Sponsors are pretty damn important if you're looking for a career as a professional snowboarder. They're the dudes that front the cash for your trips, help fund your parts in big movie productions and most importantly, hook you up with snowboard gear.
From your outerwear to your hardwear and pretty much every single thing that you use on and around your snowboard, there are brands vying for your talents to sell their stuff. Naturally, for snowboarders - who soar over the heads of spectators and bone the shit out of grabs in movie parts - it's their board sponsor that perhaps plays the biggest part in the overall equation.
Although not as hectic as say, football signings, sponsorship deals in snowboarding do come and go every season. But while the vast majority of big name snowboarders have supportive board sponsors, there are a handful of riders who are still killing it in 2013 but for one reason or another, don't have a sponsorship deal with a major snowboard brand (i.e. a one who manufactures snowboards which can be purchased by Joe Public).
Have a look at the few we've picked out - some of them might surprise you...
[part title="Markku Koski"]
Former board sponsor: Stepchild
Current sponsors: Quiksilver, 32, Etnies, Vivo Headwear
At 32 years of age, Markku Koski may be one of the more, let's say, 'established' dudes on this list but he can still ride a snowboard really bloody well. He's the kind of rider that you could point at any feature and count on him to send it.
Markku spent many years on the Stepchild team before being let go a couple of seasons back (to be fair, he was a little out of place seeing as a pretty hefty chunk of their team is made up of North American jibbers), and while he may not get the same coverage today as he did in his hey-day, we reckon the Finnish halfpipe boss, who you may remember scored a bronze medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics, is still more than worthy of a board sponsor. Check his kicker hits starting at 2:33 in the edit above from our Send Off Session this year: they ain't half shabby.
[part title="Heikki Sorsa"]
Former board sponsor: Weekend Snowboards
Current sponsors: Red Bull, Oakley, 3CS
Finn number two in our list and another rider who's simply far too sick on a snowboard not to have a proper board sponsor is Heikki Sorsa.
Back in the day, Heikki used to ride for Burton, before signing to Weekend Snowboards, which is sadly no more. While brands have come and gone, Heikki still goes as big as ever in the streets, park and backcountry. If you needed any more proof of that fact, we'd swiftly direct you to his 2013 Cooking With Gas full part (above). There aren't many guys in the world who go as big in the streets as Heikki does.
It looks like Mr. Sorsa may be being hooked up by YES snowboards at the moment but considering his absence from their team page, we doubt they've signed an actual sponsorship deal.
[part title="Andreas Wiig:"]
Former board sponsor: Forum
Current sponsors: Vans, Electric, Rockstar, Norrona
With the untimely demise of Forum Snowboards last year, many former global level riders were left scurrying about in the ashes and thoroughly board-sponsor-less. Blonde, chiseled Norwegian Andreas Wiig, or 'Mandreas' as he is known to many, was one of them.
Andreas filmed an X Games Real Snow backcountry part this year and anyone saying he's over the hill should totally check it out. The dude still absolutely sends it and is more than capable of stomping some seriously sizeable double cork variations in the backcountry.
[part title="Peter König:"]
Former board sponsor: Forum
Current sponsors: Gloryfy
Peter König is another former Forum rider who was left without a board sponsor. But board sponsor or not, Peter still manages to have a ton of fun on his snowboard. Not to mention the fact that he goes MASSIVE and basically shut down the hip feature at our Send Off Session in Kitzsteinhorn. Heck, he even got the cover of Onboard issue 139 with a gargantuan backside air on that very feature. If he'd had a board sponsor at the time, they'd have been stoked.
[part title="Fredi Kalbermatten"]
Former board sponsor: Burton
Current sponsors: Atreebutes, Monster Energy, Saas Fee
Once on the same Global Burton team as long-term buddy Nicolas Müller, Fredi Kalbermatten has been around for yonks. He's filmed many a part with Standard Films over the years and although he eventually dropped off the Burton sponsorship conveyor belt, there’s still a lot of love out there for him and his powerful, stomping riding riding style.
Case in point: his prominent role in Jake Blauvelt's Naturally movie - one of the biggest snowboard releases of the year. He may be massively underrated on a mainstream level but in many ways he should be regarded as on par with the Gigis, Nicos and De Marchis of this world.
[part title="Pat Moore"]
Former board sponsor: Forum
Current sponsors: Volcom, Electric, Vans
Pat Moore is yet another former Forum rider who wasn't immediately snapped up by a new board sponsor. Pat is one of only a handful of snowboarders who can send it equally hard in the streets as he does in the backcountry. This year he filmed not just one, but two X Games Real Snow parts (in both street and backcountry) and has shown no sign whatsoever of taking his foot off the proverbial gas pedal.
It would have been a straight-up outrage if Pat had remained totally sponsor-less after the retirement of Forum, but thankfully he was snapped up by Vans and Volcom - who sort him out with outerwear and Volcom branded snowboards, (although technically they're not really a snowboard producing brand).
[part title="Eric Willett"]
Former board sponsor: Omatic
Current sponsors: Vans, Smith, GoPro, Flux, Celtek
Eric Willett was born and raised a stones throw away from Breckenridge resort, Colorado - home to one of the world's best terrain parks. He started shredding at a young age and shortly after was creating sizeable ripples on the competition circuit.
He was eventually picked up by Omatic snowboards - another brand who are sadly no longer with us. In recent years Willett has podiumed at the Dew Tour, won the European X Games and most recently, taken the win at the prestigious Air & Style in Innsbruck, and still has no proper board sponsor. Maybe he's just too nice a dude?
[part title="Chas Guldemond"]
Former board sponsor: DC
Current sponsors: Rockstar, Under Armour, Electric, Neff
Chas Guldemond is another slopestyle force who has been killing it on the competition circuit for years. At only 26 he's young by most people's standards, but in snowboarding, is pretty much considered a slopestyle veteran. Among his many accolades he's won the Arctic Challenge and X Games Europe and also has a first place finish on the World Snowboard Tour slopestyle rankings under his belt. Best of all, he rides every comp he enters with a massive grin on his face.
Chas used to be on the DC team but was dropped shortly before he started truly bossing it in comps. We wonder if they ever regretted that decision... Soon after, American energy drink brand Rockstar started hooking him up with branded snowboards.
[part title="Louie Vito"]
Former board sponsor: Omatic
Current sponsors: Red Bull, G-Shock, Nike, Spy
Believe it or not, when you discount the likes of Shaun White, Travis Rice and Torstein Horgmo, Louie Vito is one of the most followed snowboarders on social networks. The pint-sized Olympic snowboarder has 54,500 followers on Facebook and counting: a growing mass of fans that was no doubt bolstered perhaps as much by his appearance on Dancing with the Stars as is it was by his unquestionable athletic prowess.
Vito has podiumed over 40 times in his snowboard career and has X Games, US Grand Prix and Dew Tour gold medals under his belt. Although he is backed by some big sponsors like Nike and Red Bull, Vito was another dude who was left hanging when Omatic bit the dust.
Unusually, given his superpipe abilities, larger than average social media following and high chance of repping the US in the 2014 Olympics, no board sponsors have seized the opportunity to send him their snowboards for him to ride.
[part title="Iouri Podladtchikov"]
Former board sponsor: Santa Cruz
Sponsors: Vans, Monster Energy, Quiksilver, TSG
Iouri Podladtchikov is a character. He was born in Russia but moved to Switzerland at a young age with his parents and quickly got into snowboarding - in particular, the icy walls of the superpipe at his home resort of Davos.
Oddly enough, I-Pod rode on the Russian snowboard team at the 2006 Turin Olympics before getting on board with the Swiss National Team. These days he's one of the world's best in the stunt ditch, with numerous wins and podium places at 6 Star TTR and X Games events. At the European X Games in Tignes this past season, he stomped a trick that no rider has done before - a cab double 1440 that he dubbed the YOLO flip. And yep, you guessed it - it was all on a custom made snowboard.
Why Iouri doesn't have a proper board sponsor we have no idea, but it does raise the interesting question of whether top drawer contest results are what snowboard brands are looking for in the riders they choose to sponsor in this day and age. Do X-Games superpipe gold medals sell snowboards? Or would brands rather invest in riders with exciting, aspirational personalities and something a little different to offer?
As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below![splitpost intro="true" numbers="true"]