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Artikel: Snowboard History #1


Snowboard History #1

In the space of three short decades, snowboarding has come a very long way. Its origins are vague and varied: during the sixties and seventies various skiers, surfers, skaters and inventors made their contribution to the techniques, technologies and terminologies of this fledgling sport. By the eighties ‘snowboarding’ had emerged as the official term, (goodbye ‘Snurfing’ and ‘Skiboarding’), and by the nineties snowboarding was officially the world’s fastest-growing sport. Today, snowboarding is fully legitimate, boasting Olympic status, its own world tour and millions of dedicated shredders.

Perhaps more importantly, snowboarding is now legitimate in the eyes of fellow board riders. Saved from the mediocrity of ski racing by the culture and aesthetic of its cousins surfing and skateboarding, snowboarding has now repaid that debt, by inspiring skaters and surfers to attempt radical new moves first mastered on snow.

It’s been a wild ride… here are some of the highlights.

Snowboard History: Five Vintage Years

The Snurfer might have been invented a decade before, but 1979 was the year when snowboarding’s popularity and evolution really began to take off. By the end of the year, Sherman Poppen nixed Snurfer production, and innovation took a step towards Jake Burton’s “non-Snurfer” snowboard design. With its pioneering use of a strap-in binding, this equipment provided a blueprint for future snowboard design.

This was also a significant year for riding progression. Freestyle terrain took a major step up when the first ‘halfpipe’ – a natural gully “discovered” near a dump at Tahoe. Meanwhile, pro Snurfer Paul Graves perfected sliding 360s and front flip dismounts. Graves brought enough eye candy to the sport that it led to an ad campaign by Canadian beer company LaBatts that ran for four years. In short, with halfpipe and freestyle joining the snowboard equation, skills expanded and press coverage began to grow.

Almost a decade later, equipment design was evolving rapidly. 1987 saw a year of invention that left a deep imprint in snowboarding. One, Burton set the standard for soft boots – a “lace-up, ski-boot inner bladder”. Two, Chuck Barfoot’s company released the first twin-tip freestyle board. Three, the possibility of heliboarding made its debut in the Burton film, "Winter Waves".

The competition scene was growing rapidly too. Europe followed North America’s comp craze and began to host World Championships in Italy and Switzerland. The industry as a whole was thinking globally, and snowboard associations across the world began to form and come together. The result was the World Cup tour, a worldwide snowboard event brought together by a collaboration of athletes and manufacturers.

On the media side of things, the temptation to snowboard grew among the public. Niche publications appeared as Transworld SNOWboarding Magazine and Snowboarder Magazine printed their first issues, while in the mainstream media, Wrigley’s chewing gum televised a snowboard commercial featuring Craig Kelly, Bert LaMar, Tom Burt, and Jim Zellers.

Snowboarding had well and truly established itself in the realm of boardsports. It seemed like there was nowhere to go but up. Snowboarders had wall-to-wall shelves of product to choose from, from pro models to the new, much hyped step-in bindings to DaKine heli packs.

For pro riders, it was an incredible year of progression. Peter Line and the steeze-setting Forum crew hit the scene with baggy pants, bandanas and all. Johan Olofsson’s part in TB5 re-defined what was thought possible in the big-mountain environment of Alaska, pulling technical freestyle moves on exposed faces and completing an amazing 3,000-foot (914 meters) straightline descent down a 50-degree face in 35 seconds flat. In Europe, Ingemar Backman’s backside air at Riksgransen, Sweden, was a record-breaking 7.5 meters (24 feet) out the quarter pipe.


All of the 1998 hype, media light, ups and downs of snowboarding can be pinpointed to one event – the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. First, world number one Terje Haakonsen refuses to compete. In his mind, a mainstream event demanding national symbolism through teams created by skiing’s governing body just doesn’t fit with snowboarding’s philosophy.

Next, Ross Rebagliati gets stripped of his giant slalom gold medal after his drug test reveal traces of marijuana in his circulatory system. Rebagliati gets his gold back, but it’s too late – the media sends his story of sensi smoking to the masses, and that’s what was, and always will be, remembered.

On the plus side, Gian Simmen and Nicola Thost were the first gold medal winners in halfpipe. For women, Thost’s run broadcasted to the world, literally, that the level of female snowboarding was on the rise. Women’s snowboarding proceeds to grow in popularity, and to this day it’s still one of the fastest growing markets in the industry.

It’s the 21st century, and Aspen Mountain in Colorado finally opens its slopes to snowboarders. Coincidentally, one year later Aspen Ski Resorts signs a seven-year contract to host ESPN’s Winter X Games. It’s a good example of just how much snowboarding transformed itself from winter sports outcast to respectable sport with a hugely marketable image.

The sense to steer clear of mainstream pull, however, remains strong. Terje’s Arctic Challenge is created, and under his watchful eye, riders come together to develop their own style of competition in the far north of Norway. The makings of a more independently-rooted contest series is underway, and a year later the Ticket To Ride (TTR) snowboarding tour will be founded – a non-profit organization pulling together a global network of independent events, dedicated to taking back snowboarding from the clutches of the international ski federation.

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