In 2016, there were an estimated 5,275,000 snowboarders in the United States. The sport is most popular with the 12 to 24 age group. While many equate winter sports and snowboarding with the mountains in California, Colorado or Utah, the sport actually began in the unlikeliest of places.
Birth of Snowboarding
In 1963, Tom Sims was determined to find the means of enjoying his skateboard year round. He removed the trucks, attached carpet to the top and aluminum foil to the bottom of the board and sailed along the snow-covered sidewalks of New Jersey.
Two years later in Muskegon, Michigan, Sherman Poppen wanted to create the ideal gift for his daughter. As area youth regularly enjoy sledding down the massive hill behind his home, Poppen invented the Snurfer. Poppen’s creation involved joining to skis side-by-side. He then attached a tow rope to the front of the board to provide his daughter with stability. His invention caught on and in the next decade, more than one million snurfers were sold.
World Snurfing Championships
During the 70s, the sport became so popular that competitions were held in Michigan and other states across the country. By 1979, snurfer Jake Burton Carpenter set out to improve the design. He removed the rope and created a set of bindings. The new design led to an open division of the snurfing competitions. The name of the sport was changed to snowboarding.
One decade later, snowboarding events were regularly held in Colorado, Vermont and Washington. Soon ski resorts across the country began hosting competitions. Snowboard designs continued evolving. In 1983, Jeff Grell created the highback bindings that are still incorporated on snowboards today. Two years later, metal edges became part of the design and boards became suitable to ride on hardpack. By 1986, snowboarding events were taking place across Europe.
The Golden Age
By the 90s, snowboarding became so popular that surfers and skateboarders began participating in the sport. Competition sites developed unique courses complete with obstacles. Gifted athletes kept pushing the envelope and soon introduced various tricks and stunts. In 1993, more than 50 different brands of snowboards were available to consumers. One year later, the company Ride became the first exclusive snowboard company. By now, the board was available in different shapes and equipped with edges and camber to enable riders to conquer a variety of terrains. In 1998, snowboarding became an official Olympic sport at the Japan Nagano competitions.