A couple of years ago while at Splinters Board Shop near Sugarbush someone came in talking about the PowderJet “Speed of Sawdust Tour” where this character named Jesse was holding 2-day make-your-own snowboard workshops at a variety of venues from New England to Utah. He ran out to his car to get a Powderjet creation that we all ogled a bit as he talked about a day of riding for everyone who has made boards to meet up at a nearby mountain and ride their masterpieces. This all sounded a little too cool for me, but my curiosity was definitely piqued.
Too cool or not, when this summer’s VT workshop dates were announced, I decided we needed to do this. Thankfully Mark was “on board” and next thing you know, we were booked for the July workshop.
We were super stoked about heading to VT and seeing what this process was all about. Before the weekend, Jesse contacted both of us to learn what we were looking for in our boards. We discussed powder tails vs. kick tails and whether we wanted a longer board or a shorter board. Mark pretty much had his concept dialed in but as usual…I had no idea what to do.
I sent Jesse a little biography about my riding and what I would like to be able to do out there with notes about the boards in my quiver and what I like and dislike about each. After reading this novella, he sent me a picture of a pretty cool looking board that he said would make my tree riding 100x more enjoyable. And even if it doesn’t, I will look like a total badass and like I totally know what the fuck I am doing.
Turns out the shape he was suggesting was his wife, Zoe’s board. If it works for her…
the one in the middle
Off to VT we went. I had an idea for my graphic, and my board shape was ready to go, so we showed up on Saturday morning to see that we were the only two in the workshop- bonus…extra time with the teacher. The workshops are currently held at Jesse’s house, and it’s a really cool spot. He and his family are incredibly welcoming and gracious, and you instantly feel like you have been friends forever.
Jesse pressed the blanks ahead of time. He layered the P-Tex base, layers of wood veneer and fiberglass and epoxy, and he placed the edges. Our width, sidecut, and board profile were set before we got there. The rest was up to us. On the website is a slider tool that will let you try out virtual nose and tail combinations to help you decide what you want to do before you go. But there’s always some room to change up your ideas when you get there.
First task was to jigsaw out the basic shape. I was eager to get going and jumped right in. Then we started working on the nose and tail shapes. There is a folder of templates to work with. We picked what we wanted and then had to adapt it somewhat to our board size. Much of this process is done by eye and is not scientific. That makes it feel more organic, and you definitely end up with a handmade product rather than something popped out in a factory. But if you’re all sorts of neurotic like I can be, prepare to be tortured by some of those little details.
It’s easy to go a little too crazy with some of these tools so tread lightly. Oddly the left side of my board was shaping up great. The right side kept encountering hiccups. There’s probably some left brain/right brain explanation for that. I just thought it was interesting.
We drilled the inserts and belt sanded the perimeter until the sparks flew and our edges shined. Then we put the angle on the side. I am super-tentative with most things I do. That’s one of the biggest reasons it has taken me so long to get to the level of snowboarder that I am right now. In the context of building a snowboard, it was no different. I was terrified of doing too much of anything every step of the way. Thankfully Jesse was pretty in tune to it and was able to head off a breakdown before it happened.
We sanded the top until it was as smooth as a baby’s butt and that pretty much took us to the end of the first day. In between, we had a delicious lunch prepared by Jesse and Zoe to accommodate my incredibly picky (and multiple food allergies) eating habits.
We also met the rest of the family, the boys were both on their way to work, so we exchanged quick greetings, but we spent some more time with Zoe and their daughter Cecily. I took a real liking to both of them. Cecily is a drawer of dragons and has a wonderful, spritely and curious spirit herself.
The second day was pretty much all about the finishing touches. I obsessed all night about my nose being disproportionally long for the board, so the first thing we did on the second day was lop some of it off. That was a good move. In my head, it was going to feature our favorite mountain, Revelstoke (Mt Mackenzie) on the nose and the Neverbored logo in relief on the tail. Somehow I thought we were going to have more guidance in the design department so I was not as prepared as I could/should have been.
After painstakingly trying to sketch the mountain, I had to paint it. It was coming out ok, but I didn’t know when to, and it kept getting worse. The tail came out great. Put the sticker on, painted around it, took the sticker off and there you go, NB in wood surrounded by the blue of the water. Everything NB stands for.
We headed home leaving our boards there for their trip to the base grinder. Not long after getting home I decided to sand off my graphic and start over again. I wasn’t sure quite what was going to happen, but that board was going to change…and get better. We finally picked up the boards at the end of September, and I quickly went to work making it a board I could be proud of.
After much fussing, it was time to clear coat and focus on the important part…riding it! It is ready to go, and now we are waiting for more snow. It dispels everything you think you know about how snowboards need to be built and is a totally different take on things. At the very least it will be a really cool piece of wall art. At the very best, my tree riding will be 100 x more enjoyable!