Which decade was best for snowboarding

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

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.

Ranquet 80s

"It was acceptable in the 80s" sang someone I couldn’t be arsed googling recently, and lo and behold that mysterious songwriter turns out to be a Nostrodamus-style prophet because yes, snowboarding was acceptable: some ski areas FINALLY allowed riders onto their slopes. You'd like to think our charm had eventually swayed them, but when you look at how many were going bankrupt after a harsh recession in the late 1970s, it's probably more truthful to say that they were desperate to get our cash. Not that any snowboarder had any at all. Even Jake Burton was skint.

Kit?

Basically, back then all snowboard kit was a must-have, though in truth, the vast majority of it was gash. You know that advert where two butch men dress up as housewives and test the absorption ability of kitchen roll? Supplement the bad stuff they use with 1980s outerwear and the Bounty kitchen roll would still be tougher. And because there was so little of it around, having anything made by a snowboard brand was essentially like opening a packet of crisps in a primary school: hands came in from every direction until there was nothing left.

Empty slopes?

Yes – if you were riding in the 80s, you had the run of the place. And off-piste? Oh my god. The only people in the backcountry were hip-wiggling skiers doing those ludicrous powder-eight tight turns criss-crossing each other. What utter tools. Being a seasonaire meant being on your own.

Park life?

Forget it. If you wanted to ride park, it was a weekend with a shovel for you, because compared to today's precision-cut pipes, 1980s halfpipes were virtually non-existent. The few that did exist looked like a clay bowl fashioned by Demi Moore from Ghost if Patrick Swayze had been slapping her with his cock throughout.

If you were riding in the 80s, you had the run of the place. And off-piste? Oh my god.

If you could do a 360...

You got a pro model. The upshot is that you’d only sell four of them, but if you’d had the foresight to stash the remaining boards in a garage, they’d be worth a fortune by now...

pro of the decade?

A Tahoe man named Terry Kidwell who singlehandedly made snowboarding Roots Manoeouvre-style Cooler than Cool. Saying that, he retired on collective earnings of about 56-pence (or the dollar equivalent) but what he lost out on in cash, he’s more than made up for in collective high fives since. He is da man.

Tweeting meant...

In the 1980s, tweeting meant staring at some tits through a pair of binoculars from the safety of a shed.

Film of the decade?

Apart from any of the John Cusack teen flicks (classics, every one), when Sims snowboards released Snow Daze in 1987, it was pretty revolutionary, featuring Santana-esque guitar solos layered over people riding fakie and pulling wheelies on the nose of their boards. And yes, these were the hottest riders on the planet, and those tricks were not done with irony.

Craig Kelly 80s

Graphic of the decade?

Any board by Crazy Banana. It featured a banana, going crazy. Same with Chequered Pig. Graphic artists back then were essentially following Cathphrase’s ‘say what you see’ ethos.

If you had a time machine and could go back to one moment...

How about the day that Terry Kidwell threw down the first ever snowboarding McTwist in December of 1985? You'd be in California with a group of legendary riders, it'd be a right laugh. And given that Back To The Future has literally just been released, they might not be too freaked out to see a flaming DeLorean coming straight through the space-time continuum. Just don’t pull out a rocker board, they’ll think you’re from 1982.

Seoane 90s

In a nutshell?

The 90s saw shredding take off in a big way. Everyone wanted a piece of the action, from Joe Public to big business to the Olympics. Snowboarding was officially cool. How do we know this? Because Channel 4 ran a dedicated weekly show called ‘Board Stupid’ and Argos photoshopped riders onto their catalogue TV screens.

Kit?

Rebelling against the ski world, we ditched our neon outerwear, picked up the grunge baton, and invented the lumberjack-meets-MC Hammer look with oversized gear, bandanas, and plaid shirts. The now defunct Wave Rave clothing even made what was essentially an oversized boiler suit for the snow. Baseless bindings were invented, but as soon as people realised ‘more snow feel’ meant ‘agonising vibrations’, they went the same was as the boiler suit. Shame really, I liked ‘em both.

John Cardiel 90s

Empty slopes?

At the beginning of the decade, the slopes were pretty empty and powder was still a throwaway commodity. 10 years later, an estimated 12-million snowboarders were shredding the rad and Jake Burton was splashing his wedge in an Amex advert. The crowds had arrived.

Park life?

The world's first snowpark opened in 1991 in Vail, Colorado, followed quickly by other resorts like Saas Fee in Switzerland, and Mammoth Mountain, California. And a couple of enterprising Canadian piste basher engineers invented a machine to cut transitions, at a stroke dismantling the camaraderie that competitors had when they dug the halfpipe out with their own shovels. Yes, it used to happen.

Within 10 years, an estimated 12-million snowboarders were shredding the rad and Jake Burton was splashing his wedge in an Amex advert

If you could do a 360...

You’d get the eyebrow-lift-of-nuff-respect from other shredders on the hill.

Pro of the decade?

Another Terry, this time a Norwegian one named Terje Haakonsen. There’s something in them chocolate oranges isn’t there?

Facebook...

Was the same as a faceplant, but in a library.

Film of the decade?

Volcom’s The Garden, a 56-minute tour de force of snowboarding progression, messing around and beautiful photography. Essentially it’s a David Benedek film about 10 years before Benedek started to make films.

Terje Haakonsen 90s

Graphic of the decade?

The Noah Salasnek skateboard deck was a banger, but Terje’s first pro model, with the cartoon Norwegian sword base, is an all-time classic.

If you had a time machine and could go back to one moment...

Personally I’d like to go back and hang out with Ross Rabagliati in the 6-month run up to his 1998 Olympic gold medal, filming his Cheech & Chong style preparations and the subsequent, farcical Japanese Games.

The Snowboard Mag_Hold, Whitelines Hold

In a nutshell?

After being hyped relentlessly through the 1990s, snowboarding entered the new millennium ready to take on the world. Shaun White went from being an outstanding grom to a world-beating, Flying Tomato, while jibbers like JP Walker and Jeremy Jones brought ‘gangsta’ style to the streets. Back on the hill we nearly reached parity with our skiing brethren (in terms of numbers), but we lost something too: snowboarding was no longer underground.

Kit?

Burton’s foray into some old-school powder shapes was cool, but our outfits went haywire – while we once mocked the 80s one-pieces, a new range of matching plaid, tartan and camo outfits took us to a similar fashion hell. On the flip side, snowboard gear got cheap, and with a TK Maxx in every high street, suddenly everyone was a ‘boarder’. The jury is still out as to whether this was a good thing.

Empty slopes?

Fat chance. The mountains were now a sea of Burton Customs and Oakley A Frames. Though in 2008, all that changed (see below).

Resorts were clambering over each other to get a decent park set up. Apart from France of course.

Park life?

Given that Shaun White spent the decade grinning out from the cover of every magazine (Time, Rolling Stone etc.) it’s no surprise that resorts were clambering over each other to get a decent park and pipe set up. Apart from France of course, they couldn’t give deux shits.

If you could do a 360...

Whatever dude, send in the ‘sponsors me’ tape when you’ve got every seven on lock down.

Pro of the decade?

Mr White, whose onslaught of the shred world was nothing short of a snowboarding jihad. Which might go some way to explaining the burka he sported throughout.

Instagram...

Was a badly branded decaf coffee jar.

Film of the decade?

All David and Boris Benedek’s films – including Afterbang, 91 Words for Snow and In Short– were vintage snowboarding: amazing action but most of all fun. They were also dinosaurs: by the end of the decade YouTube meant anyone could make a mini-movie, and the world was saturated with pro rider snowboard clips.

JP Walker 00s

Graphic of the decade?

Hats off to Lib Tech’s continued commitment to the Jamie Lynn series of boards. An awesome rider and legendary artwork. Especially if you like blue ladies, cats, and big boobs. Ah we’re a simple lot aren’t we?

If you had a time machine and could go back to one moment...

Then you’d do no better than setting the date to the start of the 2008 winter season in Europe. The credit crunch had just hit, everyone had canned their ski holidays and the slopes were empty. Then – joy of joy – the heavens opened, and it puked endless powder for months. Whoop whoop! That’s the sound of the retro snow alarm.

TRice 10s

In a nutshell?

“What day is it Piglet" Pooh Bear once asked. “It’s today," replied Piglet. “Ah," said Pooh, “My favourite day." So how to judge the decade we’re in?

Kit?

Head-up goggle displays, phones that play music and massive, over-sized headphones that hark back to the 1970s. When it comes to the latest 2000-and-teen snowboard kit, it’s all about the tech. Reverse camber boards (last seen in the 80s) now dominate the market, and as ying follows yang, so our super loud, super baggy kit has given way to skinny black jeans. In the backcountry, it’s all helmets with GoPro attachments, creating the ‘radical unicorn’ look.

20100823_serfas_69726

Empty slopes?

If you want to shred without the crowds, it's a major trip into the backcountry for you. Luckily, the 2010s are set up for such adventurers, and with a Jones Snowboard splitboard on your backpack, a manly beard on your face, and a camelback filled with cheeky Vimto, what you’re saying to the world is that you're a mountain man, ready to get a few blisters on your ankles in the search for some epic pow.

Park life?

In 2013, it’s actually pretty hard to find a flat slope anymore; from the Stash runs to the Penken Park, everywhere is covered in jumps. It’s AMAZING! Add the fact that many resorts are building pristine superpipes, and it's no wonder that even my mum is thinking about heading out to the Laax Freestyle Academy to get on the double-cork bandwagon.

In the backcountry, it’s all helmets with GoPro attachments, creating the ‘radical unicorn’ look.

If you could do a 360...

Since about 2010, if you can spin around in the air on your board you get a certificate from your instructor saying you’ve progressed from falling-leaf to the official beginner stage.

Pro of the decade?

I’m going Halldor Helgason, the essence of snowboarding distilled: likeable, original, funny, and rebellious. All that plus he sounds like he’s from Lord of the Rings. He'd be mysterious and wistful too if it wasn’t for that t-shirt that says “Shit on My Tits".

LNP 10s

Pinterest means...

Being interested in going for a pint after having wasted twenty minutes of your life reading this rubbish.

Film of the decade?

It’s definitely too early to tell. The Art of Flight was technically incredible but its all-American vibe divided opinion. For a more soulful experience, any snowboard film with Jake Blauvelt looks like it’s gonna be a banger with a fizzing fuse.

HalldorHelgason_SilvrettaMontafon_Cyril_IMG_8852

Graphic of the decade?

Not so much a graphic, but every board Signal Snowboards make for their Every Third Thursday project is worth a look in.

If you had a time machine and could go back to one moment...

Why not fast forward to Sochi 2014 and tell us who bags the inaugural Slopestyle contest would ya? We’ve got a tenner spare and fancy a punt.