Skulls, crossbones, flames, gargoyles, and an overall prevailing evilness has slowly crept back into the snowboard scene, as seen on board graphics throughout the Las Vegas SIA Show. The Hessian revival is back, led by Nitro and Santa Cruz Snowboard lines, but can also be seen creeping in such mainsteam brands as K2, Burton, and Rossignol.

Is devil worshipping back? Are we going to see pagen virgin sacrafics at snowboard contests? Or is it just a reaction to the pop culture dominating the scene right now?

“Snowboarding was becoming so homogenous, with focus groups making sure the graphics are applying to all demographics,” says Mike Dawson, Nitro’s designer. In years past, we didn’t want to piss people off. But the inspiration for our graphics comes from the team. And so much comes from Tonino Copene. He said, ‘Let’s do some death and destruction,’ so we did.”

“The team has taken inspiriation from skateboarding and lines like Black Label and Zero,” he says. “This is who we are. I’m a huge metal fan. It seemed like in the past, if you weren’t down with hip hop, you’d deny it because that’s what was cool.”

Although he says the reception to the graphics have been overwhelmingly positive from retailers, he admits that the teamriders and company doesn’t want to push it too far. “There’s a fine line,” says Dawson. “You can get gnarly. There’s certain point, with all the violence and shootings at schools. We’re not trying to inspire violence, but do it in a cool, horror-film way, but not like a slasher film. It’s definitely something the team thinks about it when we’re coming up with the graphics.”

For Lamar, embracing the heavy-metal rock-band image was a way for the brand to get back to its Southern California, skateboard roots. “But with our price-point boards that are supposed to appeal to more people, we’ve definitely made the graphics more mainstream,” says Lamar Marketing Director Mike Tadgel. “At the higher end, we’ve gone tougher because you set the image of the line with that product.”

Also heading back to its skateboard history is Santa Cruz Snowboards. With tons of flames and skulls, its designs draw directly from some of the more memorable skateboard graphics ever produced. “This is what people expect from Santa Cruz,” says Santa Crus Product Manager Brett Sigur. “Now we’re doing it and it’s been received well. I think this has been a reaction against all that hip-hop yo shit that’s been out there several years.”

¿John Stouffer