If you’re shopping for a powerboat, whether a dinghy or a superyacht, there’s one show in the US that you must attend. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, also known as FLIBs, is the ultimate showcase for just about all things that float and have a motor. Of course, if you’d rather shop for only the motor or maybe some new lures, electronics and or even sunglasses, this giant show has that too.
Held every year in late October to early November, FLIBS is a destination for marine-minded individuals. This year, more than 110,000 attendees from 52 countries gathered for the 59th annual show. With seven official venues the event can be a little daunting but most of the show takes place at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Pier 66 marina and the Broward County convention center. You really can’t see it all in less than three days and it’s good to pace yourself.
In 2018, over 1,500 boats were on display moored at over six miles of floating docks. More than 1,200 exhibitors came together to sell nautical wares from apparel to generators and fishing tackle to yacht décor. Together, there was more than three million square feet of exhibitor space so comfortable shoes were necessary.
Superyacht oglers were especially happy this year since there was a five percent increase in boats on display from 100 to 126 feet. For those who breathe such rarified air, there was a VIP lounge sponsored by Delta Private Jets and included admission, an exclusive lounge with complimentary food, an open bar and access to water taxi shuttles. Daily events included such distractions as cigar rolling and vodka tasting.
Of course, you don’t have to be in the market for boats with an eight-digit price tag because FLIBS is an event that goes well beyond just boat sales. This year, seminars included sportfishing tips, kids’ fishing clinics, blue water cruising lessons and even a yacht chef competition.
Boats on display included inflatables, center consoles, high performance speedsters, trawlers, catamarans and a bevy of cruisers and motoryachts from builders around the globe. Pier 66 marine hosted many multihulls including the new HH 48 powercat from China and the sexy new Polish-built Sunreef 40 that looks like James Bond’s next ride.
Viking Yachts lined up their large and impressive sportfishers including the new 93-footer while Italian Ferretti opened up their many models for browsing. Walking through some of these luxury yachts (even those well below 100 feet) was like shopping for new apartments many of which were better appointed than anything you’ll see on land.
Grand Banks showed off their new 60 Sky Lounge while Beneteau debuted their 47-foot cruising trawler that can take adventurous retirees on the trip of a lifetime. Seven Marine powered a number of boats in the show with their quad 527-hp outboards that will blow your hair back.
Under new ownership this year, the show broke with tradition and shifted to a Wednesday to Sunday schedule, starting and finishing a day earlier than in years past. As usual, traffic was at a near standstill on Seabreeze Boulevard between Las Olas and A1A while newbie Uber and Lyft drivers wondered what was happening at the beach.
FLIBS is an economic driver for South Florida. Outdoor recreation accounts for two percent of GDP and half of that is estimated to come from boating and fishing so this show is an important event for the region. FLIBS is also a destination with some of the best people-watching anywhere so if you missed this year’s spectacle, be sure to put it on your calendar for 2019 if only to walk through a few yachts, catch up on the latest engine news and enjoy a cocktail while rubbing your feet.