Words: Graham Mueller
Have you ever wanted to build your own boards—craft each camber curve and contour? Many of the brands herein started with such an idea. From the Sierras to British Columbia, Germany to Japan, that feeling is universal. Equally ubiquitous are the buckets of sweat and resin required to turn these dreams into vehicles for slashing slopes. The boards are as diverse as the backgrounds. Some shapes are fun and fishy, while others offer more classic lines. One shaper highlighted below can even be hired to build the board of your own imagination. Whatever your dream, here are eight brands that have taken it from the mind's eye to the here-and-now.
United Shapes is working to have riders reenvision what is possible with one snowboard. To that end, they offer up a squad of directional, freeride/freestyle quiver assassins. Banked slalom courses and S-rails alike will bow before them. Honcho Steven Kimura sums it up: "That mission, to experience the whole mountain in a new way–on one snowboard–is very rare in a market where brands try to differentiate their product into many complex categories." All Unites Shapes’ boards are positive camber, powerfully flexing, and powder primed with lifted noses. Look closely at some of the boards the Warp Wave crew rides to see how United Shapes perform.
Gentemstick has been around for going on three decades, but you wouldn't know it based solely on exposure. Designs that have largely been confined to Japan since 1990 are just recently finding their way across the oceans. Founder Taro Tamai is trying to bring snowboarding back to the freedom associated with it before the sport's popularity took off and became big business. This is when Taro began designing boards. As he puts it, "…that would allow me to draw the lines I was tracing in my mind." Taro is careful to stress that his are not just powder boards. Each board is designed to lay down great turns in any condition without changing stance. This is the essence as he sees it. "Alpine style, freestyle, they are all branches of the same tree," Taro explains. “People are not excited only by jumps and spins, but exhilarated from the glide itself. I think the glide is the trunk of that tree."
Our European entry, famous for the slicing carves of their 'Yearning for Turning' web edits, is Korua Shapes. Nicholas Wolken and Stephan 'Mu' Maurer are the brains behind the boards, and for a young brand, they have a solid selection of models on offer. Starting with some more traditional outlines, Korua’s line quickly drops into radical, asymmetrical fish and even a couple splitboards, giving 'cutting edge' new meaning. But in the end, they're all about that classic feel. As Nicholas says, "It's essential for snowboarding not to lose that feeling you had when you first started linking turns on your home mountain. Back then, you were not expected to perform a certain way and were purely driven by the search for more fun."
Interior Plain Project
Coming out of the Midwest, Peter Harvieux and crew haven't been producing boards for long, but they've been making noise for a while. If you find yourself anywhere between North Dakota and Ohio, you likely already know. Built at the Mothership in Austria, IPP is focused on a classic style they call 'premium medium'. You won't find them going off the deep end, but they're not playing in the kiddie pool, either. As Peter says, "We're focused on great-riding boards that the pilot can operate at a high level in whichever environment the day has provided." See that? Not 'rider,' but 'pilot'—the board being a vehicle of expression, a conductor of energy. You are in control. Are you down with IPP?
Brand new from Joe Sexton and Darrell Mathes is PUBLIC Snowboards. And when I say 'brand new,' I mean the company is less than a year old. The first line should be in stores around the time this article hits the web and will feature two boards, three sizes in each model. From the tumblr homepage to the Gmail address that Joe answers personally, they're keeping things simple. "I don't really want to 'compete' with other small brands; I look at all them as allies in this. I guess the main thing that would separate us is the fact that if someone is interested in the brand or has a question about it, I write back. I think it is cool that as an owner I can have that connection," says Joe. It's true—not many owners handle their own customer service.
Not many companies built their first press by hand. British Columbia's own Hightide Mfg did. Co-founder Akasha Weisgarber starts with a familiar story: "I've wanted to shape and build snowboards for a long time, as I've always had a renewing vision of what my perfect board would look like." What followed was a trip back to school for an architectural technology degree. From there, he put what he knew together with who he knew from decades of snowboard life in Whistler and began designing boards for other brands. Problem is, some of the shapes in his brain weren't getting out on snow. That's when Gabe Langlois–and later Rube Goldberg and Tyeson Carmody–joined the team, and Hightide as we now know it started shaping up and pressing out small batches of all-mountain snowboards. From Akasha's mind and Gabe's shop straight to you.
If you truly want a board of your own—an edition of one—but don't have access to the equipment, Franco Snowshapes is your answer. Mikey Franco–a Taro Tamai disciple–will be your guide. To get to know you well enough to take on this task, he has developed the Rider Genome Profile. "Ultimately, this board will be the greatest snowboard you've ever ridden because it was specifically made for you, from scratch," Mikey says. "These boards are designed with every millimeter of your soul considered. We want to know what scares you, what makes you scream with excitement, where you ride, how you ride, and everything in between." From there, his 30 years of experience teaching, guiding, and training clients and instructors takes over. For the ultimate in intimate, he's made some Whitebark Pine veneers for topsheets that come stamped with the GPS coordinates where the tree they're milled from once stood.
In 1971, Moss Snowstick was born of a simple desire–to surf on snow. From the first prototype created by founder Shinzo Tanuma, the legendary Japanese surfer and shaper, Moss has devoted over 40 years of designing and testing in pursuit of one goal: To make beautiful turns, replicating surfing in any condition. “I don’t want to see anybody get hurt or damage their board," says founder Shinzo Tanuma. "Moss Snowstick is a tool for exploring the natural mountain terrain–just for pure fun. It’s a board that I want people to grow old riding.” At some point, snowsurfing earned a reputation as something that can only happen in powder. Moss Snowstick’s all-snow and all-terrain boards are designed to change the rider's perspective of the mountain, transforming snow-covered terrain into three dimensional snowsurf playgrounds. The company's current lineup is the result of unchanged playful minds and many lessons learned from over 40 years. They are for the free of mind. They are snowsurfers.