Outdoor retailers show off, test new gear
Jordanelle State Park • As a professional lumberjack Abby Hoeschler has sent countless competitors into the water. Now, the 24-year-old president of Key Log is seeing if she can roll in the business world.
Hoeschler, a professional log roller for nearly a decade, and her company debuted the Key Log during the Open Air Demo at Jordanelle State Park on Wednesday as the bi-annual Outdoor Industry Association opened its 2012 Summer Market.
Among the plethora of kayaks, canoes and standup paddle boards lining the banks of Jordanelle Reservoir, the floating synthetic log beckoned all those who passed by to give it a try.
That, for Hoeschler and many other companies attending the convention, is what makes the Open Air Demo such an important part of the Outdoor Retailer show.
"People are drawn to it when it is in the water. They want to watch people try it and they might want to try it," she said. "I'm sure it won't be the same in the show floor."
The synthetic log weighs 58 pounds and is much easier to transport than the 400- to 500-pound red cedar logs traditionally used in log rolling.
The portability and durability of the Key Log will "take a 100-year-old sport and completely revolutionize it," Hoeschler said. "The sport and recreational aspect of log rolling has been held back because of the huge and cumbersome logs. People can take the Key Log and keep one at their cabin or put one in their pool."
The target retail price for the Key Log is $1,700 and it could be available at outdoor sporting stores in spring 2013.
Not far from Hoeschler's fake logs Keith Patterson of Bergans of Norway was showing off the Ally pack or folding canoe.
Patterson also appreciated the opportunity to put paddles in the hands of retailers and give them a chance to make test drives.
"To sit in one on the show floor is one thing, but to be able to take it out on the water and see how it handles, even in the choppy water from this wind, is another," said Patterson. "People can also pick them up and move them around, that is kind of hard to do in the confined booth spaces at the show."
The Ally packable canoe has been around for years, but Bergans is making a push to expose North America to the lightweight and easily-stored canoe.
The canoes weigh 45 pounds with a soft PVC material shell, interior aluminum frame and foam floor mat. They come in white-water and flat-water models, can hold up to 850 pounds and an be constructed in 45 minutes by two experienced users.
Patterson said people like the Ally for many reasons, but the storage issue seems to be a big one.
"The saying in Norway is 'skis are for the roof. Canoes go in the trunk," he said.
It was clear at the Open Air Demo that standup paddle boards are still all the rage of the outdoor retailer world, but other niche groups like Key Log are hoping they can launch into the mainstream.
"We feel like we have a lot of things going for us," Hoeschler said. "Key Logs are fun, competitive and require agility, balance and core strength. It is a great way to stay fit and have fun with your family and friends while you are doing it."
More than 27,000 companies and retailers are expected for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market which continues at the Salt Palace Convention Center through Sunday. The show, however, is not open to the public.