What The Fuck Are Graphics For?


Other sticks that typified the era were Noah Salasnek’s Sims (which featured skateboard trucks and wheels on the base) and the Santa Cruz boards of John Cardiel and Chris Roach, whose graphics were carried straight over from the brand’s skate department. Jamie Lynn too was becoming major influence on the scene, not just because of his incredible riding style but because he painted his own artwork, tightening the link between skateboarding and snowboarding still further.

“I grew up with pictures of Mark Gonzales, Neil Blender and Chris Miller in the skate magazines,” recalls Lynn, “and I really used them as role models for my own opportunity to get into snowboarding, and [then] to get a pro-model. And to use your pro model as a vehicle for self-expression, not only in your artwork, but in the way you rode it. Kinda following what those guys had done in skateboarding.”

These early snowboard graphics were so vibrant and memorable not because they simply copied skateboard designs but because they borrowed an approach. Unlike skis, whose shapes and patterns hinted at speed and grace, snowboards were free to use any cultural references that might appeal to their market. Designers were tapping directly into popular culture, opening up themes that had never been associated with the mountains before. They were also in synch with ‘yoof’ in a way that put them ahead of the curve. For example the A-board ‘Starsky’, which picked up on the growing interest in 70’s cool, was launched long before the Beastie Boys exploited a similar trend with their era defining ‘Sabotage’ video.

These were truly exciting times in snowboarding. Technology was moving on at speeds never seen before – or since – in the sport, and artists were being equally experimental with their graphics. With riders upgrading their equipment more often, it was easy to try new ideas. This era of risk taking was short-lived though. As the sports’ technology bedded in and something like a ‘standard’ snowboard emerged, riders typically held onto their sticks longer, and as the market continued to grow, the stakes for the brands became higher. For those in charge of the graphics, it meant they were put on a tighter leash than had previously been enjoyed, as Lance Violette, Creative Director at Forum and the man behind Un-Inc, explains:

Photo: Geoff Andruik

“A snowboard is a significant investment for a kid – in a lot of cases it may even need to stick around for more than one season. It is not nearly as disposable as a skate deck. This ‘disposable’ factor is what gives skate decks their beautiful sense of urgency. What I mean by this is that skate graphics can react fast and evolve at the exact same pace as our culture, while snowboard graphics are an expensive investment – not only for the kids buying them, but also for the companies who build them. A lot is at stake, and there’s not as much room to take risks. If you get it wrong, that board will still take over a year to even get into the market, and then it will be sitting on the retail floor for another year. A mistake can be devastating to a brand – there’s just no coming out with a new graphic a month later.”


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