
Some manufacturers are hoping to hit on the next big thing. Curt Siverts, of Redondo Beach, Calif., was turning heads with his novel idea for a small sail that fits inside a paddleboarder's paddle.
"I'd see people on paddleboards coming downwind and thought, 'Wow, it'd be nice to have a sail,' " Siverts said.
Another company, WaveJet, of Santa Ana, Calif., uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery-powered motor on surfboards, kayaks and the like to create 20 pounds of thrust. Translation: 45 minutes of continuous electric power, at 5 to 8 mph.
But it's not just high-end gadgets at the Open Air Demo. At one booth, Bob Basser and colleagues were showing off Action Wipes, touted as "full body wet wipes for when you can't shower." One might think of them as baby wipes for adults, but Basser disagrees.
"This is so much better than a baby wipe," he said. "It's large enough, and gentle enough, that it works on any body part."
The four-day Outdoor Retailer Summer Market will attract 26,000 participants, and organizers say close to 2,000 people take part in the Open Air Demo.
"This is THE big outdoor trade show," said Chip Smith, president of Soar Communications in Salt Lake City, which handles the public relations for the show.
And it's big news, too. An estimated 540 media representatives, from all over the world, will be covering the show.
Kenji Haroutunian, vice president of Emerald Expositions, which hosts the yearly show, says the event has come a long way from that first Outdoor Retailer show, back in 1981, that featured about 50 exhibitors at a Las Vegas ballroom. And indeed, the current show has almost outgrown its location.
The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market has been held in Salt Lake City since 1996, and it is contracted to be held there through 2016, but after that things are up in the air.
"The outdoor vibe is so good here in Utah," Smith said. "It makes sense to hold the show here. But the biggest issue is beds -- the hotels around the venue."
There are not enough hotel rooms for all the participants at the Salt Palace show -- some are staying as far away as Park City and Ogden. Both Denver and Las Vegas have shown interest in luring away the Outdoor Retailer show.
Pineview Reservoir was a big hit at Tuesday's Open Air Demo. The event had been held at Jordanelle Reservoir in the past, but was moved to the Ogden Valley this because of low water in the reservoirs.
Jeff Turner, of Kwik Tek in Denver, likes the move.
"This is a great beach," he said. "Much better than the rocky one last year at Jordanelle."
And Haroutunian said Pineview's setting is perfect for the outdoor industry -- access to water, beaches, trails, rock faces and much more.
He said, "We love it here."