The 2016 Sand Sports Super Show will forever go down as one of the best events we have ever attended and been a part of. We have been attending and setting up at the Sand Show since 2009 and each year we grow a little more. This year, we grew a lot more, if you didn’t know who UTVUnderground.com was before this years Sand Sports Super Show then you certainly know who we are now!
It would be easy for us to claim success and credit it to all of our hard work and hustle over the years, but reality is that we wouldn’t be where we are today with out help and support from many across the sport and industry. Companies, racers, site members, fellow enthusiasts, OEMs, partnerships and even other media outlets have all played a role in our growth and we will forever be grateful to each and everyone of you. It would take a full article in itself to thank each and every person who has done something for me personally and UTVUnderground but I would surely forget many if I took the time to write them all out because there are too many to remember. Being at the show this year reminded me just how far we have come, it also reminded me of just how grateful I am for all of the love and support we have received to help us get to where we are today.
The Sand Sports Super Show (SSSS) has become what one person described as the Side X Side Super Show and that description is spot on. As a huge fan of sand rails and other larger off-road equipment even I am shocked at just how few of those vehicles you actually see now. Reality is, there are still a lot of them there, but the UTV movement has certainly made its mark and certainly dominate the floorspace around the massive show. This years show felt like the biggest in recent memory. I am not sure of what the attendance numbers actually were both on the attendee side and on the vendor side but it felt huge and more than that the buzz was certainly through the roof. Its clear, the economy looks to be on its feet and people are back to enjoying and playing with sand toys.
We love the SSSS, its the kickoff to the southwest desert riding season. Enthusiasts, companies and everyone in the sport all descend on the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, CA to celebrate the launch of the coming riding season and its become as much about the party and gathering as it has the vending and purchasing. Every company in the sport brings out their best for the SSSS. They spend months building the hottest new machines and put their best products in front of the largest group of consumers that they will see all year in one spot. It has become the SEMA show for UTVs, sand rails and off-road vehicles of all shapes and sizes. In short, if you come to the SSSS as a vendor, you better bring your A-Game because if you don’t you can easily be lost in the custom vehicle jungle the SSSS has become.
UTVUnderground Garage Is HERE….
Back to why this was the biggest show ever for UTVUnderground.com. Since 2009 we have been setting up at the show and bringing our best builds to the show to display. More than showing off our trend setting builds, we come to mingle with the industry, learn about the latest new products, celebrate our culture and meet our fans and followers. Our first year at the SSSS was super fun for us. We had no money back then as the site was just a hobby and every penny we had was poured into our first site build, you know it as the FatRod. Greg Cotrell of Rugged Radios hit me up and told me he had some extra space and asked if I would like to put the FatRod on display with Rugged and show it off and hang out. Of course we jumped on the opportunity and the rest sort of became history from there. Since then our booth space has grown, our booth has transformed many times, but the goal of hanging out and spending time with our industry has never changed. This year however, we went to the next level.
For the past year we have worked hard to prepare our launch into the retail market. We had fought off the idea of having a retail division for years at UTVUG. We avoided launching into retail for many reasons, but the biggest was that we didn’t want to become our sponsors’ competitor. While I still feel the same way, times have changed and many of the retail stores have shifted away from using UTVUG as a platform and focused more on our competitors sites who are brand specific. We understand their choice and do not knock them for targeting specific demographics, their shift however has allowed us to now create UTVUnderground Garage without fear of conflict.
UTVUnderground Garage is the new official retail end of UTVUnderground where we can now not only review, install, test and promote the products we love but now also close the loop and direct people right to a part of our site where they then can quickly and easily purchase these quality products. We realize UTVUnderground has become an industry brand and the top go-to site in the world for all things UTV and while our roots will forever remain in content and industry news and product information, we too are a business and we too need to continue to grow and diversify. I felt the time was right and we have a goal to not just sell parts and make money doing it, but offer services at a level not yet seen in this sport. We wanted to solve two main things with this new venture, the first was to make sure we had the best products in the sport in-stock and ready to sell and to also be able to service your build needs in a timely manner. Like everything we do, we keep the core enthusiast in the front of our mind and everything has to be true to the sport and to you.
While UTVUG has grown over the years I would be lying if I told you we were capable of coming to market with a new retail division on our own. Reality is, to provide the experience we knew we wanted to offer to the consumer we would have to completely restructure our company and build an infrastructure that would cost millions of dollars. It just wouldn’t be possible, but in came 4 Wheel Parts! 4 Wheel Parts sat down with us and heard out our ideas and shared with us their own. Together we knew we could change the game. Their infrastructure, retail knowledge, reach, staff and experience matched with our industry knowledge, marketing, content and desire to build the baddest machines on the planet would surely be a pairing that could change the game. We worked tirelessly and with a shared passion for going big and doing things the right way we prepared for our launch at the SSSS!
I don’t think anyone was prepared for what we were bringing to the show floor this year. Heck, I wasn’t even prepared and like many who walked into our booth this past weekend, I too was blown away at the size and impact we made with the launch of the new 4 Wheel Parts – UTVUnderground Garage. We set up the largest booth in the show, brought out our new UTVUnderground Garage semi packed with a half a million dollars in inventory, a fleetof 4WP – UTVUG Garage staff members, lined our booth with some of our best product suppliers who were there to demonstrate their products and unveiled 4 all-new UTVUnderground Garage builds to give consumers an idea of all that we are capable of. What we received in return was nothing but support from the community. Attendees flocked our booth in droves, bargain shopped some of the best products in the sport and walked away with great deals, free swag and a solid buying experience.
The UTVUnderground Garage booth was the place to be all weekend long. We kicked the show off Friday night with a massive party sponsored by Polaris RZR. We gave out almost 1000 free beers and over the weekend gave away over 2000 shirts & hats, stickers, coozies and catalogs. The booth was buzzing with a party atmosphere from start to finish with a DJ and a massive 20ft LED screen playing the latest and most popular UTVUnderground content. When you came to the UTVUnderground Garage booth you were treated to an experience, a core-UTV welcome mat was rolled out in the form of synthetic turf and our massive staff was ready to greet you, answer your questions and show you a good time. The end goal of showing the enthusiasts and industry that we were all-in was met, and I like to think that people got a glimpse into the future of what UTV retail will look like.
When I got the time to walk around the show I was met constantly with praise for the UTVUnderground Garage launch. People were stoked and were impressed and for so many of you to express your enthusiasm of all that we are doing was really a boost for me personally and I know that my partners in this new venture all felt the same way. Seeing the UTVUnderground Garage logo all over the show both on the shirts we gave away and on the Sand Show banners surrounding the fairgrounds really gave me a sense of pride to see how far this once little hobby of mine has gone. In addition to our giant UTVUnderground Garage booth, we still had our merchandise booth set up in the span where we have been set up the past 5 years and that booth had the most success we have ever had as it pertained to our merchandise like shirts, hats, hoodies and stickers. The love you guys all continue to show fills me with a joy words cannot describe. I am more than grateful, I am literally floored at the love this sport continues to show.
The SSSS was big in many ways. The builds we saw were by far the best ever. To stand out at the SSSS you have to come with it and a few things really stood out to me. Clearly the buzz around the new Can-Am Maverick X3 is real, Can-Am set up their largest booth ever and pulled out all the stops bringing vehicles to display and even put a barbershop inside their booth. Yamaha also set up a large display to promote the YXZ1000R which is gaining lots of popularity with the desert riding community. Honda also had a booth and while it was pretty “corporate” its good to see them involved and remaining relevant. To me its further sign that a sport machine is on deck! Arctic Cat arguably had the largest presence not just because of their booth in the center of the show but because of their involvement with Robby Gordon and the launch of the all-new Wildcat X with RG Pro suspension. Factor in the SST races all weekend there full of Wildcat involvement and I would say they had a great showing. You can’t talk about the OEMs and not talk about Polaris. It was clear that despite the rough year they and their consumers have suffered with recalls and with the launch of new machines and products from competitors that the RZR was still the dominant vehicle in the industry and their new 168hp RZR XP Turbo was also getting attention. There wasn’t a single aftermarket customized or built X3 in the show that we saw other than the factory accessorized models and while Yamaha definitely had a presence throughout, the Polaris RZR dominated the show like never before.
Polaris themselves did have a booth and while they didn’t pass out free haircuts or host their athletes for autograph sessions what they did do was spend time with their customers and express their gratitude towards them despite the hardships they have been dealt. Polaris still has a long road in front of them to not only win back over the confidence of many, but also regain the traction they have been so used to benefitting from over the years. But their hard work over the past few years still shows and there is a reason the show is dominated by Polaris despite their short comings of the past year. While its easy to kick a dog when its down, whats not easy is to build a following like RZR has, something no one else in the sport has been able to do at the OEM level, not since the Rhino anyway. Polaris did put in an effort to continue their support of the community by sponsoring our massive kick off party. They also contributed many of the custom machines that filled the show. In addition, a RZR won the big UTV SST race on Saturday night and their athletes and brand ambassadors filled booths with their own machines and signed autographs all weekend long. It had to feel good for the RZR employees that despite what we assume were some hard conversations being had at their booth with upset consumers, to walk around the show and be reminded that they still have a foothold on the industry. We had some great conversations with Polaris staff and the message was clear that they are committed to making things right with consumers affected by this years recalls and they are also committed to continuing to drive the industry with the innovation and quality we expect in upcoming vehicle releases.
We took notice of many custom machines, products and booths spread around the show. SDR Motorsports once again displayed the nicest collection of RZRs in the entire show. Their booth was filled with amazing builds and their work flowed well beyond their booth. Next to them, Cognito Motorsports, Vision X, Alba, OMF, Simpson Seats and others also showcased new products and vehicles. ProLineWraps unveiled their new IMPOSTOR build which is a 2016 Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo set on air suspension and while it is certainly a show vehicle it was another glimpse into how far some are taking their builds. Magnum Off-Road displayed what we think was one of the nicest RZRs ever assembled in their new Crimson Ghost. Its an all tube race chassis that was set up for hardcore dune riding and had many questioning if it was a RZR or rail. With 200hp and a design that makes you just want to stare, its certainly going to be a machine that we can’t wait to see run this year. TMW Off-Road also displayed their goods and showcased their industry best builds. Method Race Wheels also put on quite the show, passing out swag all weekend and displayed their fleet of amazing RZRs as well. DWT has their new wheel on display, For-U-2, Str8Up Motorsports, IMG Motorsports, CageWRX, Long Travel Industries, Madigan Motorsports, and many more also had fantastic display vehicles that turned heads all weekend long.
Some products that definitely have the industry buzzing were also on display. Sandcraft RCR had their full line of new driveline components which are a must if you own a RZR as they improve your entire driveline. PCI had their new TRAX intercom and Rugged Radios displayed their new intercom and headset combo that makes listening to music in your off-road vehicle a pleasurable experience! RIGID displayed their new cornering light, CHASE rear facing LED and showed off their soon to be released side mirror LED light combo on our new XP1K4 vehicle. Oh yeah, XP1K4, yeah I almost forgot about that. We unveiled the all new RJ Anderson 2017 XP1K4 Polaris RZR in the RIGID booth. We can’t wait to pop off this new project later this winter. PRP’s new containment seats grabbed a lot of attention, Assault had their new Bomber mirrors on display amongst other products and Mob Armor showcased all of their new phone and tablet mount accessories. In all, the SSSS was the place to be for all things UTV both product wise and build wise. A virtual show & shine was taking place for two and half days and we couldn’t get enough of it!
This years Sand Sports Super Show was huge. Both physically and generally speaking as it pertained to where the industry is headed. If you use the SSSS as a gauge to what the 2017 season is going to be like then you know big things are coming. The OEM battle is as big as it has ever been, competition amongst the aftermarket is just as heated and innovation is at an all-time high. It seems we say it every year but its a great time to be involved in this sport. Consumers have more options then ever before and are pushing this sport to places few of us could have ever predicted.
So what will the 2017 show look like? Well, only time will tell but if it gets bigger than 2016 then we may need to expand to a 4 day show or something because its getting harder and harder to get through the show in two days time. I can tell you this much, we at UTVUnderground.com are extremely excited about the future. UTVUnderground Garage set a new standard in retail and I promise you we are only going to go bigger and get better. Personally, I have never felt this excited about the future of our sport, our site and our brand. I can’t wait to hit the dunes, trails and tracks this season. Its going to go off!
Until next year….
Photos by: Harlen Foley // UTVUnderground.com
Other Images Provided by: 4 Wheel Parts // UTVUnderground Garage