Snow Snurfing

National Snowboard Championships at Suicide Six.jpg

It all started when...

Snowboarding is so engrained as a winter pastime, it is hard to believe that the sport has only been around since the 1960s. The first boards were actually called "snurfer," a contraction of the words "snow surfers." The first snurfer was invented by Sherm Poppen who, on Christmas Day, 1965, fastened two skis together as a way to entertain his children. These ski surf boards- which combined elements of skiing, surfing, and skateboarding- quickly caught on, and soon other inventors were enhancing the original design to create their own version of the boards. One such entrepreneur/enthusiast was Jake Burton Carpenter. Jake, who lived in Vermont, went on to found Burton Snowboards- the largest snowboarding brand in the world.

Another influential figure in early snowboarding was Paul Graves. In 1979, Paul and his wife, Denise, moved to Woodstock, Vermont, and opened a snow surfer and redwood furniture shop on Elm Street, above the Shire Apothecary (now Vermont Flannel Company). At this time, snow boarders were not allowed at many ski areas. In a desire to raise the visibility and respectability of the sport and bring together top snow surfers from all over the country, Graves decided to organize a national championship event. In 1982, his vision came to fruition with the first "real" national snow surfing championship. The event was held at Suicide Six, just outside of Woodstock, in the town of Pomfret. Under the auspices of Woodstock's Winter Carnival, this first championship event had about 130 contestants. Phil Camp- well known in local ski and winter sports circles- helped to promote the event.

Graves shared recollections of that first championship in an article written by Jack Degange for Woodstock Magazine. According to Degange, "as the event was about to begin, Graves realized something important was missing: a starting gate. The solution: He ran home and returned with his kitchen table. They turned the table, face down, and covered it with snow...[so] only the metal legs were exposed. Those metal legs became the starting gate."

From these humble beginnings, snowboarding has become an Olympic sport which is now enjoyed by millions of people.