It was 1983–I’ll never forget sitting in the library, the first week of class my freshman year in high school, and seeing the ad in SKI magazine. It was a photo of Jake Burton doing a frontside air on a blue-based Performer on some golf course hit in Vermont. I secretly tore out the quarter-page ad, stuffed it in my pocket, and ran home to show Joe and my mom what I wanted for Christmas that year.
Christmas came that snowy Wisconsin winter day, and after all of our presents were open, Joe and I spotted one last box tucked far behind the family tree. I remember Joe tearing away at the wrapping paper and screaming with excitement as he rushed out the door with a bright red Burton Performer under his arm. The snowboard we shared that winter not only marked a pivotal moment in our careers, but also a partnership that has extended beyond the ties of brotherhood.
Since that Christmas morning, I have followed Joe’s snowy footprints from a Wisconsin ski hill to nearly every major ski resort in the world. Being an exceptional athlete, Joe quickly progressed. He entered competitions throughout the Midwest and always won. We traveled west to Breckenridge for the 1987 Swatch World Cup, wearing our “Storm Shorts” and Vision Streetwear. Before that trip, no one had ever heard of the kid rider from Wisconsin who gracefully carved his way down the halfpipe. But by 1988 he had become a sponsored rider moving on to win the 1989 U.S. Open Junior Overall title, instantly becoming a “Burton boy.”
The accomplishments and memories could go on and on, but it’s Joe’s passion and timeless devotion to snowboarding that makes his story exceptional. Joe will still ride in the worst of conditions, day in and day out, each and every chance he gets throughout the winter and summer months.
Joe and I grew up riding together and documenting our riding through snowboard photography. His patience and support of my learning process has allowed me to reach the professional level I’ve attained. The photos featured in magazines around the world create a visual scrapbook of our days on the snow. (Mom has just about every magazine saved and dog-eared.) I’ve had my best days freeriding with Joe. He is by far my favorite and most successful rider to shoot, even to this day. Joe’s smooth and effortless riding style is simply an extension of his easy-going, open-minded, and optimistic personality.
Today, besides just getting engaged to longtime girlfriend Ursula Nygaard (who he met back in ’88), Joe is probably on the snow at Mt. Hood, riding his Kawasaki KX 250 or his Harley, or windsurfing at the gorge. He spends most of his energy working for Burton in hardgoods development now, taking the years of experience he has gained as a professional rider and turning it into making better products. Joe’s dedication to snowboarding continues to make him the best at whatever he tries.