Inspired by waves, Bend's newest snowboard manufacturer is rousing the connection between two board sports linking carving turns on the mountain to surfing. And like many great innovations, Snoplanks got its start in a garage.
Founder, shaper, surfer and snowboarder James Nicol says in the beginning, shaping boards was just a hobby but researching and testing materials like the boards' edgeless system, bamboo composition, and powder orientation took the pastime out of the garage and to the production table. And all along with its principal—to provide "a powder oriented snow-sliding vehicle."
"That's really what drove us, this drawing off of the feeling of surfing," says Nicol. "On these boards it's the closest feeling to surfing on snow. You get more of a surf-like feeling on the mountain, a different feel than what was available in the industry."
A snowboard without an edge may seem counterintuitive, but it's the company's goal to make a board that is free flowing, faster, and geared for powder riding. After testing hardwoods like birch, cedar and oak, bamboo became the focus of composition. Four layers of bamboo and fiberglass give the board optimal float and what Snoplanks simply calls "pop." Bamboo is also superior in strength and durability, not to mention environmentally sound—a mainstay to Snoplanks which boasts its eco-friendly resin for pressing boards and its natural sealer, Tung oil, for finishing boards. A carbon fiber center keeps the board light, and rocker construction with fish tail and blunted noise design, furthers the board's float.
"Our brand is boutique, we're not trying to be a big box store. Our boards are super surfy and made for deep powder," says Nicol. "For riding Bachelor and the Cascades, it can be more of a quiver board, a compliment to the daily board."
Snoplanks are also constructed of one solid piece of bamboo, a nontraditional material and element in snowboard design that Nicol says gives riding a whole different feeling of flotation. "Once we got into bamboo, the riding changed to ride deep powder more effectively," he says. "Once we started testing the equipment it transformed to more of a performance, and high-end product."
A Portland native, Nicol is joined by co-founder Ryan Holmes and a team of eight ambassadors who help shape the future of Snoplanks at their Northeast Bend shop. The first line of Snoplank boards was released last spring and three main shapes are now available for the upcoming season.
Local riders and local pros have played an integral part in carving out Snoplanks' niche. Both Crow's Feet Common and the Bend Patagonia store will carry Snoplanks, and Nicol hopes to grow further, online and beyond. But at home in Bend, growth is already underway on the production line. And what is it that's in their pipeline? Skis!