History of the Snowboard What sport borrows from skateboarding, surfing, and skiing but is quite different from each of them? Snowboarding. Snowboards might be compared to an oversized skateboard without wheels, a surfboard that rides frozen waves, or a fat ski without a partner, but a snowboard is unique unto itself. Snowboarding is a relatively new sport. It s ancestor was first created in the mid - 1960s when an American surfer named Sherman Poppen designed the Snurfer (Brimner 5). He sold his idea to the Brunswick Sporting Goods Company, which sold more than a million Snurfers at about fifteen dollars each. Resembling a small, plywood surfboard with a rope leash to help the rider balance, the snurfer tended to hurtle down slopes in any direction it chose, and the rider had little control over the snurfer s speed. Riding one was a fun experience for many, and paved the way for today s snowboards. At about the same time that Poppen was designing the snurfer, Tom Sims, a New Jersey teenager, had an idea. Frustrated because the winter s icy streets kept him from skateboarding, he modified the basic skateboard design in his junior high school wood shop class to create a skateboard for the ice (Galbraith 82). Sims first designs were not successful, but he kept experimenting. Finally, in 1969, he came across the right combination of shape, materials, and bindings. The sport of snowboarding was born, and Sims, who was living in California by then, began production of Sims Snowboards. Poppen and Sims were not alone though. A Vermont Snurfer named Jake Burton Carpenter began altering the basic designs of his snurfer in a quest to conquer the winter world of sports (Eubanks 22). Carpenter attached rubber straps to it and Turner 2achieved better control. This led to the founding of Burton Snowboards. Both Burton and Sims Snowboards are commonly seen on the snowy mountain slopes. It is from these primitive beginnings that snowboards have evolved. But the journey from Snurfer to an accepted sport has been quite bumpy. Plagued in the early years by the Snurfer s reputation for unpredictability, snowboarding was outlawed at most ski resorts. Because a snowboard was not seen as a directional device like skis, insurance companies refused to write liability policies for resorts allowing snowboards. Resort operators did not want to be held responsible if a mishap occurred, so they had little choice but to deny snowboarders access to their slopes.
Snowboarding was not met with a great amount of joy. The reputation of those who were the first to enthusiastically take up the new sport were young surfers and skateboarders. Whether deserved or not, surfers and skateboarders were perceived as a rebellious group sure to break the rules under which ski resorts must operate. Discrimination against them brought friction and, for a time, and the future of snowboarding was in jeopardy. To promote American acceptance of the sport, Jake Burton Carpenter sponsored touring demonstration teams and local instruction programs (Eubanks 25). A certification program was begun that encouraged safety, proper technique, and slope etiquette. As a result, snowboarding slowly gained respectability, and snowboarders gained the right to ride their snowboards at almost Turner 3any and every snow-covered mountain or ski resort in the United States and Canada as well as worldwide. No longer is snowboarding only a sport for surfers and skaters. With respectability came acceptance and broad-based appeal. Several people ranging from beginner to expert and young to old participate in the sport and many will continue coming as knowledge of the sport increases. Television station such as ESPN are covering many competitive event as the World Cup, and even found their own competitions such as the ESPN Extreme Games which invites many of the worlds greatest riders to compete against each other in several events. These events and contests have lured sponsors and advertisers to take the sport as seriously as they would major league baseball or football. One reason for Snowboarding s success is its pared-down simplicity (Eubanks 8). Unlike skiing, there is no need for special boots or poles. The basic piece of equipment is your snowboard. Today s snowboards have come a long way from the Snurfer design by Sherman Poppen. No longer made of plywood and rope, snowboards are designed to enhance safety and performance. They are constructed of laminated wood or fiberglass over foam cores and have steel edges to assist turning, or carving. They are faster, safer, and easier to handle than their forerunners. Today s snowboarders may be white-collar or no-collar; they may be single or an entire family (Brimner 10). The sports appeal crosses age and gender lines. Even die-hard skiers are Turner 4racking their skis and taking up winter s once outlaw sport (Kerig 45). It is not surprising, then, that snowboarding is the world s fastest-growing alpine sport (Galbraith 83).