THE TECH FILES
Gnu’s Barrett Christy on the New B-Pro and Gnu Women’s Line
Barrett Christy is one of the all-time legends of not just women’s snowboarding, but snowboarding. Period. Boasting a CV stacked with X Games wins, Riders’ Poll awards and Barrett Rolls, she helped blaze the trail for the likes of today’s female pros to follow. Currently Barrett is responsible for product design and marketing for the female-specific products developed by Gnu Snowboards, with whom she’s had a pro model for two full decades – the B-Pro.
Having connected with Mervin Mfg (the guys behind both Gnu and Lib Tech) in 1993, it was Lib that was her first sponsor before switching to Gnu shortly after. For the next decade she frequently graced the podiums of snowboarding’s most prestigious contests, slayed it in videos, snagged one of the first female pro models in the sport and even had herself digitised into a video game character.
In 2003 she started a family with her husband (long-time Gnu rider Temple Cummins – good genes in those Christy-Cummins kids!) and took a step back from the rigours of full-time snowboarding, yet Gnu still valued her dynamic riding and product input to keep the Barrett Pro going and integrate her deeper into the development and marketing of their women’s offering. Now, from her pro model being the sole women’s board in the Gnu range, there are more than 10 on offer due in no small part to Barrett’s guiding hand.
The latest incarnation of the B-Pro further adds to her impressive tally of the longest-running women’s pro model in the history of the sport. Check out sizes and more info on Barrett’s Gnu B-Pro. We took the opportunity to banter about the board, the tech, her career, and more…
You’ve had more pro models than we’ve had hot dinners. How many in total have you had, and how would you compare your first with your most recent?
Ha! The first model that Gnu put my name on was in 1996, and that was 20 years ago. My first signature board had a flying pig fantasy graphic on it. There has been a Barrett Pro ever since, but the line grew in the late 90s to include different constructions stories and price points. The early boards were pretty stiff, and I was doing a lot of Big Air and Slopestyle events so I wanted it to be stable. They were cap construction and torsionally stiff, too. Today, we primarily use a sandwich construction with UHMW sidewalls and the boards are more responsive, without having to be stiff. One of today’s best sellers, the B-Nice evolved from that time, and wanting to add a lower price, more entry level resort board to the women’s line. Today’s board line is so much easier to ride than those 90s boards, with narrower waists, more lightweight materials, and a variety of camber contours that make snowboarding easier.
“I LOVE TO RIDE THE WHOLE MOUNTAIN AND THE B-PRO IS STILL MY FAVOURITE TO GO EVERYWHERE WITH”
Let’s talk about the longest running women’s pro model in snowboarding. What kind of woman and riding style would you say the B-Pro best suited to?
The B-Pro is C3 [Banana between the feet mixed with camber under and outside] and the choice of our top level team riders when they are competing in pipe, slope, or freeride events – they like the pop and stability. I like to ride those boards in the powder and for carving around on resort groomers because I feel like I have stability at high speeds, in variable snow conditions and it will allow me to dive my nose into turns on hardpack if I want, or keep my nose up for gliding in the powder. Sooo… the B-Pro is best suited for an adventurous, motivated, all mountain rider, or an unreal park/pipe rider.
What are you most stoked on about the B-Pro line? And this year’s model in particular.
I’m pretty excited about the 20 year B-Pro in the works for 16/17! I don’t spend as much time in the parks and pipes anymore, but I love to ride the whole mountain and the B-Pro is still my favourite to go everywhere with. I like to ride all the boards in the Gnu line though, and I think some fun new ones are the Klassy, with a more playful freeride shape, and the B-Nice Asym, which brings our premium asymmetry to a price-friendly board. And the ZOID! Asymmetry is super fun and it makes carving more fun than ever.
“The thing about snowboarding is it is fun, and if you do it right, it is more fantasy than reality sometimes…”
Tell us about winged unicorns… Where’d those graphics come from?
The “Pegacorns” have been on the B-Pro series for 5+ years now, and they are born from the hand of Adam Haynes, an awesome artist who has also been designing the Gnu Billy Goat graphic. The B-Pro started out with a ‘flying pigs and rainbows’ fantasy and I wanted to get back to the fantasy fun theme on this board. The thing about snowboarding is it is fun, and if you do it right, it is more fantasy than reality sometimes… and having a fun, carefree, magical graphic on my board helps keep that dream alive!
Tell us about boobies, or more specifically the long relationship you’ve had with B4BC…
I started working with B4BC early on, just as a supporter because it was founded by friends of mine. A close friend of theirs died from breast cancer at the age of 24; it seemed impossible that it could happen to someone so young, and that our age group really knew nothing about it. We were all in our 20s and it became apparent that we weren’t as invincible as snowboarding made us feel. The B4BC mission was, and is, to educate and empower young people about early detection and a healthy lifestyle – things that are within our control – as a means of breast cancer prevention. They do an amazing job of outreach in the action sports community, a place where they connect with girls and boys, young and old, and they are constantly raising awareness around the country on college campuses and at events. I had a royalty agreement with Gnu and was able to donate some royalties to B4BC through the sale of my boards. Tina Basich, who was a B4BC founder, painted the B-Pro graphic for the first B-Pro x B4BC collab board. I’m glad I’ve been able to continue the support of B4BC through the sale of my board, and now directly through GNU. Jamie and Kaitlyn are both ambassadors for the cause as well and it’s great to see the current generation of pros active in spreading positive messages.
What’s the R&D process you go through when developing a new board?
It’s a constant process here. I have Jamie Anderson and Kaitlyn Farrington riding and providing constant feedback on their models but both girls ride other boards in the line, too, so they get to know the technology and the other contours and constructions. I also have an extensive crew of regional riders who spend all year on the boards and put them to the test. We usually do a summer shoot at Mt. Hood that gets everyone together to compare notes and ride the challenging and not-so-challenging summer conditions on multiple boards while we get photos of them. The riders have always had a strong voice in our line development, and because our factory is here in the US, we have the ability to build test boards and make tweaks throughout the year.
“The B4BC mission was, and is, to educate and empower young people about early detection and a healthy lifestyle – things that are within our control – as a means of breast cancer prevention.”
Are technologies like Mervin’s Banana camber and Magne-Traction constantly being fine-tuned, and how do they affect the board’s performance, specifically for women?
The introduction of the Skate Banana by Mervin changed snowboarding for men and women! It wasn’t just the reverse camber concept but the Banana contour combines the rocker between your feet and mellow cambers to the contacts, in front of your bindings. In addition to the contours, the Magne-Traction on the edges keeps that banana from getting too slippery by providing effortless edge-hold. They are always being fine tuned and we have a variety of camber combo’s that sprung from the original Banana as well as different levels of Mag. The Banana boards with more rocker are more of a loose feeling, more catch free and easier on beginner riders.
“Women benefit from the same technology as the men and our line has a broad spectrum of boards for all approaches to the mountain.”
But, there are lots of pros that prefer that type of board and perform world class stunts on that contour! Typically, the performance level increases with the more aggressive camber combo’s like C2 and C3. They still flatten out more between the feet so they are better and more catch-free than a traditional camber, but they are able to handle more aggressive riding and be more stable. Women benefit from the same technology as the men and our line has a broad spectrum of boards for all approaches to the mountain.
It’s easy to slap a sticker on a product and call it ‘Eco’. Practically, what procedures and manufacturing processes to you guys use to minimise environmental impact on the surrounding area, and more globally?
True! Seems like a lot of companies claim green these days, it’s good marketing. Mervin has been green since long before it was trendy. Mike [Olson] and Pete [Saari – Mervin co-founders] were building boards in their garages at first, then they had their friends join them in the factory and wanted to find materials that weren’t toxic and didn’t smell! As they grew their determination to keep it eco did too. They have always done their best to keep their work environment and the materials and processes environmentally clean. They own the factories we build our boards in, and they don’t even let me use “toxic” smelly bathroom cleaners when the factory pets stink up the place! A few environmentally friendly bullet points for you!: *We recycle all our Wood *We use non-petroleum based bio-plastics made from castor beans *We don’t use any cancer-causing toxic automotive lacquer clearcoats. *We use soy-based elastomer sidewalls instead of toxic ABS *We use only low VOC epoxy resin systems *Our basalt fiber is additive-free and less toxic than conventional fiberglass. *We use water-cleansed grinding systems to minimize airborn particulate levels. *We use only renewable forest products for our cores. Columbian Gold is FSC “pure” certified. *Our wood sawdust is recycled as a soil additive and scrap wood is donated as kindling. *We recycle all our scrap plastics.
“Mervin have always done their best to keep their work environment and the materials and processes environmentally clean.”
Compared to when you were at your pro career peak, how has women’s snowboarding – both the riding level and the product available – changed/improved?
Compared to the late 90’s early 2000’s the level of women’s snowboarding has progressed a lot! There were always girls pushing it beyond the norm, but with more people picking up boards and growing up as snowboarders, there are naturally more women reaching that top level. There is a focus on style, and simply hucking doesn’t win events… I don’t think it ever really did though. It’s the riders that flow and make it look smooth that continue to progress the sport. Good equipment helps, and although there aren’t as many snowboard-specific brands out there now, there is more quality product and the market isn’t as flooded. I am constantly motivated by the women and men that keep snowboarding looking fun and easy… even while they are doing insane things. It’s fun making boards that help riders at every level progress on, and I am super proud to have worked with Jamie and Kaitlyn to design the boards that they rode to Olympic Gold on! I’ll always count that as a personal career highlight… and I didn’t even have to huck myself!