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.
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!