We came a long way in a relatively short time in the snowboard history. Since the early “no snowboarders allowed” to the fact that snowboarding in responsible for recent revival of skiing. This is the story of how it all began.
The History Of The Snowboarding
First Known Snowboard
Snowboarding is a fairly young sport with about 50 years of history, but today it is definitely out of its diapers :).
First known snowboard was made from plywood by a man named Tom Sims in the year 1963. Tom Sims made a snowboard for his eight grade technical class. Tom called the first snowboard a ski board.
Later Tom Sims opened his own snowboard company that had a big impact on the world of snowboarding in the early years – Sims Snowboards.
First Know Snowboard 2.0
NOTE: I’ve recently found and article that pushes the first snowboard almost 30 years further back into history books…or even more.
There were these three guys back in 1939 called Vern Wicklund, Harvey and Gunnar Burgeson. Vern was only 13 years old when he built a sled/snowboard thingy in 1917 and the then 22 years later patented it together with Burgeson brothers. This first snowboard was not a big success though – supposedly only 5 were ever made. Now..as with many inventions there are always people popping up all over the place claiming they were the first ones to come up with the idea. Well, unfortunately for the rest of themVern, Harvey and Gunnar even have video proof. You can watch it here:
But to really kickstart snowboarding another inventor had to pop up – Sherman Poppen.
The next man, that came up with similar idea was Sherman Poppen. Sherman Poppen constructed his own snowboard in the year 1965 and called it snurfer. Actually it was his wife that came up with the name. Sherman simply glued and bolted together two skis, made some support for the feet and put a rope to hold on to at the front of the stick.
Sherman gave the snurfer to his daughter and she tested it on the backyard hill.
Soon everybody in the neighborhood wanted one. Snurfer was a big success on the market as it was simple and cheap and was sold in supermarkets. But it was kind of a short lived fad.
Oh, I was so surprised when I found a video that has footage of people riding the original Snurfer. How cool is that, check it out (not as surprised as when I’ve found video of people riding the 1939 snowboard..thats insane:) ):
Surfing is a big part of snowboard history. Snowboarding has its roots in surfing and snowboarders wanted to get the same feeling riding powder than they did riding waves. So the shape and design of the snowboard was influenced by the surfboard.
List of snowboard pioneers that were mainly inspired by surfboards is quite long. We already mentioned Sherman Poppen (inventor of the Snurfer), than we had Dimitrije Milovich (Winterstick Snowboards), Bob Webber (Yellow Banana), Jake Burton Carpenter (Burton Snowboard), Brandon Bridwell, Tom Sims (Sims Snowboards), Mike Olson (Gnu Snowboards), Donavin Carlberg, Chuck Barfoot (Barfoot Snowboards), Chris Sanders (Avalanche Snowboards), Steve Derrah (Flite Snowboards) and others.
They all developed different experimental snowboards and played with different shapes and ideas. One of the most notable was Bob Webbers snowboard from 1972, that he also patented. He alter sold the patent to Jake Burton Carpenter (in 1990) and for some time Jake Burton even wanted to get a piece of action on every snowboard sold in the world on the grounds of this patent, but he later changed his mind.
Jake Burton Carpenter, Dimitrije Milovich, Steve Derrah
The founder of Burton Snowboards Jake Burton started making snowboard from fiber glass in 1979. He also added snowboard bindings for better control. But the real breakthrough came from Dimitrije Milovich, an east coast surfer. Dimitrije had the idea of sliding on cafeteria trays up state New York. He then developed his idea and started developing snowboards designs and in 1972 he started a company called the Winterstick.
The winterstick was based on the design and feel of a surfboard but worked the same way as skis. Companies like Winterstick (Utah) and Flite Snowboards (Newport, RI) began pressing ski-like, closed-molded boards from small garages. This was at least 4 years before other snowboard companies followed suit. Before that time all snowboards had been built like large 7-ply maple skateboards. By switching to closed-molded boards, Flite introduced the “modern” snowboard, providing strength, lightness, and durability.
Snowboard bindings were developed too. Highback was put at the back of the binding to control the snowboard on hard and packed snow.
Breakthrough – Steel Edges on a Snowboard?
Next big breakthrough was in the year 1980, when steel edges were added to the snowboards.This was a big leap from powder surfing to real snowboarding. It allowed the snowboards to be used on hard groomed slopes and soon snowboarding was ready to be banned from ski resorts.
NO Snowboarding Allowed
Yes, during the early snowboarding years, snowboarders had a lot of problems with the ski industry, ski resorts and skiers in general. Snowboarding was seen as a fad, a punk brat of skiing that is not to be taken seriously. The general opinion was that
- sit on their ass all the time,
- get high,
- can’t even stop on the snowboard,
- ruin the slope,
- crash into people,
- have concealed weapons in their baggy clothes,
- are having no fun at all, they snowboard just to piss off their parents etc…
These were the usual remarks. I guess that even at that time skiers felt threatened by a new sport that looked like it was more fun than skiing. So many resorts did not initially allow snowboards on the slopes and others insisted on the use of leashes. Even today there are a few ski resorts that do not allow snowboarding.
Early Snowboard Magazines
The first snowboard magazine ever published was Absolutely Radical which was published in March 1985. It was later renamed to International Snowboarding Magazine and went out of business in 1991. BUT – you can see the first issue of this mag online – check it out! I’ve also found a comment that first snowboard mag was actually called Snowboarder and printed by Michael George of San Jose.
Alternative Sports Take Over the Media
We came a long way in the snowboard history since then. Snowboarding in responsible for recent revival of skiing. Skiing took the tricks and the attitude of snowboarding to keep the kids on skis. Without snowboarding skiing would today really be and old farts only sport.
Sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing are no longer pushed to the edge of society, they are right there in the focus, constantly being used for advertising and appalling to the youth. It is true that this way they lost some of their alternative underground appeal. Many people found it hard to deal with that. Going mainstream, selling out…
But still, there is something about snowboarding that no man can take away. When you strap into your bindings on the top of the fresh powder slope nothing else matters.