In a letter to outdoor media, Confluence Outdoor’s CEO, Sue Rechner confirmed rumors that Confluence will cease production of both Bomber Gear and Wave Sport at the end of this summer’s retail season.
In the letter Rechner wrote, “We have achieved our stature as one of the oldest and most successful paddlesports companies by continually evaluating our strengths and prioritizing our efforts to deliver what the consumer is asking for. This discipline of focus will also ensure our future success. As part of this process, we have reached decisions impacting two of our esteemed brands: Wave Sport and Bomber Gear.”
Bomber Gear to Cease Worldwide Production
Confluence’s Bomber Gear paddling gear and apparel brand will disappear completely. At the end of this summer, Bomber Gear will cease distribution and no longer be sold in North American or international markets. All remaining Bomber Gear items at bombergear.com went on sale July 10th. A portion of Bomber Gear sales proceeds will be donated to American Whitewater.
Wave Sport to Move all Production and Distribution to Europe
After 29 years, as one of the leaders during the heyday of whitewater, at the end of this year’s selling season, Wave Sport will no longer be available in North America. Instead, says Rechner, “Wave Sport will concentrate on the large European whitewater market—where the brand enjoys great popularity and offers continued retail opportunity.”
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who has been tracking whitewater kayak sales. Wave Sport and Dagger were direct competitors in a core but flat consumer market. It feels like what General Motors was facing in the automotive world with their Chevrolet and Pontiac brands that were completing for sales, and also for research and development and marketing dollars. Confluence simplifying their brand portfolio is a business decision to invest and refocus attention to other growth areas of their business. Like say, Dagger.
“The shift for Wave Sport allows us to place significant resources and amplified focus on the entire Dagger brand, including performance whitewater models,” writes Rechner. “Dagger will deliver on the promise of its whitewater roots with renewed vigor and innovative spirit.”
Dagger Kayaks to Benefit from Wave Sport Design Team
While Confluence’s European partner will continue to develop Wave Sport, a letter posted on the Wave Sport North American website reads: “[Wave Sport] designers, engineers, and production gurus will transfer all of the knowledge that went into amazing boats like the Mobius and the Recon and devote their skills to expanding Dagger’s commitment to whitewater.”
New Freestyle Boat from Dagger in New Material
Rechner hints at there being in the works a “competition-level play boat” using new materials. Carbon perhaps? Maybe some sort of thermoform plastic used in recreational and touring kayaks? Or something they have developed to replace Royalex in their Mad River Canoe line. We expect to see more in a few weeks at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.
New Dagger Kayaks Whitewater Race Boat
Much like the early stages of development of Dagger’s Green Boat, Team Dagger is reportedly contributing to the development of another race boat design. Something we expect will compete with Pyranha’s short-boat class boat, the 9R. Dagger will neither confirm nor deny at this point if this race boat will become a production model or a team boat only.
Confluence Investing Bigger in Paddleboarding and Kayak Fishing
How else is Confluence investing in their future in paddlesports?
“Confluence Outdoor is creating a solid foundation for responding to business and industry growth and driving toward our five-year plan goals by setting priorities and focusing resources,” writes Rechner. “To support these plans, we are making a multi-million dollar investment in people, equipment and systems.”
Confluence claims to have recently made a $1.5M investment in additional manufacturing equipment that they say will increase capacity by 39 percent so they can improve their responsiveness to in-season demand.
Paddleboarding and kayak fishing are hot. According to Rechner, “By consolidating our brand portfolio, we will be able deepen our commitment to the fastest growing sectors of paddlesports—SUP and kayak fishing— while continuing to drive our market-dominant recreation and touring business.” Confluence Outdoor acquired Boardworks Surf in February of this year.
Wave Sport Athletes at 2015 ICF World Freestyle Kayak Championships
Where does this leave Wave Sport and Bomber Gear team athletes leading up the 2015 World Freestyle Kayak Championship on the Ottawa River this September?
Confluence’s Vice President of Marketing Cheri McKenzie told Rapid Media that all North American Wave Sport and Bomber Gear team athletes have been notified and that Confluence will honor all existing athlete contracts for the 2015 paddling season. “Wave Sport is committed to honoring our athlete team through this transition and we are honored to support athletes Elaine Campbell, Hunter Katich and Bryan Kirk as they represent the USA at the World Freestyle Kayak Championships this year,” McKenzie told Rapid Media.
“Our athletes will always have a home within our Confluence family,” reads the letter on wavesport.com. Many Bomber Gear team athletes are also Dagger or AT team members and will remain part of the Confluence team network.
Confluence to Honor Wave Sport Warranties
As for current Wave Sport models and warranties, Confluence says that existing inventory will continue to sell through dealer networks and those boats currently under warranty, “will be honored throughout the length of the original warranty.”
The Future of Wave Sport and Bomber Gear
Although Confluence’s current business goals clearly do not support an apparel brand or two North American whitewater brands, maybe someday we’ll see Bomber Gear brought back into the fold. It wouldn’t be the first time that we thought Bomber Gear was gone forever from paddlesports.
As for Wave Sport, it was unclear the business arrangement between Confluence in America and its international partners in Europe, but maybe someday down the road if the demand is there we’ll see a Wave Sport back in North American paddling shops. Until then, all we’ll see of Wave Sport in America is what European athletes bring to international whitewater competitions.