I was a pioneer in the snowboarding movement.
This I discovered yesterday, when my sister Fran started a look-back Facebook thread because they were expected a good bit of snow on Long Island.
Our neighbors two doors down on the Suffolk County hill that cascaded on our suburban street, the Carrs, chipped in with memories along with Fran, myself, and our sister Dory.
The snowy days were so much fun.
We belly-flopped down the street on our Flexible Flyer sleds, hoping for the packed snow to last just one more exhilarating trip before the plow passed through.
We saucered down the link of backyards, from the Cook’s’ house above, through ours and the Lewicki’s and bumping to a stop at the Carr’s.
No fences between neighbors, thankfully, as we grew up in the late 1960s and 1970s.
I alone had this weird contraption called The Snurfer.
It was long, like a ski, but it didn’t come in pairs.
It was eye-jolting yellow.
It had a rope attached to the front. You were supposed to hold on tight to help in steering.
You stood on top of it in your slippery snow boots. No clamps or latches were in sight.
And you fell. A lot.
Finally I polished the positioning, mastered the maneuvering, and collected the courage to haul my Snurfer to St. George’s Golf Club. The roadside hole featured a hill running from rough through fairway to rough bigger than anything our backyard terrain could offer.
Members’ admonitions be damned, the private golf course became a popular winter snow spot.
I became a dodging, weaving, happy Snurfer rider. I liked it even more after I decided I had better control by weight-shifting, and tucked that yellow leash along the board and under my boots.
In reality, this slope was something less than a bunny hill. It was my mental Mount Everest nevertheless.
Then I grew up. Tried skiing once and hated it. Went away to college and forgot about the whole thing. My parents divorced and that house was sold. I hope some kid bought that Snurfer at a garage sale.
Because yesterday I discovered that the blaze yellow contraption is considered the first snowboard.
My sister’s Facebook memory chain coaxed me into a Snurfer Google search.
On the site snowboarding.transworld.net, I found a story about Sherman Poppen, the inventor of The Snurfer, being honored with the unveiling of a “Snurfer Sculpture,” in 2012 in Muskegon, Mich.
The Muskegon man invented The Snurfer on Christmas Day in 1965, the story says.
His wife, Nancy, came up with the catchy name.
In 1968, Muskegon became home to an event called The World Snurfing Championship. The Snurfer was manufactured by several companies until the early 1980s.
And in 1995, Poppen was inducted into the Snowboarding Hall of Fame in Alberta, Canada.
As I whisked down that hill on Long Island, I knew none of the history and could predict none of the future of that yellow snow surfboard.
But I knew I loved the wind on my face as I conquered that golf course hill.
I’m glad for the memory. Hey, the Winter Olympics start Feb. 8 in the Russian city of Sochi.
Did you ever try The Snurfer? Would you have if you had seen one growing up? Is snowboarding or skiing your thing? Why do you like winter sports on a hill?
38 thoughts on “I fondly remember The Snurfer, that early yellow snowboard”
Dang!! Am I jealous!! I wish I’d had a Snurfer!
When I was a kid, nothing was fast enough or wild enough. I was the first kid in my area to ride my Flexible Flyer standing up–though I did hold on to the ropes. Not only were they useful for steering when you hit a bump, but if you let ’em go, they’d inevitably wind up under a runner.
But I probably would have been a total klutz on that Snurfboard, after all: I flunked on skis on a bunny hill : (
Fun and interesting post, Mark!
I never dreamed of standing up on my sled, Babe. It was only the belly-flop for us Long Island kids on my block. Run fast, dive on, skid as fast and far as possible. No ropes. I can’t remember if we all cut them off, but definitely no ropes on our Flexible Flyers. FYI, I flunked skiing in my subsequent years, too.
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The standing showed true
stupiditycourage. Do you know how slippery that wooden surface is against the bottom of a wer rubber boot? It worked best on the paved street in front of our Rockland County house when the plowed snow had been driven tightly-packed and it was frozen to almost-ice. The speeds achieved were breathtaking–in memory 😉
I discovered your post tonight and thank you for posting this memory. I grew up in Muskegon, Mich. in the 60-70’s, with my brothers and I each having a yellow snurf board. What great memories of conquering a bigger hill every winter. As our skills improved we eventually cut off the yellow guide rope. It’s been many years, but a part of me would like one more ride even though in my late 50’s it may not be wise. Thanks again.
I agree, David, I know it would be dangerous as I approach my 57th birthday, but the feel of the wind on the hill on my Snurfer one more time would be outrageous! And wasn’t it far more fun without that yellow rope? I think we helped start the snowboard craze without knowing it. Have a great winter out there in Michigan, sir. I had to drive my wife to the airport this morning, car dashboard read temperature of 39 degrees.
I always love to hear the Thrill of the Snurfer as i too could not wait for winter and each hill looked like a new wave to Snurf for me. Check out my you tube site at snurfer mark – my wife, Paul Graves and i were the first professional Snurfers, we did a commercial for LaBatts Blue beer in Canada 1978. Like you the rope for me was to pull it up the hill. I still Snurf at age 59 and rode in a Snurfer Challenge at the Vermont open this year. Snurf On!!!
I will check it out, Mark! Glad you commented here. Snurf On, indeed!
Well what did you think???
Awesome, all of it!
Our folks had a snurfer under the Christmas tree for each of my brothers and me one year and we became the most popular kids in town that winter. We also used the hills of our community’s golf course to perfect our skills – rarely using the rope in front for steering. Instead, our boards were wedged in the back allowing us the shift the weight on our back foot and turn slightly left and right. Our boards also had small pegs on the top side the we stood on, providing better traction with our boots and better maneuverability. We have always felt like snowboarding pioneers as well – providing some of the best memories we have growing up in small town Iowa. It was good coming across your posting and taking a trip down memory lane with you. Thanks!
I am so glad to hear that you had the same golf course pioneer feeling about Snurfing as a kid, Tim.
Those Snurfers were certainly ahead of their time.
And ropeless was the only way to maximize the thrill.
Glad you dropped in to comment.
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That’s a fantastic story Mark. And I could see your bearded and sunglassed face whizzing down the snow hills. Assuming you looked just like you do now, but only 40 years younger. 🙂
OK, Colleen, in high school I had no beard and sunglass-wearing didn’t seem to be in quite yet with my crowd. But, the moment I went away to college, I grew my beard, and except for a week of job interviewing and perhaps a day or two of “breathing time” in my 30s, the beard has been there in varying lengths ever since.
Perfect! Then I will just keep my image intact. 😉 No harm in that. Great story, I really enjoyed it.
Thank you, Colleen. It was special to me because it was triggered by family neighborhood fun from way, way back.
I love the memory, and community, pages. There were some great things before social media. 😉
wow, i’ve never heard of a snurfer, nor have i seen one. i used to sled on plastic trash bags, cafeteria trays, saucers, sleds and toboggans, anything that would take me down a hill, and fast! lots of crashes and mishaps, i’m a horrible skier, but do like slow trails with beautiful views. you are such a trend-setter! too bad i didn’t know about the festival in muskegon )
Yes, this kid liked to go fast, and this man prefers the leisurely view, Beth. Indeed.
I super suck at skiing/snowboarding/anything that takes coordination. The thing is, I love trying to do it. Way to blaze a trail with the first board!
It was so much fun to Google it yesterday and realize my sporty Snurfer that I stored in the closet next to the baseball cards became a piece of history! And, for the record, I super suck at skiing, too, CBXB!
Way cool that you housed a piece of history in your closet!
This has certainly been a history lesson. As Smurfs had not yet been invented, it wouldn’t have been associated with smurfing around, which would not be cool at all. I wonder why Chiquita did not endorse the boards? They look like snow bananas.
Yes, they had a Chequita a-peel, Kerby.
I’ve never tried The Snurfer, but we–my brother, my friends, and I–would use those long plastic sleds. For hours, we’d build snow ramps and surf down the side of hills. We’d fall quite a bit, but that was the fun of it. Luckily the snow padded our falls. Who knew that years later snowboarding would be so popular? However, we kids can’t take the credit.
Mark Bialczak: trendsetter since 1957, setting the bar high since 1965.
I hope you are including public relations jobs in your current search, Chris! Thank you for the slogan.
Haha. You’re welcome.
Right now looking at opportunities with AAA; it will get me traveling, but it will take me out of Syracuse unfortunately.
Good luck on the trail. I know it’s tough. I think you’d be able to pick up much experience for your writing by working the road for AAA, Chris.
Yeah, that was without knowing it, Rachel.
How would that wind have felt on your face if you went ‘snurfing’ this morning where you live? (11-below zero!)
As I kid I would have trudged up the little hill, thinking it was a mountain, and slid down one more time.
As a grown-up, I don’t even look forward to hauling the garbage pail and recycle bins from the curb to the side of the house in this wind chill, Jim.
Wow. Cool. You pioneer! So do you own a modern snowboard now?
No, I retired from snow sports upon high school graduation, save for shoveling my driveway, SDS!
Wow! The first snowboard! You really were a pioneer! We had so much fun sledding down the hills in NJ over the holidays and it was great to do it with my kids for the first time. When there were too many kids and not enough sleds, we even pulled out trash can lids and trash bags. They worked out just fine too! 🙂
Kids will slide down hills on anything. Remember using cafeteria lunch trays? I do. It sounds like you all made a lasting family memory with that N.J. holiday trip to the snow!