Cloud Chasing -- The Latest Phenomenon in Vaping
Once considered a novelty, vaping competitions are sprouting across the nation.
Of all the innovations forwarded in the broad consumer retail sector, few are as meaningful and impactful as vaping. For outsiders, that may seem like an absurd statement. To them, smoking is smoking, regardless of the actual platform. Yet when you dig deeper into the facts of the matter, vaping as a profound innovator cannot be denied.
Consider the advancements that have been made in other consumer sectors. For example, our personal vehicles are faster, more efficient, and more comfortable than ever before. The amount of standard equipment offered -- even in economy-class cars -- is mind-boggling in comparison to what was on tap ten years ago.
Of course, the most conspicuous consumer innovation has been the cell phone, and later, the smart phone. But even here, the core concept of portable telephones was already established in the 1980s. Essentially, advancements in retail makes products smaller, and user-friendly, but they rarely change the game itself.
Vaping, on the other hand, is a game-changer, threatening not only an institution that has been around for centuries, but also forcing a debate on how we view personal liberties. On top of all that, vaping looks radically different from the traditional platform of cigarettes. Atomizers, wattage, e-juices -- even vaping terms are completely alien to those that are only familiar with the analog route.
And one of those extravagantly unique elements found only in vaping is "cloud chasing" -- competitions held nationwide that celebrate vaping culture and the unique forms of expression that are native to the practice. Even more impressive, vaping has made significant inroads globally. Thus, cloud chasing events can be found anywhere from Las Vegas to Indonesia.
At the heart of every vaping competition is the cloud production. Vapers come armed to the event with their kitted-out pieces, often ensconced within jet black suitcases that seem more appropriate for carrying nuclear launch codes. When their turn is called, vapers inhale from their e-devices, and belt out an impressive plume of smoke. For the uninitiated, it is a remarkable scene, a humanly-impossible observation were it not for the sheer fact that it is, indeed, real.
At the opposite end of the competitors are the cloud chasing judges. Their watchful gaze records how far a vaper pushed their clouds, often determined by a massive ruler hung against a wall. Several mid-tier vaping competitors can emit clouds that can reach between four to five feet. The most elite vapers can hit distances of six feet and beyond -- longer than the height of an average human male.
Amid the noise and the mass of condensed humanity are the cloud gazers -- eager fans hoarding into vape shops that are the most common hosts of these cloud chasing competitions. Some of the cloud gazers are novice vapers receiving new ideas and inspiration to improve their own skills and abilities. Others are passersby, soaking in the unprecedented intensity and atmosphere of cloud chasing.
The Massive Growth of Cloud Chasing
While laypersons may view such competitions as mere hobbyist events, the truth is far more explosive. In reality, cloud chasing is an actual "thing" -- The Wall Street Journal calls it an extreme sport. And like any extreme sport, there is a rabid fan base, marketable personalities, and the most important element -- money.
The Internal Revenue Service sets the distinction between a business and a hobby based on the profit incentive. In other words, is the entity in question performing activities in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, or are they doing it "just for fun?" Even if the former was the most appropriate categorization, the entity would still have to prove that they made a profit at one point in their existence, and that they're continuing to do so.
By the IRS' own definition, cloud chasing is a business -- and business is good. Back in the late 2000s, vaping was still considered a novelty. As such, total revenue from the industry only measured in the millions. Today, those figures are well into the billions globally. At this rate, total vaping revenue could hit $10 billion by 2020.
The growth and popularity of vaporizers is especially remarkable here in the U.S. Technically speaking, the first vaporizers hit the retail markets in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, the vaporizer industry would be hardly recognizable for modern enthusiasts. Products were marketed based on the "novelty of technology," and not necessarily on the end-user experience. Because of this, many of the early vaping models left a poor impression on would be vapers.
In fact, it wasn't until 2013 that vaping really hit a nerve with the consumer marketplace. Prior to that epicenter, there were only a handful of dedicated vape shops. Fast forward two years, and there were already 8,500 vaping retailers, doing business to the tune of $1.2 billion.
Those are simply numbers that only a fool would ignore. Not only that, vapers are a loyal bunch. They constantly request upgrades, new e-juices, and different mods to keep up with the latest trends. Vaping as a retail industry offers tremendous modularity for a willing and able consumer base. Indeed, the marketing potential alone is enough to justify the costs associated with hosting cloud chasing competitions.
This growth trend is unlikely to end any time soon. Companies recognize a profitable venture when they see one, and have stepped up in droves to sponsor cloud chasing competitors, particularly those that command street cred and a vast social media presence. At this present juncture -- cloud chasing is still in the infancy stage -- vaping companies are benefiting tremendously from the sponsorship deals.
This is due mostly to the leverage of social media. As we all know, traditional media is becoming an antiquated platform. It's not unusual to see YouTube personalities command more subscribers than broadcast television channels such as ABC or NBC. And when social media videos go viral, the amount of global viewership would put any top-tier television show to shame. Best of all, the associated costs of social media are comparatively minuscule.
Think about this -- the average winnings for a vaping competition range from $250 to $2,000. That's not enough for contestants to make a serious living, and by logical extension, it's not that much of an upfront charge for potential sponsors. Yet the traffic and attention that can be generated through social media, as well as organically, can be enormous. That's why vaping companies are more than happy to sponsor cloud chasers and competition events. The juice is almost always worth the squeeze.
For the 8,500 plus vaping shopkeepers, hosting cloud chasing competitions is a no-brainer. While the upfront costs of any event can be pricey, much of the overhead is already written off. As an example, whether or not shopkeepers organize a cloud chasing event, they would still have to pay the monthly lease for their business property. Better yet, these competitions attract one of the best consumers in the retail industry.
We've already mentioned the loyalty of vapers, but this is not just strictly limited to brand identity. Vaping is an art form, a personal expression that organically lends itself to a shared platform like cloud chasing, or cloud gazing. Therefore, most serious vapers will consider any product that enhances their abilities or pursuits. In that sense, shopkeepers have a hostage audience as cloud chasing essentially translates into a real-time product showpiece.
Competitors aren't the only ones that receive marketing exposure. Cloud gazers can be a very impressionable group of consumers. Once they see the outrageous performance of top competitors, they naturally gravitate towards whatever vaporizers that they utilized. That equates to on-the-spot sales. If vaping retailers are shrewd, they can align product promotions with the e-devices that are deployed by the top cloud chasers.
Even newcomers and those unfamiliar with the vaping sport can be lured into the practice. On a primordial level, there is nothing more astounding than to see plumes emitted more than six feet in horizontal distance, combined with three feet of maximum vertical spread. Scientifically speaking, it is impossible to get that kind of "coverage" with traditional cigarettes.
But there's also the aspect that vaping can be a substantially healthier platform than analog cigarettes. The latter contains nicotine -- a harmful and addictive chemical -- that is native to the platform. Vaporizers, on the other hand, are enjoyed by the flavors of the vaper's choosing. There's an ever-expanding number of flavors, and many of them are zero-nicotine options.
Although not a quantifiable dynamic, a personal favorite for many vaping enthusiasts is the camaraderie found in vaping events like cloud chasing. Although it is a competition, cloud chasing is a "cooperative competition." The point isn't to defeat or belittle the opponent as it is in so many other sporting events. Rather, most vapers will tell you that the aim of the competition is the pursuit of perfection -- an unattainable goal, but one that constantly pushes vapers and vaporizer manufacturers to the limit.
Pushing Vaping to the Limit
It's also this pursuit that ensures that vaping, and by logical extension, cloud chasing competitions will remain and continue to be viable entities. Cloud chasing isn't limited to merely vapor emissions. Within a few tries, anyone off the street -- whether they're vapers, dabbers, smokers, or none of the above -- can learn how to emit a steady stream of vapor. Advanced or premium portable vaporizers like the SMOKtech GX350 Kit naturally lends itself to above par production.
If cloud chasing were just about spewing clouds over a horizontal measurement, such events would have a very limited lifespan. Cloud gazers will come, be impressed for a moment, buy whatever vaporizer is marketed, and then go home, duplicating what they saw earlier. Nothing that can be easily copied is worth anything -- that's why the U.S. Secret Service frowns upon photocopying our national currency. Logically speaking, cloud chasing competitions are immensely viable because they require skill.
To pure outsiders, that distinction may not be so readily apparent. However, for those that take a deeper look, the challenges inherent in proper and artistic vapor production are rather obvious.
Before any cloud chasing competition commences, there is a warm-up phase. This involves various exercises to loosen the body and prepare it for maximum efficiency and production. Many times, it involves mental preparation, or an internal run-through of procedures that have been practiced several times over prior to the event. For each vaper, the actual technique can vary, but the end goal is the same -- perfect practice to make perfect execution.
This warm-up phase typically occurs out of view from the cloud gazers. Thus, newcomers may get the impression that some competitors just show up and vape. That's inaccurate -- similar to a football game, there is a warm-up and final rehearsal that occurs hours before kickoff. Just because one doesn't see the preparation doesn't mean it doesn't occur at all.
Once vaping competitors have acclimated themselves, they then begin tuning up their e-devices. This has all the appearance of racing cars firing up their engines. And in a way, the similarities are uncanny. As with any combustible engine, there is a "sweet spot" in operating temperature that must be met in order for the racing car to achieve prime performance.
The same can be said about vaporizers. As combustible platforms themselves, vaporizers must heat up to a certain temperature range. Too cold, and the flavors will not burn effectively. Too hot, and materials have a tendency of heating unevenly, or worse yet, combusting outright. Heat is also an essential component to vaping production. The right combination of power, temperature, and technique will produce the type of vaping clouds that judges rank highly.
Beyond that, there are technical preparations required to increase power and airflow efficiencies. For example, vapers will twist resistant wires into coils to help facilitate electrical energy from their e-device battery. Also, it's common practice to weave dry cotton through the coils, which acts like a wick, serving to soak up e-juices. As electricity runs through the coiled wires, it organically heats the juices, resulting in an additional edge towards vapor quality and production.
Finally, there is the execution. All the gear in the world won't help you if you don't know how to effectively draw from your e-device and produce "gradable" vapors. Again, this isn't just about blowing smoke -- there is an entire body of work associated with cloud chasing. If vaping competitions were easy, everyone would join, devaluing the meaning of the event.
Fortunately, there is a technical and qualitative component of the cloud chasing sport. This is similar to gymnastics. Although it's an artistic, and therefore, a graded sport, competitors must have the technical ability to perform. Otherwise, they could end up seriously hurting themselves, and in a lesser note, the product would not be attractive for a mainstream audience.
The grading aspect of cloud chasing forces contestants to push themselves to their personal limit. Judges grade based not only on distance, but the quality of cloud production. Those vapers that find themselves consistently in the winners' circle mostly produce cumulonimbus clouds as opposed to cirrus. This simply means that premium clouds are dense, rich, and uniquely textured, as opposed to the thin and wispy clouds that novices usually emit. Vaping is a sport that is easy to pick up but is incredibly difficult to master.
That's because no two conditions are exactly alike. Vaping incorporates an incredible amount of scientific elements -- electricity, conduction, and thermodynamics, to name but a few. Nothing in this world occurs in a vacuum. Therefore, all the physical laws that govern our universe also dictate how vapers perform in varying conditions.
Even one variable that differs between cloud chasing competitions can have enormous repercussions for the vaper. For example, an event in the summer heat of Las Vegas will be significantly dissimilar to winter in New York City. But rarely do events encompass one element of change. Think outdoors versus indoors, or low humidity versus high humidity. Anything and everything can affect vapor production because anything and everything are dictated by physical laws.
Thus, the top cloud chasers aren't just contestants in what the general public may regard as a niche community. Instead, they're also scientists -- masters of multiple disciplines. Depending upon their specific circumstances, vapers must dial in their specifications as it relates directly to real-time. Just like a sniper shooting from long distance, variables such as wind speed, elevation, and even the rotation of the earth can affect the trajectory of the bullet towards the target. Although people don't think of it this way, snipers are some of the world's best mathematicians. The same respect can be afforded to the best cloud chasers.
There's a misconception that the sport of vaping is mostly dependent upon the vaporizer. Obviously, without an e-device, vaping either as a sport or as an industry would be non-existent. And having a robust, powerful vaporizer is much better than showing up with a bottom-shelf, no-name brand.
But there's an incredible amount of personal discipline that is involved, a sacrifice with which only true vaping enthusiasts are familiar. As one vaping critic put it, cloud chasing is not for the faint of heart. In order to produce vapors -- at least the kind that judges grade highly -- a competitor must hold a significant amount of e-juice vapor in their lungs for as long as their body allows. That kind of stamina can only be developed with practice and hard work.
Thankfully, the vaping platform makes such endeavors much more plausible. As mentioned before, several e-juice options are offered in non-nicotine packages. Most, if not all, cloud chasing competitors will incorporate zero nicotine flavors into their events, as nicotine is a naturally harsh substance and greatly interferes with the intent of the sport. That's also one big reason why cigarettes can't touch the cloud production of portable vaporizers.
Although it's a deceptively difficult passion, the rewards for being a top cloud chaser is well worth it. For one thing, there is the fame aspect. Cloud chasing has really taken off from a small, enthusiast gathering to the exposition it is today. Better yet, cloud chasing is growing, and has several explosive years remaining. As the market penetration for vaping is nowhere near that of analog smoking, there is a tremendous margin of potential. That means those cloud chasers that make a name for themselves today could be considered pioneers of the sport years down the line.
There's also a significant financial reward. As mentioned previously, smaller events don't generate enough winnings, and even the larger ones are hosted sporadically to not provide enough of a cash-flow incentive. However, this is assuming that a competition vaper only makes money from the event itself. However, sponsorship deals can supplement a competitor's income to where they are vaping full time as a job. The best cloud chasers can expect a monthly stipend from a sponsor, in addition to free vaping supplies and travel expenses to national contests -- this of course assumes that they keep winning.
It's All About the Tricks
While cloud production dominates the optics directed towards vaping competition, there are a growing number of sub-sectors within the overall trend. One that is exploding throughout social media channels is vaping tricks. The focus here isn't the length and density of a plume emission; rather, it's about creating different vapor shapes through unique personal and technical modulations.
Perhaps the most common trick -- and one of the most difficult tricks to master -- is the "O-ring." This is an age-old trick that has been utilized by advanced smokers for generations. However, due to the unique platform of vaping, the O-ring has taken on new life.
In order to accomplish this trick, a vaper must take a deep pull, and inhale the vape into the throat. Keeping the tongue at the bottom of the mouth and towards the back of the throat, the vaper will form an O-shaped mouth. From there, a small amount of vaper is pushed out the throat in a sequence of short, pulsating rhythms. The action is similar to a light, subdued cough.
As you might guess, it's a very delicate process. Pushing one step or sequence too far, and the resultant vapor may lose structural rigidity. Push too little, and the structure may not form at all. Now factor in the crowd size and noise, and the glaring lights and sounds of a top-tier vaping competition. Cloud chasers don't just need practice for their craft -- they need absolute body control in order to perform, and perform under pressure!
The brilliant attribute about vaping is that old guard tricks like the O-ring can produce a seemingly infinite number of derivatives. For example, one iteration of the O-ring involves a cloud chaser blow two or three big O-rings in succession, then blowing out a horizontal emission through the rings. When the clouds interact, they can create unpredictable dynamics, such as coalescing with each other, or catalyzing a sudden velocity shift.
Another variation involves the use of hand movements to direct the O-rings into different trajectories. Some vapers choose to create a whirlwind effect, while others incorporate stop-go motions or varying speed sequences. The actions performed by top vapers can be hypnotizing, as most of the general public is unaccustomed to seeing such dynamics.
This again articulates how much skill is involved in cloud chasing competitions. When using hands or other body parts, a vaper must have full awareness of the quality and texture of the cloud. Inadvertent contact or an inappropriate magnitude of pressure could severely impact the structural integrity or the intended velocity of the cloud. Depending on the set, mistakes can be difficult, if not impossible, to correct.
Many trick competitions are accompanied by music. Because of this, there is a certain cadence or rhythm to which the vaper must perform. Mistakes are one thing, but losing the beat is a critical error -- and one that is easily noticeable by the audience. Furthermore, the best and the most innovative cloud chasers incorporate multi-stage tricks. As briefly mentioned with the cloud inside an O-ring example, the execution of these advanced tricks require one stage to be set up perfectly before another can commence. Get it wrong and the entire sequence can fall like a house of cards. But this is also the reason why the best are compensated heavily, and why the sport is virtually in no danger of collapsing.
Cloud Chasing Attracts All Comers
Undoubtedly, one of the most encouraging elements within the world of competitive vaping is inclusion and diversity. This is a sport that bears no judgment on color, class, or social standing. Literally vapers from all walks of life descend upon cloud chasing competitions, both big, small, and everything in between. This is particularly important as vaping doesn't have a stereotypical image of the typical vaper -- that incentivizes more people to check out the sport, resulting in the superior growth rate that has Big Tobacco executives shaking in fear.
The most noticeable aspect of vaping competitions is that there's a lot of women involved in the sport. In fact, some of the best tutorials on vaping tricks are produced by women. This again emphasizes the diversity and inclusion aspect of vaping. But the gender balance is also made possible by the e-device platform. Since the harsh substance of nicotine is not native to vaporizers, women naturally find drawing from e-devices to be much more comfortable than smoking an analog cigarette. Essentially, gender equality is already engineered into the vaping sport.
Female participation is also critical to the growth of the vaping industry. In virtually every part of the world, women outnumber men. Thus, when a sector is male-dominated --whether by choice or by function -- it effectively eliminates retail potential by slightly more than half. When you think of it in those terms, gender imbalance is one of the worst phenomenon in retail. Thanks to the fairer sex, vaping as an overall industry has a healthy and viable lifeblood.
The Ins and Outs of Vaping Competitions
With the number of vapers increasing by the day, it's not very difficult to find vaping competitions locally. In fact, the frequency in which cloud chasing events are hosted is directly correlated with demand. For those that are paying attention, demand is exceptionally robust. Since statistics have been taken, there's never been a year where growth has been negative. Of course, in recent years, the vaping growth rate has been less than its peak -- however, this is part of the natural ebb-and-flow of the business cycle. The important take away here is that average growth in vaping revenue is more than 105%!
Vaping shopkeepers would be insane not to funnel this demand for their own businesses' benefit -- and many of course do just that. Therefore, it's very easy to find local vaping competitions. Simply look up the vape shops in your area, and peruse their website -- many will mention details regarding an upcoming cloud chasing competition.
The enthusiast community itself can be a valuable resource. Some local regions may not heavily advertise their competitions, thus relying upon the loyalty of vapers to spread the word. Most of them are only too happy to oblige, as it gives all interested vapers an opportunity to showcase their enhanced skills and abilities.
Of course, we live in the digital age and everything travels through social media networks. The best way to get connected to the latest and greatest events is signing up for a Twitter or Facebook account, if you haven't done so already. Then, subscribe to your local vape shops, as well as popular vapers and competitors. Twitter is an especially useful tool, as most well-regarded vapers will provide timely updates for cloud competitions, as well as showcase events that would be of particular interest to vapers and budding enthusiasts.
Making the most of these free and readily available platforms is the key to success, especially for new competitors. The skill and price barrier for the pinnacle of vaping competitions can be excessively steep. There may also be associated travel costs if the major events are held someplace outside your locale. However, "community competitions" offer the same mechanics of high-level events. In order to get the most out of the competition, one still needs to prep physically and mentally, ensure that the proper calibration is set for their vaporizer, and finally, execute.
The only real difference is the distraction inherent in top-level competitions. Practically speaking, it's more important that new vapers acquire experience first before venturing into a high-pressure environment. It also provides a gradation in skills that is natural and lends itself to progress, not frustration.
The Big League of Vaping Competitions
With all that being said, when you're ready, you're ready. The beautiful essence of cloud chasing is that there is no limitation to how far you want to go. In other industry competitions that may not have as much of a mainstream following, there's a potential for a small group of competitors to dominate, year in and year out. This is primarily due to the reduced competitor base. Fewer contestants means greater odds of winning. Those that put in a little extra effort can be exponentially rewarded.
This is also the reason why the top ranked sports in the U.S. -- football, basketball, and baseball -- are so popular. Yes, there's a lot to be said about history and legacy, and the establishment of these entities into our collective psyche. But because these sports are accepted by the mainstream, we naturally have high expectations. It's very difficult to have a team dynasty in these top three sports because of the competitiveness. No one can get a substantive edge in football, for example, by putting in more effort -- everybody is doing the exact same thing.
In the early days of vaping competitions, it was not unusual to see the same faces over and over. Cloud chasing wasn't exactly "a thing" because vaping itself was just getting its initial foot in the door. Therefore, the competition was really in name only. Blow a few O-rings, and let out a big plume of vapor -- winning was almost guaranteed in the infancy stage because of the reduced base. In addition, the stakes weren't really that high.
Today, it's a whole different story. We live in a digital world where the establishment of anything analog-based is challenged. For example, one of the extreme sports that's televised through channels like ESPN 2 or Fox Sports is drone racing. That's right -- those trendy flying devices used to capture aerial photography and generally to annoy people have their own professional league. Even tournaments for video games are a major deal -- many would be surprised to learn that they've been popular since the 1980s!
So cloud chasing as a legitimate, professional event isn't as crazy as it sounds to outsiders. It's not that the current generation is rejecting traditional activities. Instead, they are pushing their boundaries, enhancing what is possible through the channels of technology. In reality, vaping competitions are behind other "niche" industries, and therefore, they have a lot of catching up to do. That's the exciting part because they're making up for lost time in leaps and bounds!
One of the most reputable and well-known vaping competition is the International Cloud Championship, which is sponsored by several leading vaporizer companies and retailers. Competitions are varied and intense, featuring the standard -- cloud production and distance -- up to the unique -- vaporizer field stripping and reassembly. In the latter, contestants are tasked to build a winning setup in ten minutes or less before they can even step up to the cloud production phase. This adds an entirely different element to the competition, ensuring that each event is fresh and relevant.
What's remarkable about vaping competitions is that within the top-tier events, there are multiple gradations. Those that have established themselves as consistent winners in the lower and middle echelons of elite vaporizer competitions can move up to the biggest stage. And the granddaddy of all cloud chasing events is the Vape Summit.
Featuring over 300,000 square feet of real estate, and with visitors numbering in the tens of thousands, Vape Summit is the Super Bowl of vaping. Held in Las Vegas -- where else? -- Vape Summit attracts everyone: cloud gazers, vaping sponsors, e-device manufacturers, and of course, the pioneering individuals and teams that make vaping the social and cultural phenomenon that it is.
For newcomers, the atmosphere is intense, to put it mildly. Even seasoned veterans that have worked the vaping circuit often come to Vape Summit with eyes wide open. The magnitude of Vape Summit is akin to comparing a go-cart race to the Indianapolis 500. Everyone who is anyone in the vaping industry has the Summit marked down as one of the first things listed on their new year's calendar.
Registration starts early, typically near the beginning of the spring season. The main event is often held in late April to early May. And it's highly recommended that cloud gazers and chasers alike secure their arrangements well beforehand. Three years ago, the Summit attracted more than 20,000 attendees. Growth has been outrageous, as evidenced by The Wall Street Journal coverage. Simply put, if you want in without hassling over extraneous items such as hotel room availability, make sure to take care of your administrative needs now.
Cloud Chasing Partnerships
This advice will only grow more and more relevant as the years tick by. Contrary to common misconceptions, the vaping industry isn't just isolated to itself. Earlier this decade, cloud chasing competitions began seeking mutually beneficial partnerships with non-vaping related companies. One of the most effective and lucrative has been the relationship with Hot Import Nights.
Famous -- or is that notorious? -- for their smoking rides, and even more attractive models, Hot Import Nights is the most ingenious partnership ever cultivated in the vaping industry. Why? Because vapers are natural tinkerers. Whether it's the manner in which they coil their wires, or the materials used in their atomizers, most vapers are rarely satisfied with the status quo. Even the ones that are often succumb to temptation. Unlike cigarettes, a plethora of options exist for vaporizers, each one noticeably affecting the taste or experience of chasing vape. It's only a matter of time before curiosity gets the best of any vaper.
The exact same sentiment rings true for fans of imported hot rods. As you can personally attest, ardent aficionados of rides such as the Honda Civic or the Scion tC can rarely leave well enough alone. Physical modifications such as rear wings, or internal mods such as cold air intakes are part and parcel of the import culture.
To them, it's not just about the car itself. Critics often point out that a much more expensive vehicle can be purchased for the amount of money that import fanatics pour into their ride. But by doing so, they would have a car that can be bought anywhere at any time. It's this standardization of a beloved culture that import fans are rebelling against.
This is a concept that is a shared passion between drivers and vapers. One of the underlying ideologies in vaping competitions is that it's really an anti-tobacco campaign. Some of the best or well-known cloud chasers were former smokers, addicted to nicotine and the harmful -- and economically painful -- activities associated with analog cigarettes. For both vapers and import drivers, their respective movements represent taking back control from a sanitized "corporatocracy."
Chasing More than Just Clouds
And that is the organic beauty of Vape Summit and the small group of elite vaping tournaments. When you enter the convention halls of the Summit, you'll quickly recognize that it's not just about the competition. At the beginning of every show, the Summit hosts TED-style talks featuring keynote speakers within the vaping world. These experts range from manufacturing specialties to vaping subculture analysts. They offer an insightful intelligence to vaping that is usually not found in other "hobbyist" pursuits or practices.
Similar to Second Amendment advocates, these talks aren't just limited to preaching an already accepted message. Rather, vaping enthusiasts with significant clout are using their leverage to impact social tolerance and promote education. For instance, too many outsiders and members of the general public ensnare vaping with cigarette smoking. Frustratingly for most vapers, the two are worlds apart. However, that misconception or misunderstanding will never change unless the public learns about the difference. These experts are facilitating that change by creating an open and inviting channel.
The talks are principally effective because they are incredibly disarming. Yes, the speakers come prepared with strong arguments favoring the vaping industry. But right or wrong, there is a perception among the general public that view vaping as nothing more than sophisticated potheads. What these TED-style talks accomplish is the presentation of well-constructed arguments, ideas, and proposals in a polished and educated platform. If you didn't know any better, you would think that you were attending a scientific convention.
Ironically, vaping and cloud chasing is the ultimate "sweet science." Every year, portable vaporizer manufacturers have to wrestle with the delicate balance between compactness and capacity. And every competition, cloud chasers have to make on-the-fly calculations based on the ambiance and overall environment. Get one specification wrong, and that could be the difference between winning and losing. Likewise, for manufacturers, coming up short against the competition, or failing to understand consumer trends could lead to disaster.
The bottom line here is that vaping competitions are far removed from the stereotypes associated with analog smokers or "herbal users." Predominantly, vapers are accommodating people. In a WSJ interview with one of the top teams in the cloud chasing circuit, they mentioned that the art (and science!) of vaping bonds communities together. One team-member described his group as a "brotherhood." Rarely are such strong and passionate sentiments expressed outside of well-known fraternities and organizations such as the military.
If a critic is looking for a gathering of losers with no direction in life, the clear recommendation is to look elsewhere. Vapers do come from all walks of life; however, these are individuals that care about their health, their freedoms, and their communities. You will simply find no better group of people than within the ranks of vaping enthusiasts.
Vapers and especially cloud chasers also happen to be very technical people. It's amazing what someone can learn and retain when they are passionate about a particular subject or pursuit. While they may not be physicists or engineers by occupation, vaping aficionados and cloud chasers probably know more about the practical applications of the natural sciences than many who don white lab coats for a living.
Vaping Towards the Next Generation
This all leads to one intractable conclusion -- analog smoking is dead. The irony here is that Big Tobacco -- which many consider to be the merchant of death -- is getting a manure-load of their own medicine. It's not just smokers that are waking up to the enormous health and social benefits of vaping. Anti-smoking advocacy groups are hounding cigarette companies like never before. Gone are the goofy "butt it out" commercials. In are stark, gritty advertisements that expose the real truth behind Big Tobacco's "at any cost" profit incentive.
Rising in its place is the fresh vibrancy of cloud chasing and the broader vaporizer industry. Gone are the stench and stigma associated with analog cigarettes. Instead, many of the today's leading vaping competitions are hybrid events, bringing together cloud gazers, competitors, manufacturers and even partners from different industries. Attendees come to vaping events not only to see the stars of the sector, but to learn from different sources.
No major competition would be complete without corporate booths, which advertise their latest innovations. Here, guests can learn about new products before they hit the retail floor. Sponsored teams are also on tap, interacting with attendees and providing insights to important subject matters such as new tricks or e-device maintenance. As with any exposition, there is no shortage of eye-candy and interactive events.
The most striking component of cloud chasing competitions, and the reason why they're the wave of the future, is its diverse identity. Sample any video or photo gallery of major vaping events -- you cannot pinpoint a specific demographic as being the face of vaping. Sure, vaping tends to attract a younger crowd, but the same could be said for virtually any activity not named bingo. But even here, vaping enthusiasts represent every age group.
In other words, the trend is undeniable. Vaping is taking over the world, and cloud chasers -- as well as cloud gazers -- are ensuring that this dominance remains secured.