A Festive Surf Expo Summer Edition Wraps Up With Strong Attendance

September 26, 2022

Harkening back to pre-pandemic times, the latest edition of Surf Expo boasted a bigger crowd and showfloor, with buyers and brands feeling comfortable and relaxed as they reconnected face-to-face to conduct business over the course of three busy days.

Held Sept. 8–10 at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, the world’s largest and longest-running watersports, beach and resort lifestyle B2B event brought together more than 7,400 attendees and exhibitors spanning more than 150,000 square feet of expo space.

Produced bi-annually in January and September by Emerald, Surf Expo attracts buyers from across the U.S., the Caribbean, Central and South America and the world. The show features not only hundreds of apparel and hard goods brands, but also a full line-up of special events, education and awards ceremonies. 

According to Roy Turner, senior vice president and show director of Surf Expo, the September 2022 trade show marked the fourth event since the pandemic, and retailer attendance has steadily increased with each edition.

“This show was a continuance of that [growth] with a 16% increase year over year,” Turner explained. “We drew retailers from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, St. Johns and the surrounding Caribbean, who had not attended since the pandemic. Buyers and brands alike were glad to be back at Surf Expo and getting back to normal.”

The show also grew in size, with an 18% increase in square footage compared to the 2021 September show, with more than 645 exhibitors spanning the showfloor, including more than 150 new brands, he added.

However, Surf Expo’s positive upticks in participation didn’t happen by chance. According to show officials, the event deployed strategic, cross-channel marketing campaigns across email, text, direct mail, telemarketing, road trips to stores, one-to-one outreach from its Buyer Relations team, advertising and pre-show press releases designed to generate excitement about the brands, retailers, education and events that participants could expect at the show. 

Surf Expo 2022

Out on an energetic and expanded showfloor sporting a fun and upbeat vibe, it appeared these extensive marketing efforts had paid off, as exhibitors enthusiastically connected with serious buyers in a relaxed yet focused atmosphere.

“Surf Expo is dynamic and cool,” said Exhibitor Lauren Behning with Dune Jewelry. “It helps us conduct business with our retail partners in a way that makes it feel like we are meeting with family.” 

Attendees concurred that participating in the live event was a big benefit for their businesses, as it allowed them to connect with their current vendors, converse face-to-face and discover and touch products, all in one convenient location.

“It was nice to be back at Surf Expo,” said Liza Blok-Ponse of Tee Company from Noord, Aruba. “I ended up buying all day and staying until the show turned off their lights every day.”

Additionally, the show once again offered its Professional Learning Labs for retail attendees, which featured eight sessions covering top-of-mind industry topics, including accelerating brand sustainability, retail planning strategies and finding, developing and retaining great sales staff.

The event also hosted several special events, including an inspiring keynote address, “Transformation After Disruption–The Code to Ride the Next Wave,” delivered by world champion surfer, author, entrepreneur and purpose activist Shaun Tomson; a Surf Expo Industry Party and Post Show Mixer, and myriad brand-sponsored happy hours and multiple fashion shows.

Surf Expo will return to the OCCC Jan. 4-6, 2023.


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact