Snowboard History: From Snurfer To First Snowboard Magazine

Absolutely Radical, the World’s first snowboard magazine
739 Flares 739 Flares ×

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

First Snowboard in History

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. 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.


Old Snowboard

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 Influences

Old SnowboardsSurfing 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

Snowboard jumpThe 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

No snowboarding signs are a part of snowboard historyYes, 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.

Snowboard Media Covers
PS: there is a really cool snowboard history timeline on Illicit Snb, check it out. Site also has a few other cool articles on snowboarding beginnings and I also suggest that you check out the list of most important moments of snowboard history – you can find them here.


  • snowman says:

    I still have an old neon colored Sims in my garage ;D

  • bingo says:

    Respect to the guys that started the whole thing…

  • Paco Flores says:

    Hey i saw these two guys riding these clear snowboards, that had channels through them like dive fins and were really flexible. They told me they were these really excellent powder boards. I didnt think much about it at the time, but now I am really curious. i am trying to find somoen who knows about them.

  • boarder says:

    You think like a swallow tail snowboard or what?

  • dfink says:

    Yeah, some real history. I used to work at Flite
    in Newport….and yes, we did build many great
    boards before Burton…and remember Burton married
    into Boston Celtics MONEY!!!…that is why his
    company went from small…to worldwide in a few years!

    • Ross Quintana says:

      I am looking for info and or pics of the Doris. I was sponsored in WA as a rider and you guys made me a custom board with two flowers winding in opposite directions that I designed on a Doris. Not sure if you remember. Contact me.

  • 3G says:

    Hey dfink, do you have any pictures of the boards, factory etc… they would be interesting to post!

  • cody lauder says:

    i just landed the double back flip it was awesome im trying to get the 360 qaurter tern backflip but i broke my neck doing it but who cares it felt awesome

  • bags says:

    You’re welcome :P

  • walwus says:

    snowboarding is here to stay so all you old skiers who dont like it can fuck off

  • Kilian says:

    i needed this page for a tech project. so who-ever made this page, thanks dougy doug

  • fatty mc fatster says:

    all this history stuff just blows my brain out of my noggan. but alls i know is that snowboarding is the best thing ever invented, and i appreciate the work all those guys put into it.

  • k-reg says:

    The clear snowboards are Makboards.
    They have a website.
    They are awsome they make them in my hometown.

  • Johnn says:

    Thanks for making this page. i needed it for a biology project on evolution. it sounds gaybut yeah my teacher is a bitch

  • Sabrena Murray says:

    i love to snow board and skiiers can kiss my ass!:o

  • joep Truijen says:

    yeah thex to this site i can do my exams peace for it!!

  • blah says:

    they dont have that much control, when you push into them, they flex out. and are horrible on hard pack, they sold one to our midwest resort shop, acting like it would be great. it was crap

  • pomcq says:

    haha, i have a house in newport, i just got a solomen sanchex 152. im a kid, but i should be riding 53 or 54.

  • damien says:

    even if you were out everyday puttin in hard time at the mountain why would you try to expose your self here????
    yep kid youra killa quadruple switch corkddd 1260s Word.

  • Bianka says:

    even if you were out everyday puttin in hard time at the mountain why would you try to exspose your self here????;)

  • Kait says:

    Thanks for the info, I’m giving a speech on snowboarding tomorrow and this helped a ton :)

  • Dude says:

    LOL, hey Kate, same here im doing a speech on snowboarding and I have to do it tommorow…though I was supposed to do it earlyer this week. :P

  • dave says:

    I also worked at flite snowboards for quite a while with Chuck and sperm and pete booth. the company was doing ok until chuck decided he needed someone with an MBA to come onboard to help run things…jim showed up and quickly ran the company into the ground…chuck had to sell out to earth and ocean who moved the whole company out to Seattle WA. where flite died a silent death.

    • Ross Quintana says:

      Hey Dave, I would love to talk sometime. I was sponsored in Washington for Flite and had a custom graphic made on a Doris. I have been searching for info on that board. It was a one of a kind and I don’t have it anymore. Let me know if you have any info.

  • Joo says:

    I still like doing snowboard and I have 45 years old. It gives u adrenaline like no other sport can. I kind off have a personal store of snowboard. It is in SnowMass.!!!

  • Ben says:

    “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”

    Not Just the Attitude of snowboarding but also the shape. In the 1990s Large ski manufacturers almost went bust, tripping over themselves and each other in a race to produce SNOWBOARD shaped skis which have now become the norm.

    Jake Burton arrived late with other peoples ideas and made a fortune. A talent for marketing for sure. The late Bill Hicks had interesting things to say about people in marketing.

    Long live Tom Sims for not having a piece of stupid rope tied to the front of his board in the 70s

    Long live Mike Olson for making it work in the 80s and continuing to push shape, construction and sense of humor to this day while the rest of the ski industry tries to keep up.

    Long live Jacques Rillet, Patrice Fivat and Nils Degremont for making the most advanced snowboard (or ski) on the planet to date.

  • jc says:

    I have a Flite “fatty artbuckle” 155 that i bought from chuck when they were in the mills in fall river ma. Not too long after that they had to sell out as stated on here above. Pretty sad when it happened. They were awsome. My friend george worked there for a short time. The board I have was a team board that had holes drilled through it to mount the 4×4 bindings on it and has p-tex filling in the holes on the bottom. I rode it for quite a while then got a jobless from chuck to ride. Basicly the exact same board just with a jobless name on the bottom.
    Good ol days!!
    I have the flite for sale as a piece of snowboard history if anyione is interested.

  • Dnedla says:

    If you stil have that flite for sale please contact me. Rode them back in the day, and would love to see the one you have.

  • Eric Brammer says:

    Nicely abbreviated history. Some facts remain hidden, but worse, some players are forgotten. Please note Chuck Barfoot, Chris Sanders, Mike Olson, and Rad-Air’s Harry Gunz and Paul Gruber. Harry and Paul set you all up for having the 4×4 hole pattern, which in turn allowed world-wide access to Interchangeable Bindings, something Burton DIDN’T WANT, EVER. Imagine being stuck, 25 years ago, with ONLY Burton bindings, until now. Nope, glad it didn’t happen, especially since I’ve broken more Burton binders than even Sims/Grell bindings, which were really bad at the highbacks! Harry + Paul made it happen, period. They didn’t even try to ‘patent’ the idea (though, if a patent had come through, it would’ve made millions), but rather let the snowboard world ‘have at it’, which made for the explosion of makers in ’91-’94, which brought us so many new ideas and shapes. Old School rules, still!


Leave a Reply to Sabrena Murray Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *