In January 2011, Pool & Spa News began publishing the hot tub-dedicated column Spa Smart. While establishing its parameters, the editor determined there would be two guidelines: One, we would only focus on portable hot tubs; and two, we would not write about specific products or manufacturers.
But after just over a year, we’re breaking the mold, and for
good reason. While making my way around the show floor of the
International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Las Vegas last November, I
kept my ears perked and my eyes peeled, curious to hear
attendees’ reactions to the exhibits, and eager to find a few
items worthy of showcasing. Thanks to a little networking with
industry peers and a few days of exploration, I uncovered four
items that really shined.
After receiving a patent on the negative-edge concept of its
Cascade hot tubs in November 2010, Coast Spas added to existing
models and created a full line inspired by the design innovation. A
year later at IPSPE, the Langley, British Columbia, Canada-based
manufacturer launched the fourth inception, Cascade IV – The
Edge. To celebrate, Coast Spas dedicated its entire booth to the
“Having the Cascade line on the floor made the difference
this year,” says Oran Wakelam, marketing and communications
coordinator. “It was by far the best response we’ve
Attendees flocked to the booth to see The Edge up close for the
first time. Like its three predecessors, the new spa includes the
signature negative edge. But it also serves a mechanical purpose,
allowing for zero water displacement. As an added perk, it works as
the largest skimmer available on any hot tub on the market,
according to Wakelam.
However, what separates The Edge from the series’ other
models is its smaller footprint, larger capacity and lower
price point, he says. Whereas the original Cascade model only seats
four or five adults comfortably, The Edge, which measures
two-square-feet less, actually can fit up to six. Plus, by
eliminating some acrylic and fiberglass materials, reducing the
number of jets to just above 40, and removing a pump, the company
can market it with a lower price tag to a broader range of
“It’s a big advancement to get a negative edge on a
smaller footprint spa,” Wakelam notes.
Steve O’Shea has a habit of discussing the industry the way
most people talk about sports. The executive with Leisure Concepts
especially enjoys talking about product development, and inevitably
finds himself focusing on hot tub covers.
“Since its inception about 35 years ago, the cover really
hasn’t been enhanced that much,” says O’Shea, who
is the Spokane, Wash.-based company’s vice president.
“We felt that it was the last component that needed to be
updated to the newest generation.”
In addition to aesthetics, one of his major concerns was longevity.
Most of the covers currently on the market need to be replaced
every two or three years, or sooner, depending on the region where
the hot tub is installed, according to O’Shea.
“If the spa is designed to last eight to 10 years, why
shouldn’t the cover be designed to last at least that
long?” he asks. “The consumer deserves
Enter Smartop, Leisure Concepts’ patent-pending, eco-friendly
and energy-efficient cover. The sleek-looking top features PVC
decking with UV inhibitors and additives to withstand the
sun’s rays; a thermal seal foam system with a full-length
heat-sealing hinge; anodized aluminum trim; injection molded corner
handles; a SureLock Safety System and an integrated cover lifter,
all backed by a five-year warranty.
Before introducing Smartop in Las Vegas, Leisure Concepts notified
customers and industry peers of the innovation. In response to the
notice and having viewed the product’s Website, a number of
dealers reportedly ventured to IPSPE for a chance to see Smartop in
person, according to O’Shea. Many even placed advance orders
on the spot, an indication the category is ripe for change, he
Mario Medina has been building pools for 37 years, but for the last
two he’s had something else on his mind. His digs were down
nearly 85 percent, an unfortunate effect of the economy, so he took
advantage of the free time to do something
“The downturn may be a blessing in disguise for me because
I’ve come up with two neat products that I think are going to
be good sellers,” says the owner of Bakersfield, Calif.-based
For the time being, he’s keeping one of them a secret. But at
IPSPE he offered the industry a peek at his prefabricated PVC pipe
plumbing kit for round, inground gunite spas. More than 2,000
visitors to his booth scanned their information to learn more about
the new Spa Loops product.
The kit, which can be installed before or after the structural
rebar, includes six Waterway Poly Storm jets, one 2-inch PVC water
loop, one 1 ½-inch PVC air loop, six 2 ½-inch PVC caps,
six 2 ½-by-11 inch PVC pipes, one 2-inch PVC tee and one 1
½-inch PVC tee.
The patent-pending Spa Loops only requires the manpower of one, and
promises to stop leaks and cut the plumbing installation down to
one-eighth the time it typically takes. It also eliminates the need
for builders to break out electric pipe heaters or propane and blow
torches to bend the spa into shape on site. Nor will they have to
return to a job to realign the jets that pop out of place when the
pipe kinks during the plumbing inspection, Medina says. There are
even alignment lines for the jets so they are level with the pipe
“We made it dummy proof,” he adds.
Gecko Alliance is hoping to help retailers benefit from the
enthusiasm surrounding iPhone, iPad and iTouch devices with the
introduction of its new in.touch spa control App and module
“There doesn’t seem to be any recession at the Apple
store,” says Gary Nugent, Gecko’s vice president of
sales. “There will be 75 million tablets by 2014 in the U.S.
This gives dealers a way to tap into a very large and growing
culture of people who love those devices.”
Consumers who purchase a hot tub with in.touch installed by the
manufacturer will be able to remotely access their spa and control
everything from temperature and pumps to blowers and lights. They
can even choose preset spa experiences — Beach Party, Gentle
Movement, Kids or Relaxation — or create personalized his or
Users also will receive pre-scheduled routine maintenance reminders
for cleaning filters, changing water and managing water quality,
and can easily set filter cycles, taking the guess work out of the
equation, Nugent says. Finally, retailers can upload promotional
pieces and broadcast them to in.touch customers through the Web
“The interface is designed so that all the standard functions
are maybe even easier to use on the i-device than they would be on
the spa keypad because of the quality of the color touch
screen,” Nugent adds.