New Year, New Gear: Our Favorite Brands and Top Product Picks at Surf Expo 2018

surfboard beach
Every January and September, Orlando hosts one of the biggest surf trade shows in the U.S.: Surf Expo, a multi-day affair that features over 2,500 booths packed with the latest in surf, skate, stand-up paddle board, and beach gear.

We got the chance to go behind-the-scenes at the January 2018 edition of Surf Expo. Here’s a few of the coolest new brands, products, and gear we found.

Shark Eyes

shark eyes

Shanan Warrall has spent most of his life in the water. As a spear fisherman, abalone diver, and big-wave surfer, Shanan has been involved in a number of shark encounters. Pulling from his experience as a professional waterman, he’s created Shark Eyes, a visual shark deterrent to help prevent attacks. Sharks prefer prey that are unaware. Facing toward an approaching shark will often make them think twice and choose an easier target.

So how does it work? Simply attach the Shark Eyes to your surfboard or dive tank and, even when your back is turned, it will look like you are facing the predator. Shark Eyes are available now for $20.

Learn More

Kula Cooler

kula cooler

When the folks at Bote needed a cooler for bait, lunch, or drinks out on their boards, they looked at the problem the Bote way: differently. What would happen if your cooler was simply a 5-gallon bucket? Why not make a round one? Why not make the lid comfortable to sit on? Why not make it so durable, it’s “gator proof?” Why not, indeed. Thus, the Kula was born.

Flexible hinges so the lid hangs down by the side, a drain plug in the middle of the bottom so it drains completely, and sticky feet so it doesn’t slide around — who knew a cooler could have some many features? Of course there’s a bottle opener too.

Kula comes in a 2.5-gallon($189) version with a spigot and a 5-gallon ($199) option in white, gray, tan, or glow-in-the-dark seafoam green.

Learn More

Art in Surf Paddle Boards

art in surf amazon cruiser

Stand-up paddle boards typically come in two varieties: beautiful or indestructible. Pick one. You can’t have both.

However, Art in Surf has found a way to create boards that look so good you might want to hang them on your wall, yet so strong, you’ll want to use them more. Board shaper Marcus Pettini is from Brazil, which inspires the beautiful Amazonian designs on these bamboo-covered boards. However, in order to protect these works of art from damage, they’ve turned to pick-up truck technology.

After the boards are painted, they are coated top and bottom with Rhino’s High Impact Technology, or HIT. This thin, clear, lightweight barrier — usually found in truck beds — is so strong you can smash it with baseball bat.

You can find all the Art in Surf boards on Amazon while the update their website.

Learn More

Seon Waterproof Drone

seon drone

Kickstarter phenom Lily couldn’t quite launch in 2015 when it was supposed to, but another company has picked up where it left off. Community-led invention platform, Quirky, bought the drone prototypes and turned them into Seon.

The waterprrof Seon can take off from land, water, or wait (just by throwing it). It features 25 minutes of flight time, 4K resolution in the camera, and a 300-foot range. A small wrist-mounted control let’s you maneuver the drone with a few buttons; it also serves as the microphone, recording usable audio without the buzzing of the drone rotors.

You can pre-order a Seon now for $999; launch is expected in May 2018.

Learn More

Aquatica Camera Housings

Aquatica Camera Housings

Aquatica has over 25 years of experience making high-quality dive housings for cameras. These aluminum cases for Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras come rated to a depth of 300 feet, but can be upgraded to 400.

The company also makes strong but light surf housings for popular DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Ergonomic, one-handed controls let you balance your gear and get the shotat the same time. Previous versions had a right-handed switch for hitting the shutter, which has been upgraded to simple thumb buttons on the handle.

Learn More

Otterbox Trooper LT 30 Soft Cooler

Otterbox Trooper LT 30 Soft Cooler

Best known for its bombproof phone cases, Otterbox is stepping into a new industry — now the company wants to protect your drinks.

Otterbox’s rugged line of coolers includes two soft-sided bags and three sizes of the larger, hard plastic models. Our favorite is the soft Trooper LT 30, which has an enormous opening that reveals a bright green liner inside (the light interior makes it easier to find things when it’s dark). Two watertight pockets on the front keep your keys and phone safe, and the Duraflex tie-down points on either side keep it securely attached to your raft or roof.

Comfortable backpack straps on one side and signature mounting points on the other let you carry and configure the cooler as the adventure demands. Oh, and it keeps ice for over three days. The Trooper LT 30 is available now for $300.

Learn More

IceMule Pro Cooler

Icemule

This March, IceMule is upgrading its popular Pro backpack cooler with a 650 denier polyester in a matte black finish. Compared to the IceMule Boss released last year, the matte black gives the pack a stealthier look without heating up your drinks. The MuleSkinEV tough interior layer keeps ice in and water out, and a PolarLayer foam insulation will protect ice for over 24 hours. You can also add air for even more insulation, then release with the IM AirValve when it’s time to store or travel. Comfortable backpack straps lets you haul your drinks for hours and the roll-top makes it easy to load and unload.

The matte black version of the IceMule Pro won’t be out until March, but the brands other colors are available now.

Learn More

Spikeball

spikeball

Spikeball started in 2008 as a hobby in Chris Ruder’s basement. Since then (and thanks to Shark Tank), this sport has become popular all around the world.

The concept is pretty simple. Spikeball consists of a round net sitting 8 inches above the ground. You get three hits to bounce a rubber ball about the size of your fist off the net to your opponent in any direction you want.

The Pro Kit ($99) comes with a a stiffer frame leading to a more consistent bounce off the net. More grip on the balls let give you more control and spin. If the smaller, heavier Pro ball isn’t up your alley, you can try the brand-new Rookie Kit ($59), which comes with a 50-percent larger net and much bigger ball to get you started.

Learn More

Surf Expo returns 6-8, 2018.

Outdoors

The Incredible Cost of Climbing Mount Everest, the World’s Highest Mountain

We all know the risks of climbing Mount Everest, but what about the cost?
Outdoors

The Best Backpacking Gear to Get You on the Trail in 2019

Spend less time hauling and more time exploring with these lightweight options.
Living

The Best Memorial Day Mattress Sales for 2019

Mattresses are at the lowest prices you'll find all year.
Culture

10 Fiction Podcasts You Should Totally Get Sucked Into

Sit back, relax, and prepare for intrigue and adventure with the best serialized fiction podcasts.
Outdoors

The Best Water Bottles to Keep You Hydrated in 2019

If you're an active soul that's also ready to ban the plastic bottle, we've got the best water bottles of the year, so all you need to do is drink away.
Outdoors

8 Best Portable Showers for Getting Clean on the Go

When you’re on the go, in the middle of nowhere, or in the beach parking lot on the way to work after a morning surf session, portable showers can get you clean with little effort.
Fashion & Style

Support Our National Parks By Stunting a Parks Project X Jungmaven Hemp Tee

The tees in the collaboration are the perfect purchase for someone who wants to support the National Parks while also wearing something that would work perfectly on a hike in them.
Outdoors

Put All 419 U.S. National Parks in Your Pocket with the Chimani App

Chimani gives you the power to know what to see, when to go, and where to poop in every U.S. National Park.
Outdoors

No Outlet? No Problem with the Best Portable Chargers

You can go off the grid with the juice to charge your electronics.
Outdoors

The Best Backpack Coolers for Keeping Drinks Cold on Your Adventures

Hot weather is just around the corner and that means cooler season is here. Instead of lugging your gigantic ice chest around, why not throw on a lightweight backpack cooler?
Outdoors

The Best Time to Visit the 5 Most Popular U.S. National Parks

Hint: Be flexible and visit when most other people don't want to.
Outdoors

The Most Jaw-Dropping Natural Swimming Holes in the United States

You don't need to trek to Thailand or South America to find sparkling depths and crystal-clear waters.
Outdoors

Escape in Style With the Best Ultra-light Travel Trailers of 2019

It doesn't matter what kind of traveler you are — weekender, hardcore explorer, gear hauler, etc. — there's a camper for you.
Outdoors

How to Fend Off Hiker Hunger When You’re on the Trail

Because you deserve more than just beef jerky and a half-melted Snickers bar on the trail.