Burton Snowboards’ Most Influential Riders
A little over a year ago, Snowboarder Magazine released a list of their Top 20 Most Influential Riders of the Past 20 Years. Of the top 5 chosen, 3 were riders from the Burton Snowboards team. This is proof, once again, that Burton Snowboards is one of the most influential industry leaders in the sport of snowboarding.
Year after year, as snowboarding becomes more commercialized, it becomes easier to forget the roots of the sport and where it all began. What started out as the passion of a few riders has now become the career goal of many of the youth snowboarding today. The allure of corporate sponsorship and rock star status casts a shadow over the pioneers in the industry, blotting out the memory of those that rode for the love of riding and not for the love of money and hopes of sponsorship.
Today, like years ago, the pro riding scene is dominated by riders from the Burton Snowboards team. Burton’s riders are continually striving to push the limits of mainstream snowboarding; creating an atmosphere where every rider works harder every day to be better at riding. Most members of the Burton team have a foundation built on the love of riding. The Burton riders hold fast to the old school ideas of snowboard purists and fight each day to keep themselves grounded; to keep themselves from “selling out.”
Here’s a look at the 5 most influential riders for Burton Snowboards from the past 20 years; and the reason why each one of them made the list.
1. Terje Haakonsen. Arguably the greatest snowboarder of all time, Terje was born in October of 1974. Terje’s home mountain is in Norway. Terje revolutionized snowboarding and has been riding since the sport was invented. Riding the original Snurfer, the earliest version of the snowboard and soon after moving to the conventional snowboard, Terje dominated the freestyle snowboarding scene since the early 90s. He has won 18 championships across the world and set the world record for the highest “air” during the 2007 Arctic Challenge in Oslo by reaching a staggering 9.8 meters. He has an aerial trick named after him called The Haakon Flip and has helped develop 3 Burton snowboards: the Burton T6, Burton Fish, and the Burton Malolo.
2. Craig Kelly. Craig was born in April of 1966 and his home mountain is Mt. Baker, WA. Terje Haakonsen claims that Craig Kelly was his close friend and mentor. Craig was the first snowboarder to take snowboarding from a pastime to a fulltime career. Craig worked tirelessly and marketed himself until he was bombarded with endorsement deals. Craig won numerous championships riding for Burton Snowboards throughout the 80s and 90s. When snowboarding went mainstream in the mid 90s, Craig had ventured off alone, finding refuge in the backcountry away from the media.
3. Johan Olofsson. Born in October of 1976, Johan claims Sweden as his home mountain. Riding for Burton Snowboards for most of his professional career, Johan brought the park to the natural terrain of the mountains. Johan revolutionized snowboarding when he was the first to start jibbing and spinning tricks off of cliff faces and windlips instead of man-made park structures.
4. Kelly Clark. Born in July of 1983 in Newport, Rhode Island, Kelly has revolutionized the sport of snowboarding for her gender. Winning the Gold in the 2002 Winter Olympics secured her status amongst snowboarding legends. Since then, she has gone on to push the boundaries of the sport by winning numerous competitions and championships in the halfpipe and quarterpipe events. At only 26 years old, Kelly is still tearing up the mountain and is set to become one of the greatest female snowboarders of all time.
5. Shaun White. Born in September of 1986 and claiming Park City, Utah as his home mountain, you can’t have a complete list of the top Burton Snowboards team members without Shaun White. Shaun has pushed the boundaries of snowboarding since he started riding at age 6. Winning every award in existence, Shaun is the most decorated and widely recognized snowboarder in the world. Shaun has helped take snowboarding from its humble beginnings with its cult following to the mainstream and beyond. Some would argue that the notoriety of legends like Shaun White has contributed to the downfall and commercialization of snowboarding. Others claim that the sport has only gotten better since his arrival. Either way you look at it, Shaun is a legend.
The contributions of Burton's riders toward the sport of snowboarding are immeasurable. Thanks to the 5 riders listed, and many others that didn’t make the list, snowboarding has reached greater heights than what Jake Burton thought possible over 30 years ago. Through the hard work and dedication these riders bring to the sport, snowboarding has taken the world by storm and continues to grow at a staggering pace day-by-day. What can the up and coming generation possibly offer that hasn’t already been accomplished by these Legends of the Past? Only time will tell. Whatever it is, it’s bound to be mind blowing.
Photo credit: P. Erickson. Shaun White and Kelly Clark at the New Zealand Open in 2009.