Toy fair journal: Catching a (street) wave
Scott Smith glided along the linoleum floor on a board shaped like an elongated figure eight. But it had only two wheels, not four, and Smith, 36, was not skateboardinghe was street surfing, his board powered not by pushing with his foot, but by moving his body.
The board, a combination of a skateboard and a surfboard that is called The Wave, was just one of the so-called hybrid action sport products on exhibit at the 2008 American International Toy Fair, which is going on this week at the Javits Center. Other products married surfing and snowboarding; skateboarding and snowboarding; kiting and dirt biking and even kiting and snowboarding.
Tim Baxmeyer, the president of Virginia-based HQ Kites and Design, which makes a series of hybrid products incorporating kites, said such sports have gained popularity recently, thanks to marketing in adventure magazines and on the Internet.Among the other hybrids: landboarding, which involves riding a skateboard with off-road tires to go on dirt roads, kite buggying, which involves a three-wheel vehicle, and even snowkiting, which is just what it sounds likesnowing or skiing while being pulled by a large, powerful kite.
Baxmeyer said action sports, like other more traditional ones, typically attract boys and young men, as well as some young women, ages 9 to 34. They debuted on the East and West coasts, especially New Jersey and California, but now they are finding followers throughout the country.
According to Smith, who teaches street surfing on The Wave, that hybrid has grown in popularity to include sales people and instructors in 26 states and 13 countries. This is such a new concept, a new sport, he said. Kids that Ive seen take to it right awayespecially those that have never skateboarded before.
Another hybrid is the Flowboard, designed by two astrophysics students in 1999 and used for emulating snowboarding on the street. The board has multiple wheels on each end, arched to allow for movement back-and-forth at extreme angles.
Mike Kearn, president of Sport Technology, Inc., said sales of the Flowboard have increased 400 percent in the past year.
Sport Technology also distributes Snow Skates, a board with flat panels on the bottom to allow for users to get the feel of skateboarding on the snow.
Because of the Internet, where most of our sales are, we have lots of customers even in Middle America, said Kearn. People dont have to wait until something is popular on the coasts to hear about it.
Nearly all the exhibitors interviewed said that these hybrid sports provide an adrenaline-rush alternative to couch surfing with a game console, as well as a twist to old-fashioned sports.
When I was younger, before video games, going outside and being physical was the norm, said Baxmeyer, 31. These new innovations in sports are starting to bring people back to that.
-- Vidya Rao