History of Snowboarding
by Dan [January 9, 2007]
Snowboarding became popular only in the last 15 years. It was pioneered in the late 70's by a small group including Jake Burton Carpenter, Chuck Barfoot, and Tom Sims. Most of these pioneers now have their own snowboard companies, with Jake Burton's company (Burton) being the largest snowboard manufacturer in the world. All of the early pioneers were heavily influenced by surfboarding.
The roots really start with the snurfer, that sled hill toy you may have ridden as a kid, shaped like a small water ski with a rope tied to the nose and a rough surface for traction from the centre to the back where you stood. Sherman Poppin was the inventor of the snurfer which first appeared in the 1960s. As it turns out Jake Burton was involved in snurfer racing, a gag event put on by a group of bored college students. Well, he got the bright idea to put a foot retention device (little more than a strap at first) on his boards and began to win these events hands down. At about this same time several other people were busy inventing the sport. Jeff Grell is credited with designing the first highback binding. Demetre Malovich started Winterstick, which didn't make it financially. He introduced several important factors early on in the sport like swallowtail designs, and laminated construction.
Boots evolved from Sorels (TM) or Sno-pac type boots. Early "snowboard" boots were Sorel shells with ski boot type bladders. It was obvious that these early boots did not supply adequate support for the ankle and inhibited control of the boards. The first hard-shell "snowboard" boots were in fact ski boots. It didn't take long for the first true hard-shell boot to be produced before the end of the eighties.
Burton set up shop at Stratton Mountain in Vermont and by 1985 had incorporated steel edges and high-back bindings into his designs. The metal edges allowed use at regular ski resorts and the rest is hiss-toe-ree. In 1985 only 7 percent of U.S. ski areas allowed snowboards; today more than 97 percent do and over half have half pipes.