Since the invention of the snowboard in the 1960s, the popularity of the sport has increased massively. So, where did all begin? What came first the chicken or the egg, the skateboard or the snowboard? Well…
In its early stages known as a ‘snurfer’ (snow-surfer), the snowboard was basically a board, without bindings, and a hand-held rope. Originally invented by Sherman Poppen, the ‘snurfer’ would be recognised as the first type of snowboard.
Marketed as ‘The thrills of skiing! The skills of surfing!’, snowboarding began with the arrival of Brunswick’s Snurfer. Snurf was the word, selling a million snurfboards at $10-30 between 1966 – 1976.
Combining the styles of surfing, skiing and skateboarding, snowboarding gained massive popularity during the 1970s. During this period, the style of the board used also changed from the ‘snurfer’ to a board more similar to those used today.
Pioneers of the modern snowboard include Tom Sims and Jake Burton Carpenter. Sims is sometimes credited with the invention of the contemporary snowboard which led Burton Carpenter to produce an advanced design made from bentwood laminate with foot bindings.
The modern snowboard is born.
The 1980s arrive and snowboarding receives its first national recognition with the World Championship half-pipe competition starting in 1983. Two years later and the first snowboard world cup takes place in Austria, following its recognition as on official sport.
Despite its emergence on the winter sports scene, snowboarding failed to integrate successfully into the recreational ski areas. This was largely affected by many ski resorts refusing to allow snowboarders onto the pistes. In 1985, only 7% of US ski resorts accepted snowboarding, with a similar figure on European mountains.
With the improvement of the snowboard design and its increased popularity on the recreational scene, snowboarding gradually gained acceptance with both the resorts and many of the skiing community. This has seen the figure of 7% rise to 97% of US and European resorts allowing snowboarding on their slopes.
It is thought that there are currently five to seven million active snowboarders in the world. Most of these are in their late teens/early twenties with approximately 75% being male, although female snowboarders are becoming more frequently seen on the slopes.
The most famous names in modern snowboarding are Shaun Palmer and Olympic Gold Medallist Shaun White. Both have endorsed popular snowboarding computer games and have multiple sponsorship deals, testament to the level of popularity that snowboarding has as a sport and recreational/social event.
So, what does the future hold for snowboarding? When I post The History of Snowboarding Part II in a good few years, I will hope to answer that question.