Doug Waugh, inventor of the Pipe Dragon, died of cancer Labor Day weekend at his home in Berthoud, Colorado. He was 55.
“Doug was the pioneer of halfpipe grooming machines and set the standard for everyone else to follow,” says Ted Martin, FIS World Cup race director. “He made an incredible contribution to the sport of snowboarding, even though he wasn't much of a snowboarder himself.”
Waugh grew up on a Midwestern farm and moved to Colorado in 1984, where he and his wife Cathy raised organic vegetables, fruits, beef, and chicken on their 75-acre farm. But what most people in the snowboarding industry know Waugh for is his mechanical genius for converting farm machinery into Pipe Dragons.
“Doug saw the labor it took to make a halfpipe–people shoveling snow and how intensive it all was,” recalls Gary Taylor, race director at Mammoth Mountain, one of the first mountains to purchase a Pipe Dragon eight years ago. “He was just a farmer, but had a great knowledge of farming equipment. He was a master at running that machine. Resorts would hire him to train them how to run the Dragon and to help develop their pipes.”
In 1990, Waugh designed his first prototype and sold the design to a Fort Collins, Colorado manufacturer. But the manufacturer didn't think snowboarding would become a viable sport, so Waugh bought back his designs and launched his own company, Pipe Dragon, Inc. Nine years later, Waugh and four work associates made more than 120 Pipe Dragons for resorts around the world, and just completed manufacturing three Super Dragons last season, which can build pipes with a larger radius and seventeen-foot high walls.
Waugh was also invited to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano as the official halfpipe builder. “It was the best pipe built to date,” recalls Greg Johnson, the North American representative of the International Judging Committee. “He worked day and night on that pipe,” says Martin, who was with Waugh throughout the Olympic Games. “The riders all commented that it was one of the best pipes they had ever ridden.” When Waugh returned home in February 1998, he became ill with fibrosarcoma, a connective-tissue form of cancer.
“I think anyone who had any involvement in freestyle snowboarding had to come into contact with Doug at one time or another and was touched by his caring demeanor and sincere desire to make snowboarding better for the athletes,” said Johnson. “He will be sorely missed.”