Words by Tristan Kennedy. This article originally appeared in WL114.
Collecting snowboards is a fast-growing hobby, with a group of dedicated aficionados spending thousands of pounds on tracking down their favourite old sticks. Whitelines spoke to several of the guys behind this emerging trend to find out what makes them tick.
“There are 52 Lib Tech Jamie Lynn boards in total, I worked it out. I got in touch with the guys at Lib Tech and they sent me pdfs of the old catalogues. I went through all of them and that’s how I worked it out definitively." Given this fairly specific knowledge set, you might expect Tim Peacock to be a Pacific Northwest native. Perhaps a near neighbour of Mervin Manufacturing, based just outside Seattle. Instead, he’s calling me on the phone from his home in Hampshire. But despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that he lives thousands of miles from the factory where they’re made, his passion for Lib Tech boards – and Jamie Lynn pro-models in particular – is unrivalled. “I don’t know why I like Jamie Lynn’s. I used to think it was the longest running pro-model but I don’t think it is. I think the Lib Tech Matt Cummins is. But with Jamie I think the thing I like is he does his own artwork. I also like the fact that he’s stuck with Lib Tech the whole way and the fact that they’ve stuck with him. I don’t know off the top of my head anyone else who does boards that are like that." His love of Lib Tech Lynn’s is certainly impressive. Whitelines’ interest was peaked by a photo Tim posted on Facebook of a long line of the boards leaning against his garden wall. “Of the 52 Jamie Lynn’s ever made," he says proudly, “I have something like 35 of them."
Tim is a snowboard collector. Unlike most of us, he buys boards not to ride but just to have. To look at. And he’s not alone in this. In fact he’s just one of the growing number of men (and it is almost exclusively men) who see boards primarily as objects of art, things of beauty to admire rather than functional tools for playing in the snow. Tim isn’t even the only one collecting Jamie Lynn boards (“there’s a couple of Japanese guys, a lot of Americans, a few French guys and two Germans I know of" he says) and when it comes to the wider collecting community his impressive array is just a drop in the ocean.
“I have around 70 in my collection right now, and a few more I want to add," says Craig Watson, a North Carolina resident who collects “mostly old Burton and Sims boards." Dave Martin, a collector from British Columbia, reckons he has “between 60 and 70" although he “[hasn’t] counted in a while," while Hugues Beauchamp from Montreal reckons he has “about 40 decks. But it may be 50 by the time this gets published, I’m on a roll!"
Despite being scattered across the world these collectors all know Tim by name, largely through the Vintage Snowboard Trader Facebook group. An invitation to join it reveals a large and vibrant community of enthusiasts (at the time of writing the group had 1,800 members) all of whom regularly post pictures of classic boards they want, boards they already own or boards they’ve seen for sale. Not only do they swap stories and advice, they also help each other get the goods. Every collector we spoke to had tales of others giving them a helping hand, with contacts, postage or even driving to pick up boards sold on Craigslist for fellow collectors. Pierre-Jerome Cazaux, a collector from Grenoble in France says “Thanks to the group I’ve met many people in many countries who can help me pick up and ship boards I can’t get to. And actually the coolest thing came from Tim Peacock, he gave me the contact of a guy who had the hard to find Jamie Lynn Buddha Cat board from 1996 just like that, without anything in exchange."
Hugues also sings the group’s praises. “I feel like people don’t get it when I babble about all my stuff, here at home. But now, I’ve got this group of cyber-friends I can share my passion with, and also help out dig some gems for them. Collecting is so much fun, but sharing a passion with other people and finding the boards is even more fun than staring at them in my living room, I think." Craig Watson agrees that “the community is amazing," and describes how an idea he posted on the Facebook wall blossomed into a full-blown meet up, with many of the group members heading up to Baldface Lodge “to ride, trade boards and just have a great early season session."
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the community is so supportive of each other, because snowboard collecting isn’t something you embark on lightly – as well as their time, knowledge and dedication, all the collectors we spoke to had poured serious amounts of money into their hobby. Dave Martin estimated that he’d spent “about six or seven thousand dollars" on his collection. Tim Peacock’s cost “between seven and ten thousand pounds," while Craig Watson thinks he’s probably spent more like 20,000 dollars on boards over the years. And the single most expensive one he owns? “Oh boy, it hurts to even type this. $3,800 is the most I’ve spent on a single." Vintage boards, like vintage records, stamps or any other collectibles, don’t come cheap. Hugues told us about a board he’d love to have if money was no object, the Burton BB1. But “there’s no way in hell I could afford a board that sells for over 10K." And the older snowboarding becomes, the more valuable many of the original boards are.
Tim explains, “a board from 1993 is never going to be made again and there are limited numbers of them out there. Plus a lot of them are now getting tied up in collections so they’re even rarer." Because of course it’s not just age that makes the boards valuable, but scarcity as well. Like the withdrawn 7-inch single of the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, or the “Inverted Jenny" (a mis-printed stamp that apparently sells for just shy of a million US dollars!), sometimes mistakes make the boards worth more. Tim says: “The second year the Jamie Lynn pro model was made, ‘95/96, the boards were all really badly made. If you hold them up to the light you can just see the light shining straight through the tip and the tail. There were four boards made that year but they kept coming back for warranty so they changed the construction. Those four original ones are super hard to get and I’ve managed to get all of those so I’m pretty chuffed with that."
It would be all easy to write these guys off as geeks. There is definitely something slightly nerdy in the practice of collecting, whether it’s stamps of snowboards. But we found that no-one was more aware of this then the guys themselves. Tim told us: “All my mates in snowboarding are always ribbing me, if I haven’t got any money to go away and ride they’re like ‘oh fucking sell your boards then and get some money to go away.’" He also admitted that he’d put his boards away recently in an attempt to reduce some of the compulsion to buy more. And it was noticeable how often the subject of disapproving other halves came up in our chats with the collectors. Pierre-Jerome for example wouldn’t tell us how much he’d spent on his collection “because my wife would kill me." He was only half-joking. So what motivated them?
Pretty much everyone Whitelines spoke to started their collections by trying to buy back the boards they first learned on. As Craig put it: “What made me want to start collecting was that I wanted to be able to have a piece of history and memories I can hold on to from a lifestyle which has brought me so much happiness over the past 26 years. Snowboarding is my true passion and has created some of the best memories of my life." Hugues also talked about the role guys like him play in preserving snowboarding’s history. With our sport being comparatively young, it would be all too easy for shredders to assume that things like old boards have no value until it’s too late. But actually a sense of history is vital to the snowboard community’s sense of self. And as Hugues put it (semi-seriously): “I think we were send to this earth to save the history of snowboarding, one board at a time." Trying to complete the set definitely stoked their love of collecting too. As Tim said: “The Octopus is like the Holy Grail of Jamie Lynn boards. In all my time of collecting I know of only two people who’ve bought an original octopus. They’re rarer than rocking horse poo." But it’s not just about getting your hands on rare sticks. Ultimately what motivated all the guys we spoke to was that they just liked having the boards to look at.
Which is surely something we can all relate to, because let’s face it – snowboards and snowboard graphics do look fucking cool. While we might all not go as far as to start collecting, is there a shredder amongst us honestly say they’ve never walked into a snowboard shop and wished the owned the ancient Winterstick on the wall? Who wouldn’t enjoy owning a piece of history, especially if it has a bit of personal resonance? In fact, the more I spoke to the guys on Vintage Snowboard Trader and the more photos of cool, old and unusual boards I saw, the more I understood what drives them. And as I sorted through the photos that accompany this piece I thought, why the hell not? If they leave you indifferent then fair do’s. But if you come away similarly inspired then… well, I’ll see you on eBay. I’ll be the bastard who’s out-bidding you on that Sims 1500FE.