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Snowboard Club UK (SCUK) FAQs (frequently-asked questions)

Category: Main -> Snowboarding -> Snowboarding History

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Snowboarding History - How it came to being

Snowboarding mostly resembles surfing, skiing and skateboarding and it is not surprising that Snowboarding's true origins lie in these sports. It is hard to say who really started snowboarding first. It is known however that there were a few surf and skate enthusiasts who used self-made boards to take their skills to new terrain: snow during the 1950s. These contraptions often resulted in lots of broken boards and a lot of bruises.
The first real snowboard hit the market during the 1960's in the form of Sherman Poppin's Snurfer. It looked like a weird crossing between a plywood sled and a skateboard deck. A rope attached to the front tip of the board would offer the rider some control and steel tacks poking through the upper deck held the rider's feet in place.
The brave souls that rode their own contraptions and the first snowboards were frowned upon by the majority of skiers and they were not allowed to ride the regular skiing slopes. Snowboarding started off-piste and many snowboarders now-a-days still enjoy off-piste boarding more.
As snowboarding became more popular in the 70's and 80's true snowboarding pioneers such as Tom Sims, Jake Burton Carpenter came up with new snowboard designs, materials and technologies that would slowly develop into the snowboard, bindings and other equipment we know now-a-days. Snowboarding is as accepted as skiing in most resorts world-wide and its popularity and fan-base is growing at such a pace that snowboarding is predicted to overtake skiing by 2015.

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Back in the Day – The Early Years

Shermin Poppin: The Snurfer
No-one is actually sure when the first person stood up on a sledge, tried to surf on snow and ‘invented’ the sport of snowboarding. Early boards dated from the 1920s have been documented, while a 1939 film shows the intrepid Vern Wickland riding a primitive sled-type snowboard down a Chicago hill. What is certain is that in 1965, an American chemical engineer from Muskegon called Shermin Poppin combined the sports of skiing and surfing to invent ‘The Snurfer’. It was meant only as a gift for his daughter Wendy, but within a year an estimated 500,000 had been sold across the United States. Snowboarding as we know it today was on it’s way.

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The Do-It-Yourself Years

The Snurfer was meant only as a toy, but it’s obvious possibilities for fun and recreating the feel of surfing on snow inspired creative young surfers, skaters and skiers to create their own early versions of the snowboard. Through the 1970s, pioneers such as Dimitrije Milovich, Tom Sims (Sims), Mike Olsen (GNU), Chuck Barfoot and Jake Burton Carpenter (Burton) were busy inventing their own boards and creating their own companies to manufacture them. Thanks to these maverick and inspired individuals, the development and of ideas and equipment was rapid and the snowboarding industry grew very quickly. The visionary efforts of these frontrunners still inspire snowboarders today.

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Jake Burton: The Father of Snowboarding?

The influence of Jake Burton Carpenter (b. New York, 29 April 1954) on the development of snowboarding has been huge and sometimes controversial. Jake received a Snurfer aged 14 and soon began to make his own versions of the toy. In 1977 he moved to Vermont and set up Burton Snowboards, often working single-handedly to establish the company and implement his own ideas for improving snowboarding technology. Many of these combined ski industry techniques (now standard features such as metal edges, p-tex bases and high-backs first appeared on the Burton Performer in the early 80s) with his own insights into the sport of snowboarding. Burton was instrumental in having snowboarding accepted as a ‘sport’ and forcing ski areas to recognise it’s legitimacy. Since then, Burton Snowboards has been at the forefront of the snowboarding industry and today enjoys a reputation as the most successful snowboard company in the world. This success is often put down to Jake’s willingness to listen to the opinions of riders and the fact that he himself still rides over 100 days a year.

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A View to a Kill

Snowboarding was almost completely unheard of outside the winter sports world until it was featured in the 1984 James Bond film ‘A View To A Kill’. In the film, Bond is seen outrunning his skiing adversaries on an early snowboard. The stunts were actually carried out by Tom Sims, and this classic scene is still considered to be one of snowboarding’s definitive early moments.

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Primitive Boards and Prototypes

Early examples of snowboard technology show the evolution of board technology from the primitive Snurfer to the high-tech boards we ride today. Yesteryear’s boards were of a primitive overall shape with a lack of metal edges, and were fitted with water-ski type foot-straps as opposed to today’s highly evolved bindings and boards.

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Back in the Day - Evolution

The Early Lake Tahoe Scene
By the late 70s and 80s, scenes of young riders were appearing all over the States and in Europe. In 1979, Californian Mark Anolik discovered a seemingly natural half pipe while out looking for spots to session on his snowboard. Situated by the side of the Tahoe City Dump, it became known as the Tahoe City Pipe and has passed into legend as the world’s first snow half-pipe. Word of the discovery spread, and by 1981 future legends such as Terry Kidwell and Tom Sims were regularly sessioning the spot alongside pro skaters such as Steve Caballero. In the process, they were inventing the style of freestyle snowboarding as we see it today by transferring their skate transition-riding skills to snow.
One of the originators of the Lake Tahoe scene, Terry Kidwell was a visionary with a bandanna who began to look at snowboarding in a different way, as an extension of skateboarding. Along with a pioneering group of similarly like-minded friends, Kidwell led the embryonic sport of freestyle snowboarding from kindergarten to college in one short, dazzling period. His transitional innovations included methods which would shame many today, tweaks and grabs with timeless style and the first recorded McTwist. He was doing all this on a board that many would barely be able to turn today. It was the world’s first pro model, the Sims Terry Kidwell, which was also the first board to feature a rounded tail and thus enable snowboarders to land backwards and ride switch.

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Europe: Regis Rolland and Apocalypse Snow

Meanwhile, in Europe, a similarly crazed group of individuals were kick-starting the scene, this time based around the French resort of Les Arcs. According to legend, a pair of US pro riders visited the resort in 1981 and sold a board to local Regis Rolland. Soon, he began to film the exploits of himself and his friends and the results were the ground-breaking and hilarious Apocalypse Snow videos. These films were noted for outrageous plots and incredible scenes that saw Regis outrunning avalanches. At around the same time, he had begun to design his own boards and formed his own company, A-Boards (recently re-invented as APO Boards). He is also still a breathtaking free rider.

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Grabs

Grabs are the basis of freestyle snowboarding. While they are used to give the rider increased stability in the air, they are also a true barometer of a snowboarder’s style and board control. Almost every grab was originally invented on a skateboard and was adopted by snowboarders. Here are some of the most popular ones:

Nose grab
Mute
Indy
Tail Grab
Stalefish
Meloncollie
Method
Taipan
Chicken Salad
Roast Beef
Crail
Rocket
Seatbelt
Lien
Japan

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‘Food’ Names and Style

Stalefish, Chicken Salad, Roast Beef – no-one is really sure why some skating and snowboarding grabs have such strange names. The riders who invent the trick name them and one explanation is that food related names were fashionable. It’s true that some grabs (such as the Taipan, the Crail and the Seatbelt) are not so popular today, but certain tricks such as the Indy and the Mute have timeless appeal. It’s because they naturally look good when performed well and are linked to one of the most elusive yet important of all snowboarding qualities: style.

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