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2004 Surf Expo Report

By: Dave Barousse
Photos: Seth Martin
Date: 09-21-2004

Surf Expo is an annual trade show for businesses in the action sports industries and is the mother of all trade shows for the wake industry. The show is put on so that shop owners/retailers can get an early look at the latest product lines and decide what they will buy for the upcoming season. Companies also like to treat their buyers to a fun weekend at Expo, so there are generally lots of parties, video premiers and activities for the Expo goers to attend at night. Expo is not open to the public, but luckily they allow media outlets such as to attend so that we can pass on some industry buzz to our visitors. The entire wake industry is represented at the Surf Expo, but for the sake of the audience, this article will focus on what went down with wakeskating at the 2004 Surf Expo.

In the 2004 season, wakeskaters took the riding aspect of the sport to new heights, but there were not very many improvements from an industry stand point. Most of the companies had very similar boards, concave was still the main technology in board design and one board manufacturer halted a large portion of the industry by producing boards of very low quality and then by stopping production completely. Wakeskating still grew overall, but in the end, the consumers didn't have much of a choice when it came time to buy wakeskating products. After making my way through the many booths at Surf Expo, I got the vibe that the industry will be ready for wakeskating and wakeskaters in 2005.

Cassette Bi-Level

The biggest buzz at this year's Surf Expo was about the Cassette Bi-Level wakeskates. The Bi-level is a new board design that Cassette Wakeskates has developed in which a skateboard type deck mounts on top of what looks like a traditional flat wakeskate. The idea behind the Bi-level is to offer more of a skateboard feel by having skateboard like kicktails and concave, plus some flexibility in the mounting hardware to allow the top deck to snap like a skateboard does on concrete. I didn't get a chance to actually ride the Bi-level, but I did get to stand on it and watch a video of the Cassette team ripping on them. I personally think that the deck will speak for itself once you get to ride one, but until then, I can say that it felt very much like a skateboard and that is has good weight to it so it felt very solid. Because this technology is so new to the sport of wakeskating, I'm sure that Cassette has only begun to scratch the surface of what can be done with it. We'll all soon see for ourselves if the Bi-level will live up to it's reputation of revolutionizing the sport of wakeskating, but regardless of the outcome, Thomas Horrell and Cassette get two thumbs up from for such a brilliant concept in board design.

You can currently pre-order a Cassette Bi-level or any of the 2005 Cassette wakeskates from

Hyperlite Wakeskates

It was apparent to me that Hyperlite has been listening in on what wakeskaters have been saying about their line of Catalyst and Byerly wakeskates. They basically made the changes that we at see riders complain about the most. For starters, they added weight to both decks. The weight was added down the middle of the Byerly for better swing weight on flip tricks. The Catalyst has added sheets of fiberglass for more overall weight and also allows it to ride deeper in the water. Both decks also have more of a rounded edge that isn't as razor sharp as the previous models.

The Byerly Lock is standard on the Byerly skate and can also be mounted on all of Hyperlite's 2005 compression molded skates. The Byerly Lock is a bracket that mounts on the bottom of the board and allows the rider to lock on to rails when doing nose/tail slides. It is similar to the concept used by Cassette on the 4-trac, but does not use fins.

Hyperlite also changed the name of the Gate to the Karma and introduced the Phriction line of skates. The Karma was given a wider profile, reduced the size of the kicktails and also has added overall weight. The Phriction Series is a new line of skates from Hyperlite that is basically a flat wooden skate with a foam concave top. The idea of the Phriction series is to offer a concave wakeskate at an affordable price. I thought it was really cool that Hyperlite listened to the consumers and made changes to their high end wakeskates as well as offer a concave skate for a lower price.

484 Wakeskates

484 Wakeskates are also moving board design to a new direction. They unveiled their latest creation, the Hook Team Series, which is the first ever wooden wakeskate with a channel base and dual concave. I didn't get to speak with them very much about how the board rides and what the advantages will be of having channels, but it was great to see 484 doing some new things with board design. 484 also added the Jib Series which is a line of wooden concave skates that feature a poly ethylene jib base. This should surely increase the life of the decks when used on rails. 484 will also offer an a-symetrical concave, flat skates, a Chase pro model series, Savanna pro model and a ladies specific skate.

Liquid Force Wakeskates

Liquid force has completely revamped their entire line of wakeskates for 2005. They will be offering 5 different wakeskate models which will also include a compression molded skate. Just by looking at their concave decks, I could tell that they have made drastic changes to the manufacturing process of their skates as compared to the 2004 line. The Armada, Control and Impulse will be the high end concave models where the Anthem and Faction are the more economical boards.

The Liquid Force Armada is the compression molded skate that is brand new to Liquid Force. They have never offered a compression molded wakeskate until now. The Armada offers more contoured concave than the wooden skates, a variable edge and molded tip channels. It will feature a foam top and the durability of a compression molded board as compared to wood.

The Liquid Force wood concaves, Control and Impulse models, now feature an asymmetrical shape and a variable edge. Liquid Force also beefed up their outer seals to help protect the wood a lot more than in the past. The Control will come with a foam top and the Impulse will come with grip tape. These boards just looked so much better than previous wooden skates.

The Liquid Force Anthem series is another flat wood board concave foam top combination and is Liquid Force's economical concave deck. It will be available in four different sizes including the Melissa 41 that features a cool remake of the legendary Vision Mark Gonzales signature graphic.

Pre Pop

DVS Shoe Company threw a video premiere party for the new Attention Deficit film, Pre Pop. Pre Pop contained mostly wakeboarding, but does include a section on Danny Hampson and some cameo shots with Thomas Horrell and Aaron Reed. Pre Pop is exactly what you can expect from Attention Deficit with off the wall digital motion graphics and unique editing. The riding from Hampson is anything less than amazing and you will also see some shots of Horrell and Reed in rare form. By rare form, I mean with binding on. Pre Pop is currently available for pre-order at

Fill In The Blanks

Fill In The Blanks is the latest all wakeskate film by Sidewayz and Kyle Conrad and was premiered during Expo weekend. This film will surely be the one that gets you through the next off season when it is time to pick up your wakeskate for the winter. Fill In The Blanks is loaded with riders and many new faces. I tried to make a mental note of all of the riders featured in the film as I was watching it, but it got to be too many to remember. I really enjoyed watching the footage of so many different riding styles and the progression that is taking place in our sport. As for Kyle's work on the video, I was impressed by the first time director.

WBM Awards

Wakeboarding Magazine had their first annual Wake Awards ceremony at Surf Expo 2004. The Wake Awards were given out for various categories such as rider of the year, best wakeskate trick, best video of the year, etc. An esteemed panel of judges, made up of significant people in the industry, voted for the winners of each award. The complete list can be seen in the December 2004 issues of Wakeboarding Magazine, but the following is the wakeskating related awards:

Best Video - Sfumato

Legend - Scott Byerly

Best Wakeskater - Danny Hampson

Move of the Year (Wakeskate) - Aaron Reed (backside lipslide shuv out)

Danny Hampson also won the Best Wakeskater award in Wakeboard Magazine's 2004 Readers Poll.


I saw a lot of great things at Surf Expo that will all have a major impact on wakeskating in 2005. All of the major board companies are doing something new with their wakeskates. Companies like Cassette and Integrity are doing things that we have never seen before in wakeskating. Products are looking better than ever. New talent like Danny Milona and Evan Lykes will be busting into the scene. 2005 is going to be a great year for wakeskaitng, so get ready.

View Photos
  • 2004 Surf Expo Photo Gallery

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