Gear Feature

The Art of Shape with Nidecker’s Thierry Kunz

Thierry Kunz let us in on the secrets behind the Nidecker Snowsurf Quiver

Above Photo by Ed Blomfield.

Identity is a fluid concept. It either changes society, or gets changed by it. As individuals, it can be hard to grasp all the factors that affect our identity, so we can only imagine the struggle brands must go through. Rebranding a company image isn’t just about changing the logo, it is about developing a new identity in the minds of the consumers and competitors with the added pressure of knowing you’ve got to do it successfully.

“Sometimes, however, a brand comes along and succeeds in rebranding itself”

Many established brands in snowboarding have already created an image in the mind of the consumers – one that can be hard to change. Imagine, for example, if Jones suddenly told us they were dropping their backcountry game and were going to focus entirely on park boards or if Bataleon announced they were ditching 3BT? It would go against our sense of what these brands are.

Sometimes, however, a brand comes along and succeeds in rebranding itself. Take Nidecker, for example. Remember what Nidecker snowboards looked like five years ago? Exactly – not many of us do. Then, out of the blue, carving became a thing again and somewhere along the line, Nidecker became the carving brand. This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because Nidecker did one hell of a good job rebranding their image.

Photo: Ed Blomfield.

Thierry Kunz joined the Nidecker snowboard team back in 1988 and with the help of Nidecker, he created his own snowboard brand ‘DONUTS’. After he walked away from his career as a professional snowboarder in 1995, he stayed on and worked for the company, taking care of Nidecker’s marketing. After working closely together for years, Thierry decided to see what else the snowboard industry had to offer, and so in 2006, he left Nidecker to work for DC and Quiksilver.

“In 2016, came the first ‘Slice ‘n’ Dice’ edit; carving was back”

Nine years later, Thierry returned to Nidecker as their brand manager and it was around this point that things really started to pick up for the brand. In 2016, came the first ‘Slice ‘n’ Dice‘ edit; carving was back. Thierry was on a mission to bring Nidecker back to its roots as one of the first European snowboard brands. Back in the days when Jake Burton and Tom Sims were busy doing their thing on the North American continent, Nidecker was focusing on European snowboarding and, euro carving.

For years, carving was a bit of a long-lost myth; something only practised by kooks (sorry guys). In the meantime, kickers grew bigger, tricks became more complex and everyone aimed for more airtime. Snowboarding was growing, evolving, and people were excited. But then something changed, the tricks became too complex for us mere mortals to relate to and even though it was cool to watch it didn’t exactly spark a feeling of “I need to try that next time” in us.

Photo: Ed Blomfield.

Snowboarders wanted something they could relate to again, and even if everyone was stoked on how the sport had evolved, somewhere along the line people had forgotten about the most fundamental ingredient of snowboarding – fun. Thierry saw this, and gave them something they could relate too.

“Today with our snowsurf line I wanted to focus on the feeling you get whilst turning, inspired by my other passion, surfing”

In the process of listening to what we as snowboarders were lacking, he managed to get Nidecker on peoples’ radar again by giving them a new strong brand identity.

Taking his passion for snowboarding even further, Thierry’s been working on his own shaping line for Nidecker, ‘The Nidecker Snow Surf Quiver’. The snowsurfs consists of three boards: The Gun, Smoke and Mosquito. We caught up with the man himself to find out more about the line.

Photo: Ed Blomfield.

You’ve got your own line now, Shape by TK. What got you into shaping in the first place?

I’ve always been interested in board tech. When I rode for Nidecker back in the day I liked to be involved in the design process, which led to them supporting me in running my own brand: DONUTS. I learned a lot with Stephan Radiguet, an incredible source of knowledge. Of course, I always wanted to shape boards that I want to ride.

“I wanted to make sure that the feeling and the way of riding waves and mountains was very similar”

At that time, it was all about getting a board that was versatile, able to do anything in any conditions. Today with our snowsurf line I wanted to focus on the feeling you get whilst turning, inspired by my other passion, surfing. I wanted to bring back this no gravity feeling, specially made for experienced riders who have snowboarded for a long time and are still passionate, but who might also be looking for something new.

Has your personal riding experience influenced the boards you shape?
Of course, this quiver is directly inspired by my riding, but also, I listened to what a lot of my friends were saying – they felt there was a lack of boards like these on the market. Also, I wanted to make sure that both the feeling and the way of riding waves and mountains would be very similar because, for me, it’s all about this feeling.

Thierry Kunz. Photo: Samuel McMahon.

There are three boards in the Nidecker Snow Surf quiver series: Mosquito, Smoke and The Gun. What kind of riding did you shape each board for and what was the inspiration behind them?
I wanted to create boards for different riding conditions but keep the same kind of ‘no gravity feeling’. The Mosquito is a shortboard made for short turns, especially for deep snow in the trees, whereas the Smoke has a freeride nose, all-mountain centre and a free carve tail for day to day riding. When it comes to the Gun, there’s only one word: charge. Long radius, super fast. It’s the same spirit as the Smoke, just longer and faster.

[The Nidecker Gun comes in the intimidating size of 174. With a directional shape, setback camber and stiff flex, this thing will literally blast through anything you point it at. It isn’t, however, made for the mellow cruiser. If you’re looking to ride a more mellow version of the previous, the Nidecker Smoke comes in three different sizes: 155, 158 and 161. Bear in mind though, this is still a performance board and made to take on the whole mountain. If small and spicy is more up your alley, the Nidecker Mosquito comes in sizes 148 and 152. Despite its height, this board has a lot of character – it is fast and nimble, and the short running edges make it ideal for powder. Head over to our Buyer’s Guide for the full reviews!]

The Gun, Smoke and Mosquito. Photo: Ed Blomfield.

You’re a keen surfer too. How has surfing inspired your shaping?
Yes, absolutely, though my passion for surfing is the exact opposite of my skill as a surfer! I love the design, the feel of hand-crafted boards. Alongside guitars, surfboards are the most beautiful objects on the planet.

“When we snowboarders move to surfing, we all have the same bad habit of putting all the weight on the front foot and not moving around on the board”

I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of shapers and I’m always impressed by how each shaper has their own personality and how that plays out in their creations alongside your own personal needs. For me I have to say that Phil Grace is my magician, he is a never-ending source of knowledge and he’s spent his whole life making better boards.

I’ve always tried not just to surf like a swiss mountain guy, I work hard but I still have a lot of improvement to do. I’ll never say that I’m a good surfer, but I have a lot of fun, which is the key to all of this! When we snowboarders move to surfing, we all have the same bad habit of putting all the weight on the front foot and not moving around on the board, as we’re used to bindings. The idea with the snowsurf quiver was to inspire a more back-foot-driven style of riding, moving your weight back from a centred, freestyle stance and instead really utilising the tail of the board. The result feels like driving turns on a surfboard, feeling how the fins grip and turn.

Thierry Kunz. Photo: Samuel McMahon.

Snowboarding has always been influenced by surfing. However, do you feel like surf shaping is going to become more influenced by snowboarding in the future?
Snowboarding was born thanks to surfing, but from the mid ’90s to 2008 snowboarding was more influenced by skateboarding than surfing. Today the surf world is also influenced by skateboarding when you see all the tricks and airs the surfers are doing, and with wave pools getting better and better I assume the surf shapes will keep evolving. I can imagine true twin shapes, for instance. So, for me today’s shapes, production techniques, graphics… the relationships are all intermingled, and everyone feeds off of each other. At the end of the day, shapers are like doctors but instead of trying to cure a disease, we bring fun and happiness!

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