Just as snowboarding has a long and intriguing history, so does the nature of snowboards themselves. Prepare for a very interesting history lesson…
Perhaps the first thing even resembling a modern snowboard was created by Michigan engineer Sherman Poppen in 1965, when he fastened two skis together to create a new toy for his daughter. Poppen licensed the concept of the ‘snurfer’ (combining snow and surfer) to a company which sold about a million snurfers in the following decade. Later, in 1977, Jake Burton Carpenter founded what would eventually become the world’s largest snowboarding company, Burton Snowboards.
There are all kinds of ways that the design and technology of snowboards have proceeded to develop since 1965. In the 1960s, Tom Sims, a big skateboarding fan, created a snowboard in his school shop class through attaching carpet to the top and aluminium sheeting to the bottom of a piece of wood. He went on to found snowboards manufacturer Sims Snowboards. Later, in 1979, Jake Burton Carpenter won the first snowboarding competition, as the sole entrant, with a snowboard of his own unique and controversial design.
Partly driving the development of the various snowboard designs has been the emergence of various different snowboarding styles and terrain types. This has prompted the rise of all sorts of new jargon which could leave snowboarding novices frankly terrified… if only at first! One such word is ‘sidecut’, which merely describes the arcing curve that runs from the tip to the tail of the snowboard edge. As this curve’s deepness defines how the board turns, snowboarders purchasing a new board tend to pay particular attention to the nature of any board’s sidecut.
Many snowboards seen in sports stores today fall into one or two of a few broad categories.
Otherwise known as carving, alpine or race boards, these are narrower than freestyle and freeride boards, as they are designed for achieving high speeds and making clean turns. They look almost like an enlarged ski, and tend to have a shovel on the nose. They are generally best for thoroughly experienced snowboarders.
These snowboards have a very specific design, due to the unique array of tricks that can be performed during freestyle snowboarding. For instance, freestyle snowboards are usually twin-tipped for the sake of balance, while frequently jibbing freestyle snowboarders often prefer slightly shorter snowboards with softer flex and filed down edges. Reverse camber boards, better known as rocker boards, are most often used as freestyle boards due to their softer flex.
These kind of snowboards are often more directional and medium-stiff than usual. The medium-stiffness is to help the snowboarder maintain high stability in deeper snow and at higher speeds, since free-ride snowboarding can involve traversing a huge diversity of snowy terrain, including ice and deep powder.
Burton Snowboards, one of the world’s most successful snowboard manufacturers, produce a huge variety of snowboards for sale throughout the world. These fall into three categories: freeride, freestyle, and park. The last of the three includes snowboards intended for freestyle disciplines like half-pipe and park. The history of company founder Jake Burton Carpenter’s involvement in manufacturing snowboards can be dated back to 1977, when he wowed crowds at a Michigan competition with a modified version of the ‘snurfer’, where his feet were secured to the board using bindings.
So, as you can see, snowboard designs and technology have developed to a remarkable extent in the last few decades. This is just testament to the real variety and flexibility of snowboarding, both as a professional sport and humble pastime.
This article originally appeared on snowboard.ltd.uk.