The study of human history is a funny old field. Since very few of us actually witnessed the big events, most of what we know about them is from what people tell us, and as we all know, people are occasionally (and some more frequently than others) full of shit. As Winston Churchill was once credited as saying: 'history is written by the victors' and half of them are as dull as mud.
Luckily for us, a lot of the characters in snowboard history are still alive, and these days, their highs and lows are paraded around in front of us all over the interwebs. Of course, we may not always know what was really going on behind the scenes, but we can still tell snowboarding's story with a little more confidence. And we can surely agree on a few of the key moments that shaped it into what it is today.
So without any further ado, here are our top 38. Of course we couldn't cover everything, but these moments are some that we consider pretty iconic over the course of snowboarding's relatively short history. We're not putting them in order of importance though - that's for you to decide...
Harvey and Gunnnar Burgeson File For the Very First Snowboard Patent
Even though rudimentary snowboards can be traced back to pre 1850's Turkey, where people supposedly used modified wooden tablets to travel between villages, the first official snowboard invention lies with Vern Wicklund and the Burgeson brothers.
Wicklund built the modified sled shown above when he was 13 in 1917, and along with the Burgeson bros, had it patented in 1939. Only 5 were ever made.
Don't believe that these things ever existed? Well check the guys scoring some fresh lines on them waaay back in the 1940s:
Sherman Poppen Invents The Snurfer
According to most, this is where it all started - the Snurfer as designed by Sherman Poppen in 1965. In the middle of a long winter, inspired by his daughters standing on their sleds, Sherman had the bright idea of bracing two short skis together and incorporating a string at the front so that the board could be steered. Good on ya Sherm.
The Snurfer is widely recognised as the first marketed snowboard, with about a million units being shifted between 1966-1976, one of which went to a young Jake Burton, who brought a customised one with prototype bindings along with him to the 1979 National Snurfing Championship.
Dimitrije Milovich Starts the First Modern Snowboard Company
Dimitrije Milovich, an east-coast surfer, was introduced to snow sliding in 1970, and two years later, dropped out of Cornell to move to Utah and start his own snowboard company, Winterstick.
The bindingless boards were heavily influenced by surfboards and were sold in 11 countries. However, they proved a tough sell, and by 1987, Milovich had no choice but to gracefully bow out. His legacy, however, lives on...
The Burton vs Sims War Begins
Enter Jake Burton and Tom Sims. Chances are that if you know anything about how the modern day snowboard came to be, these two dashing chaps would be right up there.
Both were heavily into Snurfing (is it just me or does anyone else think of little blue people when they read that word?), with Jake moving to Vermont in 1977 to start flogging a Snurfer knockoff with rudimentary bindings that he called a Burton Board. Over on the West coast, skateboard legend Tom Sims also started selling the first Sims boards.
What unfolded over the following years was a fierce arms race that involved plenty of technical innovation, creative marketing, rider poaching and petty bickering.
While Sims and his company remained highly influential into the early 1990s, it was Burton, run by a more focused and business-savvy CEO, who ultimately finished up on top by the mid 1990s.
Ski Resorts Open Their Doors to Snowboarders
Back when snowboarding was still as young as Berlusconi's girlfriends (well, younger to be fair), most of the existing ski resorts refused to let snowboarders ride the lifts, which was a massive slap in the face to our vibrant, upcoming sport and let's face it, a huge dick-move.
By 1983 this slowly began to change, with Stratton, Vermont opening its doors to snowboarders. When they finally realised that we aren't all drug addicted gutter punks on a mission to 'scrape away the snow for the skiers', many other resorts followed suit.
By 1990, 476 resorts allowed snowboarding and today only a handful still don't. At least the few totally moronic, narrow minded skiers that are still around will be contained in just a few resorts...
Regis Rolland in Apocalypse Snow
Snowboarding in Europe was kickstarted when Dimitrije Milovich decided to take a team of his Winterstick riders over to Les Arcs, France in 1982. At that time, only a handful of guys were snowboarding in North America but practically nobody was doing it in Europe.
After being amazed at how totally frickin awesome snowboarding looked, a ski instructor by the name of Regis Rolland decided to buy one from 'em. With no real reference point to follow, Rolland quickly developed his own unique snowboard style and in the process, helped to put snowboarding firmly on the map in Europe. Rolland started his own brand 'Apocalypse' in 1985 and was the snowboard star in a series of now legendary promotional videos for Les Arcs that went by the name of 'Apocalypse Snow'.
Featuring hang gliders, snow rafting and a band of villainous monoskiers who try to capture the hero snowboarder to steal the secrets of skiing, Apocalypse Snow was as off the cuff and bizarre as it was inspiring, and was certainly a major turning point for European snowboarding.
Jake Burton Hosts First US Open
The first National Snow Surfing Championships, organised by Paul Graves at Suicide Six, Woodstock, Vermont were held in 1982. The event featured a slalom and downhill and both Jake Burton and Tom Sims rocked up to compete. Racers in the downhill supposedly reached speeds of up to 60 m.p.h and Sims eventually emerged victorious - with a fractured thumb after crashing into the hay bales at the bottom of the course to show for it...
The following year Jake took over the event, while Tom Sims started the World Snowboarding Championships in Tahoe - the first event to feature a halfpipe. Believe it or not, Burton threatened to boycott because he felt that halfpipes shouldn't be a part of the event - we're glad he's changed his mind since.
In 1985, Jake renamed his event the Burton US Open which has continued to this day.
International Snowboard Magazine Launches
International Snowboard Magazine was the first dedicated snowboard publication. Started by Tom Hsieh, the magazine was originally called 'Absolutely Radical' but thankfully, had it's name changed after the first issue. It lasted until 1991, when it was outcompeted by slicker and better distributed titles like Transworld Snowboarding.
It possibly didn't help that they put Santa Claus on the cover, in the middle of May...
Doug Waugh Invents the Pipe Dragon
A few halfpipes started cropping up in resorts in the 80s but they were small, sketchy and had to be shaped by hand, which is obviously a massive ball ache.
In 1990, a farmer named Doug Waugh was commissioned to design a machine that would make halfpipe construction way easier. The result was the Pipe Dragon: a giant modified farm machine that could carve sweet ass transitions out of big ass piles of snow. The first was built in 1992 and they helped to spur snowboarding's freestyle revolution in the early 90s.
Yep, the first legit halfpipes were built by hillbillies.
Birth of Onboard!
The first issue of Onboard Mag was launched in 1994 as some sort of winter/lifestyle/travel/god knows-what-else magazine and some mug thought it would be a great idea to put Seal (yes yes, the British R&B and soul singer-songwriter...) on the cover. As subsequent editor Drew Stevenson since put it:
The first issue must go down on record as the worst cover, worst content, in fact, worst magazine in snowboarding history.
We tell ourselves daily that we've come on a bit since then.
Johann Olofsson in Standard Films' TB5
If there's one video part in this list that you absolutely need to watch, it's this one.
Johann Olofsson was a young Swedish dude who was killing it in the parks at the time and was invited out by Standard Films to travel out to Alaska. Maybe he'd get a few filler shots right? Wrong.
Johann preceded to go frickin' ballistic and what resulted from that trip is one of the best snowboard parts ever, without question. It's influenced everyone from Travis Rice to Jeremy Jones, and that balls-out 300ft in 35 seconds decent not only broke world records, but put Johann firmly in snowboarding's illustrious history books.
Peter Line Assembles the Forum 8
Even though he's a bit of an oddball these days (anyone see those Fireside Chats he did for Snowboarder Mag?), Peter Line was one of the most influential riders of the 90s, pioneering tricks like the backside rodeo and straight up bossing it. Line started Forum snowboards in 1996 and set out to assemble what is arguably the most progressive snowboard team of all time.
The Forum 8, as it was known, consisted of JP Walker, Jeremy Jones, Joni Malmi, Wille Yli-Luoma, Bjorn Leines, Devun Walsh, Chris Dufficy and Peter Line, who all featured in Mack Dawg/Forum's 'The Resistance' - which, if you were wondering, is one of the greatest snowboard movies ever made.
Ingemar Backman Breaks the Highest Air Record
It was late afternoon on a bluebird day in April 1996 and a young Swedish rider by the name of Ingemar Backman was dropping in to hit a sketchy, hand built hip during a wind-down session at that year's Diesel 55 DSL comp.
What followed in those few seconds was a moment that graced the cover of something like 7 snowboard magazines around the world, and put Backman into the record books: an out of the blue, 6.5m backside air poked out to perfection and executed with the kind of finesse that only a few riders were capable of at the time. Sure, riders have gone bigger since then but the sheer balls and spontaneity of that moment was pretty special back in 96.
Snowboarding's Olympic Debut: Simmen and Thost Claim the First Halfpipe Medals
Snowboarding made its first Olympic appearance at Nagano, Japan in 1998, with both Giant Slalom and Halfpipe events being included. It was the start of an ongoing debate about snowboarding's fit in the Olympics with Terje Haakonsen, the best rider at the time, famously giving the event the finger and boycotting in protest of its control being given to the International Skiing Federation (FSI) rather than the International Snowboarding Federation (ISF).
Nevertheless, the 'Lympics went on, with Ross Rebagliati becoming the first snowboarder to win a gold medal. In true snowboard fashion, Rebagliati was briefly stripped of his medal by the International Olympic Committee after testing positive for marijuana, but the decision was reversed after an appeal from the Canadian Olympic Association.
In the halfpipe event, a young Swiss rider by the name of Gian Simmen took first place, with Nicola Thost claiming the women's gold.
Onboard Release Board Games - the First Euro Snowboard Video
We would ramble on here about why this movie was epic and whatnot, but the truth is, we can't remember.
Anyone have a VHS player?
Terje and Daniel Franck Present the First Arctic Challenge
Daniel Franck and Terje Haakonsen hosted the first Arctic Challenge in their home country of Norway back in 1999. Sick of all of the rules and bullshit of other contests at the time, the pair wanted a comp that wasn't just about racking up points and impressing the judges, but having fun and pushing yourself alongside your friends.
Dudes like Romain de Marchi, Joni Malmi and Bjorn Leines all made the first Arctic Challenge, alongside a 13 year old freckled ginger kid by the name of Shaun White. He killed it by the way.
The event was initially held in Lofoton (which is so far above the Arctic Circle that the sun at that time of year is out until 10:00 p.m) but has been since moved to Oslo. The Arctic Challenge has typically been the final stop of the TTR tour and is still one of the highlights of the calendar.
Marco Siffredi Shreds Everest
You've probably never heard of Frenchman Marco Siffredi, despite the fact that he was a certified mentalist who, with the help of a couple of sherpa buddies, successfully climbed up Mount Everest and snowboarded back down it.
He made it the first time and thought he'd give it another crack. Unfortunately on his second go he didn't quite enjoy the same level of success. RIP Marco (1979-2002).
Heikki's Backside Air at Arctic Challenge
Finnish all-terrain ripper Heikki Sorsa burst onto the scene at the second Arctic Challenge in 2001, where he smashed Ingemar Backmann's existing world record for the highest air on a quarterpipe with a lofty 9.3 backside air.
Although it may look kind of sketchy compared to what we see getting chucked these days, this was pretty next level at the time.
Death of the ISF/ Birth of the TTR
In 1990, five nations and 120 racers setup the International Snowboarding Federation (ISF) with the aim of creating an organising body by riders, for riders. For around 10 years, the ISF attracted a bunch of world class riders and set the standard for competitive snowboarding, but eventually lost a lot of its influence to the FIS.
Roll up the Ticket to Ride tour. Unhappy with the rise of the FIS, Terje decided to start the Ticket to Ride (TTR) in 2002, to bring the best riders together to compete in events run by freestyle snowboarders themselves. The first tour had nine stops and the winner of each was awarded a medal which doubled up as an invite to the final stop on the tour - The Arctic Challenge.
More recently, the TTR has been renamed the World Snowboard Tour but still controls the biggest events in snowboarding, bar that little irrelevant one that's something about some coloured rings...
Heikki's Olympic Mohawk
The year after Heikki's record-breaking backside air, the Finn was immediately thrust back into the limelight when he rocked up to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics sporting a pair of pink goggles and a mohawk. Although he only managed 7th place, his attitude and appearance had him all over the Finnish front pages and earned him some serious kudos.
We just think it was super badass, and exactly what snowboarding's image needed in a time when it was at risk of being watered down by over-serious and sterile Olympic spokespeople.
Chad's Gap/ Pyramid Session in Absinthe Films' 'Pop'
Absinthe's Pop, the fifth film since Justin Hostynek and Patrick Armbruster joined forces, was a breakthrough snowboard movie in many ways. It contained the first ever shred session on Chad's Gap - a 150 ft beast of a chasm that many thought would be too big to tame on a snowboard, and helped to propel Travis Rice into the full-blown, energy drink chugging, helicopter wielding superstar that he is today.
In the session, Travis had the mother of all overshoots on Chad's, flying close to 200ft, before getting it together and stomping a switch backside 540 amongst some other tricks. Romain de Marchi also got a heavy backside 540 down.
Mads Jonsson Lands the Longest Frontside 360 - 57m in Hemsedal
Norwegian Mads Jonsson set the record for the longest jump on a snowboard when he boosted a 57m frontside 360 over a pretty serious kicker in Hemsedal Norway. As far as we know, the record still stands.
Shaun White's Perfect Season
By the 2005 season, Shaun White was well on his way to being the greatest competitor snowboarding has ever seen. To this day, no rider in history has ever achieved what White did in the 2005-2006 season. 12 contests, 12 victories. Bang. Wallop. Thanks for coming.
His long list of gold medals that season included all 5 Grand Prix Qualifiers, X Games Pipe and Slopestyle, the US Open and the Torino Winter Olympics. If we're being honest we think it's going to take someone very very special indeed to top that particular achievement.
David Benedek Stomps the First Double Cork in Competition
Although not the first man to ever land a double cork (that award goes to JP Walker who stomped the first one caught on film in MDP's Shakedown back in 2003), David Benedek was the first dude to stomp one in competition.
It all went down at the Munich Air & Style in 2006, where a mean frontside double 12 was unleashed onto an unsuspecting crowd. It definitely set the benchmark for competitive snowboarding at the time, with many riders quickly taking it upon themselves to get them learnt. Travis Rice was perhaps the most notable, landing a bunch of double backside rodeos in comps the following season.
Mathieu Crepel Wins the First TTR Title and World FIS Title at the Same Time
In the 2005/2006 season the TTR tour was cranked up a notch with the introduction of the now-familiar star tier system. A load more events were included on the tour and an overall TTR World Ranking List was introduced.
French halfpipe specialist Mathieu Crepel became the first TTR World Snowboard Tour Champion ever and also bossed the World FIS title the very same year.
Terje Breaks the Record for Highest Air at the Arctic Challenge
In the qualifying stages of his own Arctic Challenge event in 2007, Terje re-established himself as king of the quarterpipe by pipping Heikki's existing highest air record with a mahoosive 9.8m Backside 360.
It's always looked to us like Terje was just going for a huge backside air but when he realised how high he was, figured he may as well carry on rotating and turn it into a 360. Either way, he stomped it, and his record remains to this day.
Burton Encourage Riders to Poach Resorts That Don't Allow Snowboarding
In an attempt to 'Sabotage Stupidity', Burton launched their 'Power to the Poachers' campaign, encouraging and rewarding riders who poached one of the few remaining resorts that still didn't allow snowboarding in the US.
Pretty badass if you ask us.
Winches and Bungees Change the Face of Urban Snowboarding
No other invention has progressed urban snowboarding more than winches and bungees have. Though many snowboarders will hate to admit it, thanks are definitely owed to our wakeboarding cousins for pioneering the giant elastic bands.
Gooner's part in FODT's Hard To Earn above was one of the first parts to use bungee tow-ins and you can read more about how they came about in this super informative article.
Travis Rice Releases That's It That's All and the Art of Flight
World conquering films from Travis Rice and Brain Farm, and arguably no single snowboard films have had the same level of mass appeal - you don't need to see them again do you?
Kevin Pearce Beats Shaun White at the Burton European Open
With the 2010 Vancouver Olympics less than a year away, competitive snowboarding was going through the kind of wild, untamable focus that we're seeing today in the run up to Sochi 2014. Every serious competitive snowboarder was looking to step up their game, and although everyone thought that Shaun White was unbeatable, a young rider and friend of Shaun's by the name of Kevin Pearce did just that at the Burton European Open.
Being the competitor that he is, Shaun didn't like getting beat and rather sneakily rode in the 4 star Popcorn Wallride Jam in Saas Fee, exposing a loophole in the ranking system and ending up with more points overall than Kevin. But because Kevin had already been crowned champion, he retained his World Champion title.
Ulrik Badertscher Stomps a Backside 1620
While filming for 2009's 'They Came From' by Factor Films, Norwegian ripper Ulrik Badertscher stomped the world's first 1620. That's four and half full rotations. The trick kicked up a pretty healthy debate online, with some saying it was sick and others calling it the whackest looking thing since bootgrabs.
Whatever your personal opinion, the fact remains that the trick showed people what was possible on a snowboard and the following years saw a huge leap in contest riding with 1260s and double corks in slopestyle pretty much becoming the norm.
X Games Debut Real Snow Competition
In 2010, when competitive snowboarding was awash with 1260s, double corks and a ridiculous rate of progression, ESPN launched their Real Snow video competition concept.
Inspired by Skateboard Real Street the previous summer, the Real Snow comp had riders like JP Walker, Dan Brisse and Louif Paradis film 60 second video parts which would be voted on by the public and judged by a panel of judges.
The concept was generally well received and helped to bring the idea of urban snowboarding and the idea of filming video parts rather than just riding competitions, to the masses.
GoPro Launch their HD HERO Camera
Although GoPro sold its first Camera system back in 2004, it wasn't really until the launch of the HD Hero in 2010 that the company truly exploded onto the action sports world.
These days you'll be doing well to go snowboarding and NOT see a middle aged dude filming himself with a extendable ski-pole doing turns down a green run.
Nevertheless, the quality of GoPros have improved steadily since the company was born and the footage you can get from these little things these days if you're half decent at snowboarding is pretty damn good.
Torstein Horgmo Lands the First Triple Cork
Torstein Horgmo collectively blew people's minds when he dropped an edit of the first ever triple cork stomped on a 100ft jump in Folgefonna, Norway.
The footage pretty much came out of the blue, and for a while, Torstein was the only dude in the world to have stomped one. Today of course, it's a very different story...
Shaun White Claims his Second Olympic Gold
After his brief blip the season before and with Kevin Pearce out of the picture owing to his horrific injury earlier that December, Shaun White continued his streak of dominance by winning his second Olympic gold medal.
His run included a brand new trick (a double McTwist 1260) that he coined the Tomahawk.
Mark McMorris Lands the First Backside Triple Cork 1440
Torstein's status as the only dude in the world to stomp a triple lasted approximately 9 months. In March 2011, footage emerged of a young Canadian by the name of Mark McMorris bossing the first ever backside triple at a Transworld shoot.
He landed it second try and is currently the bookies' tip to take Slopestyle Gold at Sochi 2014. The kid's pretty damn good at snowboarding if you weren't already aware.
Travis Rice Hosts the Red Bull Supernatural
What do you get when you take a 55 degree slope at Baldface Lodge, a bunch of custom obstacles, a couple of foot of fresh powder, a couple Red Bull Helicopters and some of the world's best snowboarders? The answer, obviously, is the Red Bull Supernatural.
The event was the vision of larger than life snowboard super hero Travis Rice, and helped to bring the idea of backcountry freestyle snowboarding to the masses. The event was slick, action packed and pretty iconic in our eyes, even if Travis did win it himself...
Peetu Piiroinen Wins his 4th TTR World Title
Even though Shaun is basically still the dude to beat in the halfpipe, Peetu Piiroinen reminded the world that he's a frickin' boss in both pipe and slopestyle by winning his 4th TTR World title (he took three consecutive ones in 2009, 2010 and 2011).
It's an unparalleled feat and one that will take quite something to beat.