Which Decade Was the Best For Snowboarding?

THE 80's, 90's, 00's AND 10's GO HEAD-TO-HEAD


Clockwise from top left: Unknown dude, Jussi Oksanen, John Jackson and Mike Ranquet

Words by Chris Moran Taken from Whitelines issue 108

We board-riding dudes share many things, not least the collective feeling that we’ve just missed out on the halcyon days of yore. Take surfing ­– the oldest of board sports – which is commonly divided up into self-styled ‘golden’ eras: the Golden Age of Malibu back in the early 1950s, when there were no crowds; the Golden Age of San Onofre in the 1930s when there were pretty much no surfers at all; and the Golden Age of Waikiki when there was one ukelele and half a surfboard to go around. In short, when it comes to surfing, ‘gold’ seems to be synonymous with ‘empty’.

It’s a feeling perfectly summed up in Bruce Brown’s incredible 1961 surf documentary The Endless Summer: “You should’ve been here yesterday!” explain an endless stream of locals to the two Brylcreemed stars as they amble from beach to beach. “There was hardly anyone out, and it was PUMPING!” 

What if Einstein were a touch more like Doc Emmet Brown from Back to the Future and had actually come up with the Flux Capacitor?

There is of course, an element of truth to the idea that board riding back in the day was kinda cool. Australian Peter Troy grabbed his surfboard, walked onto a beach in Brazil in the early 1960s, looked out over empty waves and was almost instantly surrounded by people pointing and scratching their heads in puzzlement. Nowadays, surfing is Brazil’s second national sport (after fanny-shaving) so it follows that if you want golden, then you needed to have pioneered surf breaks back in the mid-20th century. Hmmm… not the easiest thing to do if that’s a good few decades before you were born.

But regular readers of Whitelines will be well aware that while we’re unashamed fans of boardsports history, we don’t actually want to live in the past. And those same readers will probably also know that it’s about now, in an article like this, that we get Albert Einstein’s take on the whole affair. “Life is a preparation for the future,” he once wrote (as reliable as ever), “and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.”

Barfoot baords in the 80s. Photo: Bud Fawcett

Wise words, but our old mate Einstein doesn’t help us much when it comes to time travel, having essentially proved that it can’t be done. But in a theoretical twist, what if our crazy-haired friend had actually cracked the problem of time travel? What if Einstein were a touch more like Doc Emmet Brown from Back to the Future and had actually come up with the Flux Capacitor? There we go – that makes our article premise a little more plausible [does it?! – Ed]. So now the question becomes: which is the best snowboarding era to go back to?

The short answer is that you don’t want to go back too far. Why? Because pre 1975, you’d be limited to hiking every slope, and what’s more you’d be doing so with a Snurfer – a board that sits on the handling scale somewhere between snowskating and being hit by an avalanche. Secondly, as unashamed show offs, there’s little point shredding down a slope if you can’t high five someone at the bottom and re-tell your backside 150-tindy-to-heel-edge-catch in graphic detail.

Of course you could always agree with the great Chinese philosopher who once said: “Yesterday was history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, and that is why it is called the present,” and conclude that snowboarding’s golden period is the one we’re living in right now. But then again, since the quote is from Master Oogway, the turtle in Kung Fu Panda, perhaps it’s not as wise as you think.

Ha ha what a dick I am.

Anyway, click through for the decades. You decide which was best.

Hit the left and right arrows to scroll.

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