The first recorded origins of snowboarding date back to 1965, though it wasn’t until the 1980s that it started to become what we know of snowboarding today.
In 1965, a man called Sherman Poppen pieced together what is regarded to be the first snowboard – or at least the beginning of the idea of snowboarding. Essentially all he did was join two skis together – so not exactly rocket science, and though he is the first to be recognized I do wonder if others had tried this before but not documented it.
Initially this wasn’t dubbed a snowboard but was instead called a “snurfer” – essentially a play on saying a surfboard for snow.
It was said to be inspired from skiing, skateboarding, surfing and sledding.
The Snurfer became popular with Sherman Poppen’s daughter’s and their friends and this lead to Poppen licensing the idea to Brunswick Corporation to start making Snurfers commercially.
Snurfing in the Early Days
Snurfing competitions started to arise, with Poppen organizing the first official one in 1968 in Michigan.
Snurfing wouldn’t be usurped by snowboarding for more than a decade. Yet if you’re like me you’ve probably never heard of it or know very little about it. It was only researching for this article that alerted my attention to it!
And yet over a million Snurfers were sold in the 1960s.
Was the Snurfer anything like a Modern-Day Snowboard?
For starters, it didn’t have bindings.
And it didn’t have the same kind of shape that we associate with snowboards these days – it was more like a thin sled with a raised nose, straight sides and a rope to hold onto.
It didn’t have the curved side-cut that we associate with snowboards today and was a flat base – no camber or rocker or anything like that.
The Beginnings of the Modern Snowboard
In 1977 Jake Burton, founder of Burton snowboards, appeared at a snurfing competition with a snurfer that he had attached bindings to, to hold his feet on.
This was perhaps the first modern snowboard appearance.
By the start of the 1980’s snowboarding was taking over from snurfing and official snowboard competitions were starting to emerge.
New manufacturers started to emerge and that competition pushed new innovations.
Snowboarding wasn’t initially very popular as it was seen as too expensive – and a lot of ski resorts banned snowboards – so finding somewhere to snowboard was tricky.
In the mid 80s less than 10% of ski resorts allowed snowboarding in Europe and North America but by the end of the 80s it was becoming more accepted – all be it that in a lot of ski resorts there were separate slopes specifically for snowboarders – and often snowboarders had to pass a skills assessment!
Enter the 1990s
By the end of the 1980s snowboarding was starting to become popular and during the 90s it’s popularity started to really ramp up.
Competitions like the iconic Winter X games began, and snowboarding became an Olympic sport for the first time at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. However, it wouldn’t be until 2014 in Sochi, that snowboarding became a Paralympic sport.
The first Olympics for snowboarding in 1998 featured Men’s and Women’s halfpipe and Men’s and Women’s Giant Slalom. Today those events still take place with the addition of Bordercross (debuting at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy), Slopestyle (debuting at the 2014 Sochi Olympics), Parallel Slalom (debuting at the 2014 Sochi Olympics) and Big Air (debuting at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
The New Millennium
More manufacturers entered the market more and better innovations started coming into the manufacturing of snowboards, bindings and boots.
Snowboarding has come a long way since it’s snurfing days, and with all the developments in manufacturing technology and with the popularity it has gained, there have been a huge number of styles of snowboarding developed including, freestyle, freeriding, carving, racing, slalom, boardercross, etc.
With every (as far as I know) resort now allowing snowboarding and with a good majority of them (from my experience) having a good mix of terrain for whatever style you prefer (or if you’re like me want to try it all!) – no matter what kind of thrills you’re into, snowboarding can provide them!
And it all started with a Dad inventing a toy for his daughters!
If you have any other interesting facts about the history of snowboarding feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.