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Jake Burton

Category: Action Sports
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Biography:

Today snowboarding is one of the most popular winter sports at the Olympic Games; impressive considering the sport has only been in the Olympics since 1998. Snowboarding’s immense popularity today can be accredited to one man – Sports Speaker Jake Burton. An avid skier throughout his childhood and college, he first came across a primitive snowboard, called a “snurfer” (snow+surfer), when he was 14 years old. This, however, was a toy, not the sports piece that it is today. After starting his own snowboard company, Burton Boards, in 1977, Burton and his snowboards became common sights at events across the country. The principal hindrance to snowboarding’s success was that many ski resorts still would not allow snowboarders on their slopes. Everything changed in 1982 when a resort in Vermont right near Burton’s company’s headquarters allowed snowboarding and hosted the first National Championship. From there snowboarding snowballed into a global phenomenon, including a $400 million industry, of which Burton Snowboards controlled half. Throughout the 1990’s the sport’s popularity grew, including the creation of many national teams and the first World Cup. In 1998, snowboarding was held at the Olympics for the first time, and since has been one of the most watched events every year. In the 90’s, many ski resorts saw a decrease in skiers and an increase in the average age of skiers. With snowboarding, all of this changed. Because of the contributions made by Burton, a whole demographic was ushered back to the mountainside. When asked about his incredible successes with the sports, Burton has often said that it never really took off until he stopped worrying so much about the money aspect, and instead committed himself to developing the sport through his snowboards and equipment. Rather than marketing his own board, he found that when he marketed the sport, that’s when things really took off. Through showing kids how to ride and proving the worth of the sport, Burton made snowboarding cool.