One may not typically associate an impactful snowboarding personality with someone who grew up in the motherland of beautiful West Virginia. Typically that’s reserved for those out West or in the North. Josh Zerkel has flipped that assumption upside down and inside out. Josh became a name to know in the WV, MD and Western PA snowboard scene, and once Burton put him on their Knowbuddy program, riders throughout the country took notice of this moonshine-loving rider. Along with being a human who adds style graciously to his riding, Josh also took this opportunity in his career to give back to snowboarding, beginning with the creation of the Oakley Mini Pipe Challenge, which has now grown to be an event that’s hosted by some of the biggest resorts in world. From there Josh has combined the experience of being a team rider and his marketing background to form the basis for his new field marketing position with Burton Snowboards, with the goal of expanding the excitement of snowboarding and supporting our beloved local shops, all while staying true to the roots of snowboarding that we all love. — Dan Hartman
Birthdate: September 14th, 1991
Current Title: Southeast Area Manager
What does your current position in the snowboarding industry entail? Describe a typical day on the job.
So my job is to manage all of Burton's accounts in the Southeast, from West Virginia to Florida. Everything from hard goods to soft goods, sell-in to sell-through, service programs, to marketing support. As I'm typing this I've only been a month into the new role but it's been great! The day-to-day in the summer is spent selling in Burton's spring/summer line, surfing, golfing, biking with shop owners and buyers, getting marketing material ready, and making plans for the fall. We have such a strong crew on the East coast it's been an incredibly easy transition with all the coaching I've been getting.
Where are you from and where do you currently call home?
Upstate NY born, West Virginia raised. Currently living in my hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia. Couldn't be more fortunate to go get to do what I love to do and live where I want to live. People have no idea how rad West Virginia is. Got a lot of love for this place.
How did you start snowboarding?
The classic standing on a sled riding a golf course story. I always had older friends growing up and a lot of them were into riding. I just wanted to do everything they did and they got me hooked.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to work in the snowboard industry?
Throughout college I was fortunate enough to start riding for the Burton KnowBuddy team which gave the chance to get a lot of face time in Burlington, seeing what "the inside" was like, and meeting all the amazing folks at 80 Industrial. From that point I knew it was the right fit for me.
And how did you make that happen?
Right out of school, the job postings at Burton were thin, but I was lucky enough to get tapped for a field-marketing job with Oakley by long-time Seven Springs friend, Dan Hartman. The next 3 years were a crazy train ride crisscrossing the country touching on all the different sports that Oakley was involved with while supporting their key accounts and national events. Snowboarding was a small part of my role, but I was still able to be involved with everything from mountain partnerships and tradeshows to starting the Oakley Mini Pipe Challenge and being a liaison to Snowboarder during Super Park and The Launch. When my time at Oakley came to and end, I left California to come home to West Virginia where I was lucky enough to land this new role inheriting the rep's territory that gave me my first deck when I was 16. Talk about full circle. Big believer that "the harder you work, the luckier you get" saying holds true.
Who did you look up to in the industry for inspiration?
Definitely all the reps that I grew up with in the Southeast: Mark Terry, Matt Hollingsworth, Rob Sturgis, Dave Massie, JJ Catlet, Brad Bradley, and Mike Flinn. Outside of our little world below the Mason Dixon, I've always looked up to Frankie Chapin, Kevin Keller, Joel Rerko, Mary Walsh, Mark Wakeling, AK, Preston Strout, Matt Jaggeman, the Manning Brothers, Dan Hartman, Nelson Wormstead, T-Bird, and Alex Andrews. I also look up to Matty Bothfeld; he's 6'2".
What do you feel has been your biggest impact in your line of work?
Time will tell with my new role at Burton, but the Oakley Mini Pipe Challenge was something that I'm pretty proud of. I was super fortunate to have the full trust and support from Oakley to build that event series from the ground up. What started as a selfish idea that I always wanted to see happen as a rider grew into a 4-stop, international event series. Giving kids an opportunity to ride a non-threatening feature with their favorite pros while getting showered with prizes and fist bumps is the dream and it was a lot of fun making that happen for 3 years.
What do you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I have some personal goals that I've set for myself on the business side of things but what I really want to do is help build up our small snowboard community in the South again. Nowadays with Instagram and the internet it's pretty easy for a kid in North Carolina to look out his window and feel inferior with a 6 inch base on his local hill when all he's seeing is pow shots and huge park features on his phone. There's a big "lemons to lemonade" DIY resurgence going on right now in Appalachia and I'd love to help transfer some of that energy into the snowboard scene down here and build some hype.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
Wouldn't be typing this if it weren't for Mike Flinn giving me my first board and a chance to start turning screws at Snowshoe when I was a kid. Also would like to thank Andrew and Gabe at Pathfinder of WV for raising me in their shop and letting me get involved early on, Frankie Chapin and Zach Nigro for adopting me into the KnowBuddy family, Nick Louther, Ryan Evert, and Sean Messing for giving me my shot at Oakley and teaching me the ropes, and Jags and the Burton East crew for bringing me on and being the best coaches. Thankful for everything!