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Part One. It's a winter day in Michigan, Christmas, 1965. Sherman Poppen remembers, "My wife was pregnant and told me I had to do something to get my two daughters out of the house or she was going to go crazy. When I looked at that hill, I thought why not?" Having previously watched his daughter's frustrated efforts to stand up on their sleds, Poppen hit the workshop. He bolted two skis together, attached a rope to the nose and a leather strap to fit over the rider's shoes. The "Snurfer" was born.

The Beginning. The snowboard started as a simple idea, so it's not surprising that there is some question about who got there first. M.J. Jack Burchett built a rudimentary snowboard way back in 1929 and Tom Sims made a plywood version in 1963 (this board is now in the Colorado Snowboard and Ski Museum in Vail, CO).

However, the Snurfer was the first commercial product made available to the public. Patented in 1966, Poppen licensed his invention to the Brunswick Corporation and it was mass-produced for sale at sporting goods and toy stores around the country.

The 70s

The first Snurfer contest was held in 1968 and became an annual tradition for the next ten years. In 1975, Jake Burton Carpenter entered the competition with a board of his own design. It was longer, wider, and had a binding. To accommodate him, a special category was created. By 1979, he had started making boards out of fiberglass and went on to found Burton Snowboards (, now the largest snowboard company in the world.

Chuck Barfoot developed a fiberglass prototype as well, in 1978. He went on to design boards for Tom Sims, who had by that time founded Sims Snowboards.

As a lead-up to this fast and furious development of the late 70's, Dimitrije Milovich, an east-coast surfer, was developing snowboards earlier in the decade, incorporating the design and function of both surfboards and traditional skis. He and his patented "Winterstick" were featured in a Newsweek article in 1975.

The 80s

The 1980s brought an explosion of both technical advances and popular recognition to snowboarding. Steel edges were introduced and Jeff Grell developed high-back bindings to improve control on hard-packed snow.

In 1985, Tom Hsieh launched the first magazine exclusively for snowboarders, called "Absolute Radical". Six months later, he changed the name to International Snowboarding Magazine, both to counteract the burgeoning "radical" image of snowboarding and to better represent international riders.

Next: The Olympics, The Battle, The Victory


Sandy Olkowski was a Senior Editor at withitgirl.

Maya Hayuk is the Photo Editor at withitgirl. Thanks to Juice Design.

2021 Notes:

We are looking forward to updating this article soon! in the meantime here are few links.

10 of the Best Female Snowboarders: Past/Present (2019)

7 Badass Women who changed Snowboarding forever (2014)

Snowboarding Wikipedia

FROM THE WITHITGIRL ARCHIVE: Story by Jessie Cohen + Sandy Olkowski and Photos by Maya Hayuk

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