Snowboarding: Uncover the Thrilling History

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  08.02.2023
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Snowboarding is, of course, a sport that involves riding a snowboard. But there’s SO MUCH MORE to it than just that. The history of snowboarding is also very interesting.

Snowboarding is a recreational activity that involves descending a white snow-covered slope while standing on a snowboard, attached using a special boot set into a mounted binding. The development of snowboarding was inspired by skateboarding, sledding, surfing, and skiing n the US in the 1960s.

Let’s look at everything in more detail.

What is snowboarding

What’s the Deal with Snowboarding?

A Brief History

Snowboarding has been around since the 1920s, when people would strap wooden planks to their feet with clotheslines and horse reins to get down hills. Fast forward to 1965, when an engineer in Michigan named Sherman Poppen invented a toy for his daughter by attaching two skis together and adding a rope for steering. That’s when modern snowboarding was born!

Types of Snowboarding

  • Freeriding: This is when you ride wherever you want, usually on big peaks. You can also add freestyle elements to it.
  • Freestyle: This is when you do tricks in terrain parks, backcountry, or urban environments.
  • Half Pipe: This is when you do tricks while riding a massive U-shaped snow feature at high speeds. It was popularized by the last four Olympics.
  • Boardercross/Race: This is when you race down a course of jumps, berms, etc. It’s an Olympic sport, but it’s having a hard time attracting younger riders.

Snowboarding for Everyone

Snowboarding is for everyone! Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, you can find a way to enjoy it. So grab your board, your boots, and your clothesline (just kidding!) and hit the slopes!

The National Craze

The Snurfer was a hit and soon the Brunswick Corporation, a sports equipment manufacturer, got in on the action and started producing and distributing the boards nationwide. Local Michigan Snurfer competitions began to pop up in the late 1960s and spread out to national competitions in the 70s. By the end of the 70s, over a million Snurfers had been sold!

The Modern Snowboard

In 1975, surfer Dimitrije Milovich’s new snowboard, the “Winterstick,” caught the attention of Newsweek magazine. This fanfare inspired more refinements and the first snowboard companies, such as Burton Snowboards (founded by Jake Burton Carpenter), Sims Snowboards (founded by skateboarder Tom Sims), and Barfoot Snoboards (founded by surfer Chuck Barfoot). These companies organized the first official snowboard competitions, like the National Snow Surfing Championships (held in South Pomfret, Vermont in 1982) and the first world championship halfpipe competition (held in Soda Springs, California in 1983).

Snowboarding Goes Mainstream

Snowboarding was gaining popularity, but it wasn’t until 1985 when Tom Sims stood in as Roger Moore’s stunt double for the snowboarding scenes in the James Bond movie A View to a Kill that the sport really started to take off. But even then, few U.S. ski resorts allowed snowboarders on their hills. The few that did required riders to pass a competency test before they were allowed on the slopes.

The Skateboarding Influence

At the same time, snowboarding was attracting a lot of attention from the skateboarding community. The grunge- and hip-hop-inspired style of dress of the typical snowboarder was a far cry from the garb of the traditional skier. Snowboarding was becoming the cool thing to do!

The 70s

The 70s saw the snowboard evolve with the help of surfer Dimitrije Milovich. He created new models of the snowboard, including the short-board, and even founded the first snowboarding company, Winterstick. Jake Burton Carpenter then came along and improved the design of the snowboard, adding footsteps and fins for stability. This led to the first National snowboarding competition in Michigan.

The 80s and Beyond

The 80s saw snowboarding competitions become more popular and the first Snowboarding World Cup was held in Zurs, Austria. Unfortunately, only 39 out of 600 ski resorts in the United States allowed snowboarders to use their resorts. But, things were looking up when the splitboard was invented and the International Snowboarding Association (ISA) was founded. Snowboarding made its debut in the X games and then in the Winter Olympics in 1998. Finally, in 2002, the International Ski Federation (FIS) became the head snowboarding association and the ISA was defunded. Today, more than 8.1 million people in the United States participate in snowboarding.

Who Invented Snowboarding?

Sherman Poppen is the one to thank for snowboarding! On Christmas Day in 1965, he wanted to give his daughters a fun way to ride down the snowy hills of Michigan, so he came up with the idea of binding two skis together. He named it the ‘snurfer’ by combining the words surfer and snow. He later got a patent and sold millions of snowboards, and he continued to snowboard and inspire others to try the sport.

Where Did Snowboarding Start?

It all started in Muskegon, Michigan! After the snowboard was patented, it was sold all over the US. Soon, competitions were popping up all over the place, from Leadville, Colorado to Woodstock, Vermont to Mount Baker, Washington. Snowboarding was officially here to stay!


Skateboarding Vs Snowboarding

Skateboarding and snowboarding may look similar, but they have some major differences. For starters, skateboards rely on their trucks to turn, while snowboards have sharp edges that carve into the snow. This gives you a totally different feel when you’re riding. Plus, since you’re not on concrete, you won’t get much resistance when you’re snowboarding. When it comes to stance and balance, skateboards and snowboards are similar (especially longboards), but snowboarders have their feet strapped into bindings, which makes balancing a bit different. Learning to ride a skateboard is harder than snowboarding, but it’s cheaper and more accessible. As far as tricks go, many snowboard tricks are inspired by skateboarding, so there’s some crossover there. In the end, skateboarding and snowboarding both require balance and stance, and you can transfer your skills from one to the other.

Snowboarding Vs Surfing

Snowboarding and surfing are two very different sports, despite their similarities. Snowboarders rely entirely on land and snow, while surfers need water and waves. Snowboarders typically start standing up, while surfers start lying down and need to pop up to get into a standing position. Snowboarders are usually more front footed, while surfers need to be able to move their feet in order to adapt to the wave. Snowboarding is done in the mountains, requiring a snowy decline, while surfing is done in the ocean, needing swells and tides. Plus, snowboarders use bindings to strap their feet to the board, while surfers’ feet are completely free. So, if you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled adventure, you can’t go wrong with either snowboarding or surfing – just make sure you know which one you’re getting into!


Snowboarding is an exciting winter sport that has basically been around since the 1920s, although people didn’t call it snowboarding yet. It’s had an AMAZING evolution from the days of tying planks to your feet with clotheslines to the modern Olympic sport we know today.

From freeriding to freestyle to half pipe and boardercross, you can find something to suit your style. So, grab your board and hit the slopes – just don’t forget your SNOW-sense!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Kauai Surf Report is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new sports with everything surfing at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2019 to help loyal readers with surfing and water sporting tips.