Snowsurf Through Japan with Gentem Stick and a Heavy Crew | Extended Gallery

On the North Island of Japan there a is place often referred to as the “Powder Kingdom”. This almost mystical snow paradise is the birthplace and home of the famed Gentemstick snowboard shapes and also where our trip began. Photos/Captions: Andrew Miller
Mt Yotei or Ezo Fuji is an active volcano sitting as a proud landmark, and to many a holy grail of the area.
The chances to get Yotei on a clear stable day in January is pretty rare. The boys starting the trek to the top.
4.5 hrs and almost 6,000 vertical feet later Forrest Shearer, Ken and Waji reach the the highest summit in the region.
Local Gentem disciple Waji­san cloud surfing off the crater of Mt Yotei.
Surf and snow legends Taro Tamai and Gerry Lopez taking the new generation into the Japanese backcountry for their first time.
I foresee a great future abundant of deep powder for the young gentem snow shark crew. These kids have no idea yet of how lucky they are to have experiences like this so early on.
In these parts this man needs no introduction. Taro Tamai founder of Gentemstick, avid surfer with a deep philosophy of connection with natural elements between oneself and the contact between humans and earth through snow and surf.
One of the best turns on the planet, Taro Tamai floats effortlessly through his backyard.
Japan is a hard place to get guys to stop and shoot especially on ripping resort days. Best solution is slap on the old fisheye and try to keep up. Alex Yoder leading with Forrest Shearer hot on his heels through the famous Mowia trees.
Local temple in the Kingdom, Aki and surf shaper Chris Christenson giving thanks to the god of Yuki.
A tall, strong and powerful figure around these parts, Osamu “Om” Okada has one of the most original styles most have ever seen. Om is a local guide around Niseko and guaranteed has ridden more powder than any of us ever will in our lifetimes.
It’s all about the arms, Om demonstrating the art of the heelside turn.
This is the only “street” snowboarding done around here. Forrest Shearer and Chris Christenson taking the pow surfers out for a stroll.
Forrest Shearer feeling right at home in the Powder Kingdom, binding free on his asmo pow surf.
Full pitted straight into a powder pit. The stoke is alway high around these parts.
Maybe the most recognizable characters around the North Island, Yama­san aka “Orange Man” This guy is the most stoked yogi/snowboarder you will ever meet.
Orange man, hence the name, everything he owns is orange.... even his van. In case you were wondering orange is the color of your 2nd chakra located below your navel. The main energy of this color is creativity and feelings, Orange man exudes plenty of both.
A rare sunset in Hokkaido. Forrest Shearer and Chris Christenson taking it all in after a epic first day testing out the new surf inspired Jones Storm Chaser. This board is based off of one of Chris’s popular twin fin surfboard designs with a 3D surf rocker profile.
Jedi master snowboard tuner “T­Tune” showing his skills in the gentem shaping bay. He is truly a master in every sense in the tuning world. Edges as sharp as samurai swords and the best, fastest base tune you will ever have in your life.
Local Powder Company Guide Mako slicing into the yet another powder day in Niseko backcountry, nothing new for him.
Mako is another awesome local, here sporting the popular Gentem stick Fly Fisk shape.
“Om” showing the perfect heelside groomer turn. Take a minute to look at his style, not a single thing out of place, solid perfect drawn out line never losing any speed or edge. This is so much harder than it looks.
Storm trooping at Annupuri resort with locals Luna Ken and Waji­san.
The crew has the unique ability to make any type of snow look epic. Here Luna Ken speeding through a heelside groomer.
Waji­San floating through the storm.
You know you're in the right zone when surf legend Gerry Lopez is hanging around. Gerry has had the snowboard bug for quite a long time and naturally fits in perfectly with the snow surf movement in Niseko.
Gerry Lopez off the top, getting pitting and out the bottom with his classic surf style.
Om, Forrest, Aki and Chris Christenson moving meditation towards the final objective of the trip.
Chris Christenson laying into his last turn after an epic two weeks in the powder kingdom.
What a trip! Arigato to the whole Gentem crew for the new perspectives, hospitality and insight into the their epic world of snow surfing.

Snowsurf Japan : Extended Photo Collection

Photos/Words: Andrew Miller

This feature originally ran in the November 2015 issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding. This is an updated version with a full gallery and captions by Andrew Miller.

As predawn casts a faint pink glow across the small town of Niesko, nestled on the north Island of Japan, Taro Tamai intently tuned his 167 swallow tail in the Gentem stick show room that doubles as his house. A fresh meter of classic Japan powder dumped overnight and the day has a heavily stacked snow surf crew lined up to hike in a favorite local zone.

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Pro snowboarder Forrest Shearer and legend surfboard shaper Chris Christenson jumped the pond for a three week mission to soak up as much surf snow culture and Japanese inspiration as they could. In the day an age of triple corks, 1620s, snowboarding training camps and Olympics, hanging with the Japanese Gentem crew is like going back in time to another dimension and a much needed breath of fresh air. It seems that this snowsurf revolution has just gained popularity but Taro and his crew have been doing this for the past 20 years and the snowboard industry is just catching up. These guys are all about style, grace, movement and streamline focus on the shape of the spray instead of the size.

As the first rays of sun hit the snow covered tress, I looked around at our crew and was amazed at such a diverse snow surf line up. We had Mr. Pipeline himself Gerry Lopez, Taro Tamai, surf board shaper Chris Christensen, snowsurf movie producer & surf filmer Shane Peel, pro snowboarder Forrest Shearer, local Yama San aka Orange man, Mako a local guide, and Waji and Ken two local Gentem riders all stoked up for an epic day adventure. We spent the day hiking and lapping untracked tree runs laughing and enjoying watching how everybody chose to rip each run. The blended styles of Japanese and American powder turns are very different. For example Forrest preferred more a high speed line cracking a couple turns on his 147 jones storm chaser creating massive powder clouds while Yama San aka "Orange Man" slowly but fluidly drew long lines weaving his way through the trees on his 185cm Gentem impossible wallow tail.

Talking about snowboard shapes with Chris Christenson and Gerry Lopez, whom have both lived and participated in the surfing short board revolution; say that snowboarding is going through the same transition that surfing did many years ago. The days of a one board quiver are gone and people are now opening up to different shapes and sizes. A good quote from Mikey Munoz can be adopted into snowboarding "There are no bad waves/snow, only a poor choice of equipment and a lousy attitude."

Our trip ended on a high note as weather and avalanche conditions allowed us to make the five hour trek up to the local sacred Volcano Mt Yotei topping out above the clouds and taking the longest gully run of our lives.

Ariagato to all the Gentem crew for the hospitality and if you ever get chance to make it out to Niesko I highly recommend stopping by and testing out an original snowsurf board and enjoy expanding your mind!

See this feature in a print issue of the magazine. Snag your copy here.

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