Hall of Fame Class of 2019
In 1965, the ‘Grandfather of Snowboarding’ invented the Snurfer; for low-cost, easy access riding—and to get his daughters out of the house during a cabin-fever Christmas.
The Snurfer would sell more than 800,000 units at less than $7 each, as Sherman Poppen blazed the trail for millions to follow, including the ‘Father of Snowboarding’, the late Jake Burton.
The Snurfer could be easily deployed on any local hill,
usually for free, with the added bonus of being able to float on a thin layer of snow.
No boots, no bindings, no edges, no travel, no lift tickets, no hassle . . . the act of sliding reduced to its most simple thrill.
The Snurfer project was a family affair.
Poppen’s third daughter Julie, born just three days after that fateful Christmas, notes that the Snurfer would never have been birthed if she hadn’t been so challenging in the womb
Her mom, Nancy, suggested the name Snurfer by combining “snow” with “surfing.” Poppen’s father Cyrus recommended attaching a rope to the nose, providing steering and braking as well as serving as a runaway leash.
Poppen’s eldest daughter Wendy, successfully demonstrated the prototype on the dunes in front of the executives of the Brunswick Co., who agreed to manufacture and sell the Snurfer. The distinctive yellow and black board, incorporating the cartoonish “Snurfy” mascot was rolled out for holiday sales in 1966.
An annual international Snurfer competition,
originally organized by local community college students, would eventually draw global media attention.
A youngster named Jake Burton Carpenter had been given a Snurfer as a present and immediately fell in love.
Poppen was always available to talk about his creation,
and the invention of the Snurfer earned him the title of the “Grandfather of Snowboarding.”
But the Snurfer was always a side gig for Poppen,
who worked for and eventually bought Lake Welding Supply Co. in Muskegon
He made a modest amount from Snurfer royalties
but never saw the hundreds of millions of dollars that later flowed into the exploding snowboard industry,
which also provided resorts with a much-needed boost by attracting young new participants in droves.
In the early years of snowboarding, Transworld Snowboarding magazine was king, and it honored Poppen with its first ever “Tranny Award” for significant contributions to the industry and sport.
In 1993 his wife Nancy died and Sherman later remarried. He and wife Louise moved to Steamboat Springs, where he learned to snowboard in his 60s.
He loved it and enjoyed the resort’s fabled tree riding.
Poppen eventually moved south to Griffin, Georgia, where he died on July 31, 2019.
For his role as the ‘Grandfather of Snowboarding’,
Sherman Poppen earns induction into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.
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