For MLB, there is spring training, the NFL and NBA have pre-season games, and for duners on the West Coast and surrounding Southwest states, there is the Sand Sports Super Show. For over two decades the Sand Sports Super Show has become the kick-off event for the winter dune season where dune riders and vendors come together to see and show the latest and greatest offerings for all things off-road.
This show has also been where manufactures like Can-Am have chosen to unveil popular UTVs like the Maverick X3, and this year the internet chatter leading to the show was all about the unveiling of the hyped up and controversial offerings from Speed UTV.
After a rough 2020, where the event was moved to Arizona because of California COVID restrictions and plagued with issues, the Sand Sports Super Show returned to its traditional home at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, CA, and was expecting one of the largest guest attendances to date. With attendees who pre-registered from 33 different U.S. states and nine different countries, it’s obvious how big of an impact that this show has on the ATV, UTV and off-road industry.
This year I had the opportunity to take time away from the office and see how the first day of the event would set the precedent for the weekend that the show would be running. It’s been roughly five years, if not longer, since I attended the event, and on that last time you could see the effects of the economy as the expo halls seemed to have fewer vendors displaying their goods, and attendance was lower than my experiences in the past. That was definitely not the case this year, as there were more vendors both inside the expo halls and outside on the surrounding pavilions and other designated vendor areas.
As someone who’s been involved in this sport for longer than this event has been around, it also gave me a chance to catch up with friends who work at many of the participating companies and organizations. Writing about current events in our industry also includes the economy. As much as I’m over talking about all things Covid-19 related, I’m curious to know how the pandemic has affected the economy and their businesses.
My first stop was at the American Sand Association (ASA) booth. This organization was formed in the early 2000s as the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area (ISDRA or Glamis) was under threat of being closed. The ASA was formed to help fight to keep these public lands open and continue that fight today, which has now expanded to include the Oceano Dunes SVRA (Pismo Beach) that is under threat of eliminating OHV use on one of the only stretches of beach you can ride on in the state of California.
It’s no surprise that when you’re an organization involved in serious legal battles, finances play a huge role in how much things can be done. This show is a huge opportunity for the ASA to raise funds by getting people to become members and selling merchandise to support the cause. A large source of revenue generated over the course of the weekend is through a raffle for a RZR that has been donated to the organization by Polaris. Over the course of the year various companies have contributed products to upgrade the machine to make it even more tempting to sell tickets. This year the number of tickets was limited to 1,000 at $100 a piece! Where else can you possibly get a custom RZR valued over $40k for a hundred bucks?! I had to get in on this action myself.
With the growing popularity of the UTV market, this show is dominated by them in stock form and ones that have been completely customized. Manufactures like Can-Am, Polaris, Yamaha, and Kawasaki had displays where attendees who might be in the market for a new UTV could get behind the wheel to see how they like the comfort of the interior and ergonomics. There has yet to be a driving experience for people to test them at the show, but most manufactures do attend plenty of events where enthusiasts can drive them throughout the year.
Just because this is the Sand Sports Super Show, doesn’t mean that you won’t see some custom-built race cars out on display. Many of the products that vendors are selling for duners are perfect for racers as well, so they’ll bring their race vehicles to display for the vendors and even have drivers come sign autographs for the crowds over the weekend. I was able to catch up with Best In The Desert Pro Turbo UTV racer Sierra Romo for a quick photo op in the Chupacabra Off Road booth, where she’d be signing autographs over the course of the weekend and her Polaris RZR would be on display with their newest mirrors installed.
If you’re in the market for new tires and wheels before heading out for your first trip to the desert, this is the place to get the very best deals you can find. While plenty of companies like Maxxis, Nitto Tire, BF Goodrich, and more had their latest and greatest tires on display, their vendors were making deals that couldn’t be beat. Whether you just wanted tires, or a full set of tires mounted on your favorite wheels, the deals were there for the taking.
It wasn’t just tires that you could get deals on, though. With hundreds of vendors in attendance, you could get your choice of various LED whips, LED light bars, custom wheels, custom cages, and any other accessory you could think of for your UTV. Companies like SDR motorsports were even on hand so you could either purchase a custom built UTV or arrange for them to take yours in for a simple cage install to a full-blown custom overhaul. When it comes to this show, the sky or your bank account is the limit of what you can do to improve the looks and handling of your UTV.
If you’re in the market to increase the performance of your UTV, the show is also your chance to discuss performance with some of the leading performance companies in the industry. Companies like Sneeky SxS, S&S Cycle, Packard Performance, and more were there to present their various parts and modifications to take your mild mannered UTV to an extreme sand shredding monster. As I was looking at the vehicles on display in the Maxxis tires display, a Kawasaki KRX 1000 was getting quite a bit of attention. I was informed that it was the personal UTV of former Supercross Champion “Showtime” Jeremy McGrath that was outfitted with an S&S performance 144hp turbo kit. If you’re familiar with the Harley Davidson market, you know that S&S knows how to make power and they’re now bringing that knowledge to the UTV market. While we haven’t been behind the wheel of this machine, my friend and Maxxis representative Mike Farmer said that driving this turbo modified KRX made his stock KRX feel sluggish. I need to figure out how to get some seat time in this unit for a comparison!
The biggest hype around day one of the show was happening in the Speed UTV booth, where partners Robby Gordon and Todd Romano were set to unveil the long awaited and anticipated pre-production units. Since Speed UTV started taking pre-orders for these machines, there has been a lot of hype over these machines that also came with a lot of negativity with production and release delays over the course of the last two years. Robby Gordon made the trip up from Baja, where he earlier qualified for the Baja 400 off-road race, so he could personally unveil the new off-road cars and take questions from the crowd.
From the show’s opening until closing, there were swarms of people surrounding these vehicles testing out everything from the comfort of the interior, blasting the stereo systems, and toggling through the high-tech info center display. Look for an interview with Robby Gordon and Todd Romano soon where we’ll get to discuss everything you want to know surrounding these high-performance UTVs. There will also be a feature on the units themselves, so you’ll be able to know what all the hype is about.
You can’t go to an off-road show and not talk about communication systems, since almost every UTV now days comes equipped with some kind of intercom and car-to-car communication system. This year Cardo Systems was announced as the official communication system sponsor for the show and was offering some great deals on their Bluetooth communication systems. If you’re not familiar with their products, check out our review on the Cardo PackTalk Bold. When compared to other traditional communication systems in the UTV market, this is a convenient and affordable alternative.
For those that wanted the traditional systems, Rugged Radios and PCI were both on hand with plenty of inventory to handle the flood of customers that would attend over the course of the three-day event. Whether you just wanted a radio or a completely custom radio/intercom system, both companies were assembling packages that seemed to be flying off the shelves for deeply discounted prices.
From what I was able to see with my limited time at this event, the off-road industry is alive and well regardless of what the pandemic has thrown at us. Attendance for both consumers and vendors were up, and it seemed that everyone was excited for the desert season to get into full swing. From all the cool custom UTVs that were there for show or sale, to all of the parts allowing owners to customize their own, I can’t wait for my first trip to the desert where we can all come together and do what we love. Ride the dunes!
Want to know what I thought the standout products of the show were? Click here to read my top 5 products from the 2021 Sand Sports Super Show.