The History of Snowboarding

The pure arc of a snowboard turn can make riders feel like part of a hundred-year-old tradition. However, most of us have watched snowboarding spring up before our very eyes, and the early origins of this young sport can only be traced back as far as the 1960's.

Sherman Poppen is most often credited with inventing the snowboard in 1965. As the story goes, Poppen fixed two skis together for his daughter to "surf" down the snowy hill outside their Michigan home. Combining the words "snow" and "surf", the new invention became the Snurfer, and went into production the following year. (Scroll to the right of this picture to see what Snurfers looked like.)

Over the next decade, early pioneers like Jake Burton, Demetrije Milovich and Tom Sims created more specialized and refined board designs.

By the early 80's a handful of snowboard brands were on the market, including Burton, Winterstick, Sims, Barfoot, Avalanche and Gnu.

The snowboard craze hit a crescendo in the mid-eighties, sweeping through ski resorts across the US. Along with it came an early "bad boy" image, based largely on the fact that adolescent males (who acted exactly like adolescent males on skis) comprised the majority of snowboarders at the time. A rebel reputation was established and is still prevalent today, despite snowboarding's vast appeal to men and women of all ages.

Some ski resorts banned snowboarding during this early phase but have since come to accept the wildly popular and still growing winter sport. A few resorts are still holding out against all odds, but it seems unlikely that their skier-only policies will last. In the year 2000, snowboarding was the fastest-growing sport in the US (followed by skateboarding) with the number of people who went snowboarding increasing 51.2 percent from the previous year to a total of just over 7.2 million participants. Downhill skiing grew by just six percent, with a total of 14.7 million participants. (Stats are from the fourteenth annual American Sports Data Superstudy of Sports Participation.)

The sport of snowboarding continues to carve its own unique path. Throughout the 80's and 90's, competitions and events such as halfpipe and boardercross became international staples. In 1998, snowboarding debuted in the Olympics in Nagano, Japan with a giant slalom and halfpipe competition, and will return to the Olympics in 2008 in Torino, Italy with the addition of snowboard cross.

In a short 40-year history, snowboarding has cemented itself into the hearts and minds of enthusiasts around the world. According to freethesnow.com, snowboarders currently make up 25% of all winter sport participants, and that number is sure to continue to rise.

 

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