Remembering Jake Burton, the Godfather of Snowboarding

A brief look at how the late Jake Burton Carpenter created the biggest snowboarding company in the world in a dusty Vermont barn.

A version of this article originally appeared in Issue 11 of Gear Patrol Magazine as part of a collection of profiles on well-known garage-born brands. Subscribe today

On November 21, 2019, Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards and a pioneer of snowboarding, passed away at age 65 due to complications caused by testicular cancer. Here is the story of how he turned snowboarding into a worldwide phenomenon, in brief.

A quaint New England barn in idyllic Londonderry, Vermont, is a key site in Burton company legend — and while it’s true that’s where Jake Burton Carpenter crafted his iconic early prototypes combining board and binding, the idea that laid the groundwork for the snowboarding revolution actually took root on Long Island golf courses.

Growing up on Long Island, Carpenter longed to surf but more often found himself on powder during family ski trips to Vermont. At age 14 he rode a Snurfer, a toy monoski with a rope handle, and was utterly hooked. Carpenter shredded local golf courses near his childhood home and hills near his school; he and his friends even souped-up boards with fins and makeshift bindings. Then there was college, and a Manhattan finance job. Only in 1977 did Carpenter resolve to truly send it, plunking his savings — and his passion — into Burton Boards. The rest is snowboarding history.

Today, with nearly 400 employees, Burton holds half the market share of what has grown into a $400 million industry that spans the globe.

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