The History of Snowboarding
Snowboarding went from being a child's game to an Olympic sport in just 65 years.
Many names come up when discussing the history of snowboarding. No one can say who invented the first snowboard because many people had designed prototypes without even realizing it. Many of the first snowboards were just simple toys used on back yard hills. The first known idea of a snowboard came about in 1929.
A man named M. J. Burchett used clothesline, horse reins, and a plank of wood to create his version of the snowboard. More than 30 years later, in 1965, a chemical engineer named Sherman Poppen made a toy for his daughter called The Snurfer. His prototype consisted of two skis bound by rope in front for stability. Word got around and soon The Snurfer was a licensed product, but it was only seen as a toy for kids.
Jake Burton, the most famous person in snowboarding history, came across The Snurfer one day while at a small ski competition organized by Burchett. He took interest in the new toy and used it during his free time while attending college. During that time, a man named Dimitrije Milovich had started making his own boards based on a combination of the surfboard and skis. He called his invention the Winterstick. Milovich was the first person to publicize his idea via newspapers and magazines as snowboarding slowly took shape.
In 1980, Milovich left the snowboarding business behind while Jake Burton, who had just graduated from college, moved to Vermont with the idea of The Snurfer still fresh in his mind. He began building boards for extra income. The first were made of laminated hardwood and he used one while at a local Snurfer competition. The crowd was shocked by Burton’s amazing win and everyone wanted to know what kind of board he was using. The key to his win was two foot straps that we know today as bindings. These foot bindings added the magic touch by allowing Burton to better control the board, giving him more speed. Other prototypes made from skateboard decks, wood, and aluminum soon followed, but it was Burton who introduced a P-tex base bringing ski technology to snowboards.
The same year Burton's idea took off, a man named Tom Sims signed a deal with a large sports company to make his own prototype. With the boards produced by both Burton and Sims, the first National Snowboard race was held in 1982 in Vermont. By 1985, about 40 ski areas allowed snowboards. Later that year, a mainstream snowboarding magazine called Absolutely Radical was published, sending snowboarding’s popularity sky rocketing around the world.
In 1994, snowboarding was declared an Olympic sport. Snowboarders were finally accepted as real athletes, and the thought that snowboarding was just a fad disappeared. Today, Burton is a household name in the snowboarding world, and has a following of over six million people. Other snowboarders like Shannon Dunn, Terje Haakenson, Craig Kelly, Leslie McKenna, Todd Richards, and Shaun White will go down in the record books for helping to break down barriers and make snowboarding what it is today.