The Most Revered Maker in Japanese Snowboarding Is Taking On Surfing

Taro Tamai draws inspiration from the ocean for his handmade snowboards.

Surfing and snowboarding, when distilled to their most basic elements — a manmade plane and a surface made of water — are essentially alike. Their respective venues, the sea and the mountains, couldn’t be more different, but the soul remains the same. Taro Tamai, the Hokkaido-based snowboard maker and founder of Gentemstick, has based his entire craft on this very idea. Tamai spends equal time in the ocean and in the mountains, drawing mutual inspiration from both environments and blending it into a unique style and vision — Tamai doesn’t snowboard, he snow-surfs.

It’s easy to see the influence of surfing in the board shapes Tamai builds for mountains and snow. Pointed noses and swallowed tails are common themes in his directional snowboards. Now, with Tamai’s latest brand, Gentem Surf Project, the inspiration is working inversely from snow to wave. Tamai has enlisted four respected surfboard shapers — Yoshihiko Kushimoto, Chris Christenson, Mick Mackie and Beau Young — to collaborate and produce four distinct shapes to take into the ocean. Each shaper has spent time snow-surfing with Gentemstick in the mountains of Niseko and is familiar with Tamai’s unique philosophy toward surfing and snowboarding, making them well-equipped to take on the careful challenge of expanding the brand into a different stage of the hydrologic cycle. The T.T Collab, T.T Model, Niseko Special and Moon Tail reflect the shapes of Tamai’s snowboards and are unmistakably Gentem.

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