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Fast Times at 'Action Sports' High

October 11, 1998|--Sean Mortimer

Thousands of voices ring from every corner of the San Diego Convention Center exhibition floor. For three long days, pedestrian traffic flows Manhattan-thick through wide aisles lined with anything connected to surfing or skateboarding. A baggy-clothed surfer flags down a woman wearing a bikini barely larger than a sock and hands her his card. "For when you need a boyfriend," he says with a smile. She takes it without breaking stride. By the third day, tales of nights spent in jail are circulating. Many conventioneers here in September to buy, sell or just peruse products behave as if their parents have split for the weekend. Party! I found the key to the liquor cabinet!

The realization smacks me: This commercial pipe bomb known as the Action Sports Retailer expo is like high school, with every clique represented in exaggerated form.

Black Flys, the sunglasses maker, flogs its image as the rocker/stoner of the surf/skate scene with a booth covered in Elmo-like fur--only longer. It's in keeping with "the cyber/hooker thing we have going," explains one occupant, standing among messy piles of promo stickers.

The brains at nearby Reef Brazil make shoes and sandals, but do feet factor into their marketing? No, insane bodies do. Which explains the line of men waiting for Reef's bikini models to sign posters of their thonged posteriors.

A few rows down, the rich and preppy clothier Quiksilver has built a massive two-story booth that's packed with scrubbed employees in unwrinkled shirts. You can tell these guys floss. Try to enter their mansion unbidden and security arrives in the shape of a young bouncer whose shiny hair splays across a little dress made by sister company Roxy. She throws up a hand and ushers out party crashers.

On the convention center's rooftop deck, skateboarders work the vert ramp, but the real spectacle is a two-on-two basketball tournament sponsored by a skateboard company called Girl. Sinewy dudes simulating jocks juke and drive to the hoop with their drooping pants, exposing striped boxer shorts. All that's missing is a Reef Brazil squad cheering from the sidelines.

Back downstairs, I see why people are hurrying past the Wham-O booth, despite its bold use of friendly colors. A skinny guy wearing short shorts and a tight shirt is kicking around a bean bag. He's sweating. Passersby step back for fear of being sprinkled on, whacked in the shins by flying feet or beaned with the Frisbee that his female partner spins on her finger at light-speed. Does Wham-O make slide rules?

A teacher once warned me that life wouldn't be so easy once I was out of high school. Obviously she wasn't aware of ASR.

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