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The Origins of Snowboarding

The first snowboard cut through the snow in the late 1920s when M.J. "Jack" Burchett carved out a rectangle of plywood and tied his feet to it with a clothesline. Not much snow was cut that day. The next stage of the evolution of the snowboard didn't take place until about forty years later. On a Christmas morning in Michigan in 1929, an engineer called Sherman Popper wanted to make a fun toy for his daughter to play in the snow with. He tied two skies together; it was called the Snurfer, a combination of the words snow and surfer. By 1966 about a million Snurfers had been sold across America. At this stage it was still a toy for children, it bore little similarity to the snowboards of today. The next stage in the snowboard's evolution took place in 1970. A surfer from the East Coast, Dimitrije Milovich had gotten an idea after sliding down snow-covered hills on cafeteria trays, when in college in New York. What if you could combine the skill of surfing with the thrill of sliding down hard surfaces, the way a surfboard slides down the surface of the wave? He developed and began to sell the Winterstick. It was written up in Newsweek magazine and the shape of today's modern snowboard was born. The first bindings that bear a similarity to the ones used to today were invented by Jack Burton Carpenter in 1977. He had been snurfing since the age of 14. He went on to found Burton Snowboards in Vermont, one of the biggest snowboard companies to this day. From the late 1970s onwards, snowboard design improved in leaps and bounds. The World Snurfing Championship was held at Pando Winter Sports Park in Michigan. When Burton tried to enter with his snowboard design, he got a hard time from the championship organisers. Other contestants were complaining that he was entering with a non-snurf board. In the end the organisers relented and opened up a separate category for non-snurf boards. Burton won it; he was the only entrant to that category. By this stage, snowboarding was still finding it difficult to become recognised as a sport apart from skiing. Snowboarders had a reputation for being overly boisterous and rebellious. There were about 600 ski resorts in America and only 39 of these allowed snowboarding. In 1982, the first snowboard race was held in Suicide Six near Woodstock, Vermont. The race was down a steep icy downhill run called The Face. Burton won the race, and this time he had a few more people to compete against. It could be said that snowboarding first gained legitimacy from the world of winter sports in 1987, when the Professional Ski Instructors of America published a snowboard instructor's manual. By standardising the methods of teaching snowboarding, the sport of snowboarding was opened up to many more people. The sport grew even faster, snowboarders got better and better, and the general public became aware of this exciting new sport. By the 1990s, most ski resorts had accepted the popularity of the snowboard and opened up separate slopes specifically designed for snowboarding. From their inauspicious beginnings in the 1920s to the rise of the Snurfer, to Burton's first snowboard designs, the snowboard has had a long and varied history. Today, snowboarding continues to increase in popularity throughout the world, with more people of every age and gender strapping on their first board each year.