The history of snowboarding

Article posted 04 March 2020

The history of snowboarding

So when did people decide that standing on a single board, going down a mountain was a good idea? Snowboarding is a relatively new sport with a charming back story and a history of rapid growth. Let’s take a look at how it came about.

Popper’s pipedream

Okay, the history of the snowboard is a little murky and there are various claims about who invented what and when. There are reports going back hundreds of years of people travelling down mountains on a single board and we can be fairly sure that someone, somewhere did try it at some point.

However, Sherman Popper is the official hero of our story. He was a Michigan engineer and surf dude who had a dream about riding the snows of the Rocky Mountains in the same way he rode the waves. He built a prototype snowboard as a present for his daughter which was essentially two plastic skis bolted together. He called it the ‘snurfer.’

It was a massive hit with the kids and Sherman realised that he might have a winning product on his hands. He attached a rope to the front and licensed his idea to a company called Brunswick. Over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of snurfers were sold and the sport began its rocket-powered ascent to worldwide acceptance.

So what happened next?

A history of snowboarding since those early days requires the pages of a large book to cover everything. However, here’s a short timeline of snowboarding facts to keep it simple:

1972 – Dimitrije Milovich and his company Winterstick produces the first modern snowboard. The product is mentioned in Newsweek three years later.

1977 – insurance brokers confirm that snowboards are covered under general ski insurance

1978 – Winterstick is now available in 11 different countries

1978 – A fiberglass prototype snowboard is developed by Chuck Barfoot

1979 – The world's first snowboard halfpipe is discovered by Mark Anolik behind the Tahoe City dump

1981 – The first modern snowboard competition is held in Leadville, Colorado

1983 – The first ever World Snowboarding Championships are held at Lake Tahoe

1985 – Absolutely Radical is launched as the first ever snowboard-focused magazine

1986 – The first regional events take place in Europe

1987 – The first snowboarding World Cup is held in the US and Europe

1989 – 75% of ski resorts in America now allow snowboarding

1990 – The International Snowboarding Federation (ISF) is established

1993 – There are now over 50 different brands producing and selling snowboards

1997 – The first X-Games are held in California

1998 – Snowboarding becomes an Olympic sport

1999 – The world speed record for snowboarding is created by Darren Powell: 126.4mph

2001 – Dr Stephan Gatt becomes the first person to snowboard down Mount Everest

2004 – 6.6 million people participated in snowboarding

2014 – Adaptive snowboarding features at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Russia

Snowboarding is here to stay, thanks to Sheman Popper and his daughter. Will you be helping to write the next chapter in its history?

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