Snowboarding is cyclical. In the mid-1960s, Sherman Poppen came up with the Snurfer; it was a board with a rope attached to the nose and no bindings. It was the predecessor to the snowboard. Forty years later, people are going “bindingless” once again.
Austrian snowboarder Wollie Nyvelt was recently filmed on a bindingless snowboard called a “powskate.” Longtime OJ contributor Neil Hartmann used a snowboard covered in surfboard stomp pads in his “Car Danchi 2” film…and now the Noboard is gaining speed and hitting the mainstream.
How did you get into snowboarding?
I started riding in 1987 at Cypress Mountain on the North Shore of Vancouver (Canada), but skateboarding got me into snowboarding. No skiing for me, I always liked to be sideways. In fact, none of the Noboard crew came from a ski background; it was all skate influenced.
How did the Noboard come about?
Boredom and a knee injury led Greg Todds to ride his snowboard switch (backwards) for a whole season. During that time, he got the inspiration to truly surf the snow, free of any constraints. He went off to his workshop and started drilling drywall screws into his board and attaching a rubber handle he ripped off a garbage can. The key to the Noboard, which Greg always called “the training wheels,” was a rope he attached to the front of the board.
It was quite a sight for the friends lucky enough to see, and as with all things and new ideas, there were doubters, but I was sold the first time I saw Greg bomb drop off a cornice as if he had bindings on. I knew right then Greg was on to something special.
Were there any challenges developing the Noboard?
We wanted everything manufactured in Canada, so we had to search out separate businesses to make each part of the Noboard kit.
What was it like linking turns for the first time?
Complete freedom. It was like surfing in the mountains on a 10-minute barrel. Being able to move your feet around was awesome. Complete disbelief you could ride this board without being attached and shred.
Noboard has tied up with Burton to release the NoFish (155 cm.) board for the ’08-’09 season. How did Noboard and Burton hook up?
We believe so much in the pad we've created because anyone can convert their snowboards to Noboards with it. We fully believe in Burton’s Fish model’s shape, especially for rookie Noboarders, because its large nose and set-back stance makes it easy to maneuver with a quick response in powder.
It all started with a conversation between Trevor Andrews (from Noboard) and John Gernt (head Burton designer). John then searched us out and came to ride with us in the Kootenays. We became quick friends and developed a relationship with Burton over the next two years. Burton believes strongly in research and development, which is really important to us. It was just a good fit. GT was all about getting people on the Noboard and our relationship with Burton is all about that too.
The NoFish is produced in Austria. Where are the Noboard pads produced?
Actually, in mid-production, the Austrian factory burnt down, including our NoFish boards. Total bummer. So, this season, we've started producing both pads and NoFish boards in a Chinese factory under John’s strict supervision.
Are Noboard pads available in Japan?
Some Burton dealers in Japan will be selling the pads and the NoFish board. A lot of dealers don't know what we're up too, so just ask for them in the shops.
What’s planned for the Annual GT Memorial this year? Any new events in Japan?
The GT Memorial started as a way for our friends to get together and have a good time, remember GT and raise money for his two children. It is a way to keep his spirit alive while doing the sport he created and loved. It’s been a huge success; so popular, we've had to turn it into an invitational. As for events in Japan, we have not yet heard of any but would love to see something organized there.
You, Scott Penner, Skye Sheele and Jenna Low spent a week in Japan last season. How was Noboarding in Japan?
Japan is the BEST place to Noboard. Short runs and deep “pow” everywhere. The Noboard was made for places such as Japan. It seemed as if it was bottomless
everywhere we went. We were lucky enough to be shown some of Japan's best secret backcountry zones. Easy hikes led us to some of our most memorable Noboard turns.
We were so lucky, it seemed as if every travel day we had it dumped, and riding days were clear, filled with endless face shots and untracked runs. Being from the Kootenays, we thought we were the only lucky ones riding bottomless pow, but we were happily wrong when we arrived and drove through building-high snow banks. Heaven...
What was the most memorable part of the trip?
So many amazing memories; it's too hard to say. We were lucky to be hosted by Dice K (Transworld photographer Daisuke Maruyama). He organized and planned our whole trip and, through him, we met so many amazing people. We had a day of catboarding with Hikarigahara Cat Tour and rode with Burton riders Yoshinari Uemura, Takamasa Imai, Shunsuke Hoshino and our good friend Goro Komatsu.
Then we were off to hang out with legendary Gentem Crew in Niseko. They took us hiking in the Niseko backcountry with perfect powder under sunny skies. It was a pretty surreal experience slapping Noboard pads on beautifully crafted Gentem sticks and watching how excited they were to try Noboarding for the first time, making it to the end of the run and practically running up the hiking boot pack to get in another run.
Finally, a life-changing moment was watching Scott Penner land a one-footed road gap, at least 25 feet, in one try. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences as far as imagining where Noboarding can go in the future.
Do you expect more pro riders will shed their bindings and only Noboard as Johan Olofsson is doing now?
I hope people do both. For some people and some conditions, they like their bindings, but hopefully when it's deep they'll have some fun on a Noboard. Surfers have different boards for different conditions, so why not with snow?
Can people who do not have backcountry experience Noboard, too?
For sure. Anywhere there's a bit of powder, you can ride a Noboard. That's why Japan is so great; there’s endless powder. It's all about imagination. Just hike off the road and get in a few turns, it’s worth it.
How are resorts responding to the Noboard?
It's new, so people don't know what to do. Some like it; some don't. We use retractable dog leashes attached to the rope, so that's helped ease questions about runaway boards. Any resorts where it dumps have welcomed it, but hard pack ones you wouldn't want to ride it anyway.
What are some tricks people are doing on a Noboard?
A “Christ Air” has been attempted but not landed. Dialed tricks include: one footers, Stalefish, Benihana, body varials, varials, front and back 360s. The list goes on as we progress.
Where do you see Noboarding in five years?
Right now we're so busy riding pow, we can't see past this season. But in five years we know we'll still be riding Noboards.
WEB CONNECTION (for web only)
Burton: www.burton.com. (Rider service (03) 5738-2555)
OJ Juiced: www.outdoorjapan.net to see the “Say Yes to the No” video, winner of the Fan Favorite at the 2006 Banff Film Festival.
Greg Todds Article: www.biglines.com/articles_readmore.php?read=2173
GT Memorial: www.snowboardermag.com/features/online-exclusives/gt-Noboard/
Johan Olofsson Article: www.snowboard-mag.com/node/32243