The Story

Snurfer History


Christmas Day, 1965. The presents were unwrapped, the carols were sung, and Sherman Poppen’s two daughters were getting restless. In a stroke of genius, he took two kids’ skis and bound them together, then gave the surfboard-like contraption to his girls to try. Next thing he knew, they were standing on the board, zooming down the snowy hills near their Muskegon, Michigan, home. Soon, Sherman was tinkering with the design, coming up with a single-piece board that was shorter and wider than a traditional ski and equipped with a rope for steering. The neighborhood kids clamored for the amazingly fun new invention and, in 1966, Sherman patented his idea as a “Surf-Type Snow Ski.” His wife suggested combining the words “snow” and “surfer” and the iconic Snurfer was born.

The true origin of snowboarding is the subject of much debate, but there is no doubt that Sherman Poppen’s original Snurfer was the first commercially available snow surfer. In 1966, after receiving his patents, Poppen licensed the product to the Brunswick Corporation and worked closely with them to create a board from the same laminated wood they used for bowling lanes. The boards were originally sold as novelty items but they gained in popularity so quickly that they soon defined a whole new category of winter-sports equipment.

While the true origin of snowboarding is subject to heated debate, there’s no doubt that Sherman Poppen’s original Snurfer was the first commercially available snow surfer. Working with the Brunswick Corporation, Sherman brought his idea to life by creating a board made from the same laminated wood used for bowling lanes. The Snurfer quickly made the leap from novelty item to winter-sports wonder—more than a million original Snurfers were sold, making it the best-selling invention of the 1960s!

But from the start, the Snurfer was more than just a toy. From 1968 through the late ’70s, the local college in Muskegon hosted a National Snow Surfing Competition and riders of all ages came from across the country to compete in front of hundreds of spectators. As snow surfing became more and more popular, people started to replicate the original Snurfer, adding new features and customizations. These Snurfer-inspired boards eventually led to the birth of a whole new category of sports equipment and an entirely new sport: snowboarding.

Snowboarding’s boom in the 1980s and ’90s brought incredible innovations in technology, and the simple design of the Snurfer fell out of fashion. Still, the industry never forgot its humble roots in a Michigan backyard, and Sherman Poppen is widely recognized as the father of modern snowboarding. His awesome invention, which has spawned decades of winter fun and incredible on-snow accomplishments, is seen as such an important step in the sport’s development that Sherman was inducted into the Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1995.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of my long term dream, I'm happy to endorse Snurfer LLC as they reintroduce the Snurfer brand to an entirely new generation of backyard enthusiasts.

- Sherman Poppen
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