“This is the college diploma I never got,” said Pete Saari after he and Mike Olson, founders of Mervin Manufacturing, Lib Tech Snowboards, Gnu Snowboards, and Bent Metal Bindings, were awarded Tranny Awards.

The Tranny Award is presented by TransWorld Media each year at the Annual Snowboarding Industry Conference And Powderquest to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the snowboarding industry. It has been awarded to Sherman Poppen, Jake Burton, Tom Sims, Chuck Barfoot, and Chris and Bev Sanders.

“It’s like Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” said Mike Olson, describing the story of his and Saari’s snowboarding life. Olson said that like the movie characters, they were two goofy guys who got the princesses at the end of the story–referring to their wives who are both expecting babies in the near future.

Indeed, Olson was quick to point out that just about the whole Mervin organization has been comprised of goofy people–goofy-footed that is. He listed team riders and employees including the likes of Mike Ranquet, Jamie Lynn, Dave Lee, Paul Ferrel, Dave Lee, Barret Christy, and even Quiksilver’s President Bob McKnight and Sales Manager Danny Kwock. (Quiksilver bought Mervin in August of 1997.)

But things weren’t always so good for the two. Olson told a story of how they were so poor in the early years that they became regulars at the local K-mart cafeteria, home of the $1.99 all-you-could-eat chicken lunch.

Olson began building boards in the late 70s, with Saari joining him at Gnu in 1984. After bowing out of Gnu, starting Lib Tech, reacquiring Gnu, and building the combined Mervin Manufacturing up to a fifteen-million-dollar business, the award seemed appropriate for the two guys who have worked so hard to keep snowboarding pure. The evening also included a slide show of vintage personal photos, early Gnu and Lib Tech action shots, and the ever-controversial, whimsical advertisements from the company.

–John Stouffer