Crazy Euro Outdoor Gear Awards: 'ISPO BrandNew'

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Since the year 2000, the ISPO BRANDNEW Awards have been pimped as a “barometer of future trends.” At least that’s according to Messe München International, the trade exposition company in Munich, Germany, that manages the ISPO awards and its namesake set of outdoor/recreation trade shows around the world. I have covered the BRANDNEW Awards since 2005 when I first went to Munich for an inside look at the awards process. I met members of the BRANDNEW jury, which judges entries and awards the coveted prizes, and I saw dozens of to-be-released products under a trade show tent, among the items a vibrating pillow that connected to the Internet for surf reports (seriously), roller-skates made for grass, and the very first GoPro camera prototype, which in 2005 was a Velcro-on brick of a camera that used 35mm film!

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Alpraush apparel, a past BRANDNEW Award winner

GoPro, which was a finalist but not the winner at BRANDNEW 2005, is a company that has the ISPO connection and a major success story to go along with it. That is not the case for many of the brands. I did a quick search for an update on how some past winners from 2005 and 2006 were doing, and more than three-quarters of the companies seem to have dissolved. (The vibrating surf pillow and the grass-skates, however, do live on!)

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Surf pillow (connected to Internet) and the original 35mm film GoPro camera

This week, the 2012 BRANDNEW Awards were presented, and the Messe München-appointed jury members are again banking on whacky products as the winners and the “barometer of future trends.” From 269 entries eight winners and 40 finalists emerged, including overall winner Wavegarden, a company that has a machine that makes surf-able artificial waves.

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Artificial surf break made by Wavegarden machine

So far, the company has a single artificial surfing installation in the South of Spain. Wavegarden gives no details on its website as to what the product is, and neither does the BRANDNEW Awards press material, the official release only talking in weird superlatives about how surfing is “the mother of all trend sports” that is known to “engender a lot of emotions. . .”. Right. Anyway, Wavegarden brings “surfing to the people,” the BRANDNEW Awards jury wrote, as the artificial wave-makers can ostensibly be installed almost anywhere. How they make the wave exactly was not revealed, so we’re just going to have to watch this video for the proof and wonder.

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A surfboard case you can also sleep in!

Moving on, but staying on the mysterious surf products theme, the BRANDNEW category winner for “hardware summer” was the Wavecave, a “tent and surfboard bag in one.” The jury said the surf tent offers “a great added value at the beach, but does not take up any additional room during transport.” Seemingly far more valid, in my opinion, another winner was TakWak, which has a waterproof device that combines features from a GPS unit, a mobile phone, and walkie-talkies to make a first of its kind product.

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Clothing with prints made by children in Peruvian orphanages

Apparel winners included the Choclo Project, which is a clothing company with a social mission to help support children in need in Peru via t-shirts, jackets and sweaters adorned with prints drawn by boys and girls in Peruvian orphanages. (A portion of the proceeds derived from sales are donated back to the orphanages.) Polychrome won the sportswear category with its outerwear, which is said to have a new laminate technology that protects the wearer against heat as well as cold. The jackets have UV-ray reflection, absorption of ambient heat, and “adaptation to any kind of weather,” the BRANDNEW statement said.

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Polychrome jacket

From the United States, Poler Camping Stuff won with its camping gear, cited as having design that’s “a countermovement to all of today’s technology craze.” This “countermovement” from Poler includes tents and packs with vintage style and design as well as fun products like the Napsack, a $130 sleeping bag in which you can snooze, cook and even hike as there are openings for arms and legs.

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Napsack from Poler Camping Stuff

German company Pelé Sports won with lightweight soccer shoes. A new ski boot company, Free Motion, got a nod. The boots have a “soft” feel but with the needed rigidity via an external “exo-frame” piece for power transfer to the ski. It’s “absolutely comfortable and supports a very aggressive style of skiing at the same time,” said a jury member.

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Model on a PG-13 Bike, a former BRANDNEW Award winning company

All in all, the BRANDNEW Awards continue to impress as well as perplex. I love the strange gear and apparel showcased at ISPO and the product innovations, too. The BRANDNEW jury seems to like items that take a dramatic new direction (see: grass skates) instead of simple upgrades and evolutions to products that already exist. If nothing else, the awards are fun and an ego boost to the mostly young designers trying new things in outdoor sports. For that I raise a glass and say congrats! Now, excuse will I lean back, my vibrating surf pillow is positioned just right on this chair for a brief rest.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

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