Snowboarding folklore has tended to focus on the infamous rivalry that burned between Jake Burton and Tom Sims through much of the 1980s. This, we’re told, was the moment our sport faced a fork in the road – a battle for its soul between the speed-focused racer and the skate-inspired freestyler.
But there was another character in that early drama who seemed, for many years, to have been cast out of the narrative. Dimitrije Milovich was a pioneering board designer based out of Utah, whose “Wintersticks" were heavily influenced not by skis or skateboards but the surf. Featuring long noses, tapered curves and extensive swallow tails, they excelled in deep snow.
"What is a face shot if not a spitting barrel, and what is a pipe wall if not a perfect, frozen wave?"
Looked at in the context of today, this third historical strand – with its emphasis on turns and flow – was not some obscure 70s cul-de-sac but an essential thread that continues to connect all of snowboarding, from the Petran riders in Turkey some 300 years ago to Regis Rolland, Craig Kelly and beyond. It also serves as a bridge to our sister boardriders on the ocean, and all of the rich history that that entails. After all, what is a face shot if not a spitting barrel, and what is a pipe wall if not a perfect, frozen wave?
The recent trend away from skiddy park turns in favour of hard carving on piste and pow has seemed like a belated acknowledgement of that surf heritage. And in the world of board design, the result has been an explosion in creative shapes not seen since Milovich closed the doors on his original factory.
Californian native Jeremy Jones, an avid surfer himself, has naturally found himself drawn to this increasingly popular movement. To be honest, it’s a calling he’s followed since he first strapped in. The French called it 'surf le neige'; he calls it 'The Glide'.
Having spent his early career on the race circuit, where edge control is everything, Jones is the owner of one of the most powerful and photogenic turns in the business. That skill was used to push the boundaries of backcountry riding over two decades, climaxing with his movie trilogy Deeper, Further and Higher.
Today, as he embarks upon the next phase of his career, Jeremy has stripped things back to basics. “I realise I have given my life over to this simple dance of give and take with gravity," he says. "That feeling as a little kid where the only thing that exists is the very moment. No future, not past... The goal was, and still is, just to ride."
Having founded his own successful board company, he has a new platform through which to explore this essential philosophy.
A couple of summers back Jeremy drew on the expertise of renowned surf shaper Chris Christenson to help create a new quiver of snow craft. Chris has shaped over 20,000 boards for every type of surfer – from contest pros to longboarders to big wave chargers. As a keen snowboarder himself (he has a second studio near Mammoth so he can shred the mountain in the day and shape at night) he was the ideal person to take up the challenge of cross-pollinating board design.
The process began with a basic wooden template, hand drawn by Chris and Jeremy on a thin piece of ply, which they cut out in the garage and gradually refined via pencil and saw. A rocker profile was added using Chris’s shaping tools. The resulting board – a stubby, fish-like silhouette – became known as The Storm Chaser.
Two further models – the Mind Expander and Lone Wolf – have followed it out of the workshop. The Mind Expander’s long, shallow nose evokes the classic lines of a longboard, while the Lone Wolf – a narrow gun with a pronounced swallow tail – is reminiscent of those early crossover designs from Winterstick. All three glide effortlessly through powder, with flotation led from the front and sidecuts that are maximized for generating drive. Nimble tree surgeon, backcountry Cadillac or straight up rocketship? Take your pick. As Christenson puts it, “it’s all hydrodynamics."
"I felt the difference immediately," says Jones of the new range. "Less friction. Freer, faster, more options."
"The possibilities for the sport are endless"
Back in 1986, one of the original surf crossover brands, O’Neill, ran a memorable advertising campaign with the slogan “Snow Is Only Frozen Water!" Watching The Glide, and in particular the incredible slow motion footage of Jeremy Jones on his new craft – hand outstretched, edge locked in like he’s cranking through a bottom turn at J Bay – it’s clear this has never been more true. And the possibilities for the sport, as it rides this new wave, are endless.