What rain runoff that had gathered alongside the highway earlier in the week had since frozen solid into opaque glassy pools. It took a while to compensate for the sub-freezing temperatures outside, but my truck’s heater was finally working at full force, spewing artificially heated air into the cab. Journeying south on Interstate 24, the steely gray skyline of downtown Nashville peaked out from behind the rolling hills. Still embraced by the frigid winter weather, attending this year’s boat show felt more juxtaposed than ever before.
The annual Nashville Boat & Sport Show, Presented by Progressive, occupied the main Hall of the Music City Center nestled only a few blocks from famous Music Row, giving the city its iconic nickname. Sneaking past the guards a few minutes early, I entered the convention center as exhibitors hustled to erect displays and arrange tables. Front and center was Progressive Insurance’s marine-themed booth, staffed by young, attractive attendants with names like Kitty (I’m literally not joking).
Perusing the center booth, attendees could feign reeling in a marlin from a faux angler’s chair, furiously reeling on a rod tethered to a coiled spring beneath a digital screen. Sure enough, as the video showed said swordfish struggling against your hook, the line would taut and pull against you. Although nowhere near the battle reeling in such a fish would require, accomplishing the virtual feat was something to be proud of.
The four-day event welcomed dealers, retailers, marinas, local and regional repair and maintenance shops from around the southeastern states. From resorts to dock builders, insurance policy writers to floating cooler manufacturers, the Nashville Boat & Sport Show had pretty much anything you could hope for. Rows after seemingly endless rows were rife with glimmering metal flake imbued paint jobs and brightly polished stainless steel.
While previous years’ quotient of yachts were supplanted with double the quantity of luxury triple-hulled pontoons and racy sport boats, the dollar value of the flooring looked to be no less. Hundreds of top-of-the-line boats were presented in all of their glory, flanked by elaborate catwalks and boarding platforms allowing boating parishioners to explore the acres of teak wood, leather and burnished walnut.
Big for the new year were interactive seminars, offering classes on proper dual-throttle docking, baiting techniques and preferred methods for fly casting. Amid the pontoons, day boats, cruisers, wake boats and the occasional personal watercraft dealer, those milling the floors encountered extreme kayak fishing outfitters, specially-crafted floaties for individually-bottled drinks (we presume Diet Cokes, right?), and even Nashville’s own Defiance Flyboard.
With the latest in marine gear, outboard motors, electronics, tackle and accessories on display, it was hard to remember the purpose of my trip, although visiting charter companies and resorts to book my next vacation was a tempting prospect. Rather, I sauntered back to the brightly colored Sea-Doos in the America’s Motor Sports booth. Flanking the Bimini Blue and Manta Green GTIs, iridescent Sparks continued to draw passersby eye. Surprisingly, the retina-scorching yellow RXP-X sat alone in the furthermost corner as couples manhandled the 130 and 155-powered 3-seaters.
“They’re still our biggest seller,” America’s Motor Sports’ Chris Watts explained, nodding at the GTIs. “For every RXP-X, we sell 10 of them. They’re quick enough for most people, had a ton of storage and are just great little skis.” I echoed my appreciation for the GTI platform, motioning to the GTI 155 Limited as one of my personal preferences. “Yeah, the Limited is great too. But the 130s and 155s are still our most popular.”
Regarding the polarizing color choices for 2015, Watts continued, “Sea-Doo’s really good about tracking what’s trending. They look at what Porsche and Nike are doing. They pay attention to where people are going in the near future. I think I knew about these colors maybe two years ago. I know a lot of people freaked out when they first saw the pictures. We had a couple of our own guys wonder what [Sea-Doo] was thinking. They actually look a lot better in person.”
And sure enough, he was right. The Bimini Blue really is attractive and is unmistakable against all of the other machines available. A few booths over, Tims Ford Powersports and Castle Motorsports had both Yamahas and Kawasakis on hand, the Kawasaki lineup looking a wee bit lean compared to the offerings from Yamaha, particularly the new VX Series. Both dealers boomed with pride over the new RiDE technology and took little time to press its superiority over BRP’s iBR.
Of all the dealers presenting their watercraft, it was Howard’s Powersports’ reserved display of two Yamahas that spoke the loudest – at least to someone who knew enough to recognize it. The small 10×20 booth was bookended by a fire red SVHO-powered FZR and demure V1 Sport. From the very height of Yamaha’s performance lineup to the brand’s most paired-down, entry-level machine, Howard’s seemed to understand the ageless “we’ve got something for everyone” credo; and by the looks of it, so did this year’s show.
The Nashville Boat & Sport Show Presented by Progressive opened Thursday, January 8th and continues through Sunday, January 11th.