Jake Burton: Goodbye to a great young man

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Christian Bach

Jake Burton: Goodbye to a great young man

This Polaroid was taken in the mid-2000s. It shows Jake Burton Carpenter. He didn‘t like the pic once I showed it to him. He felt it made him look old and thus rejected it with a boyish smirk. This was in line with a statement made in the previous interview session addressing „what he could not get about people - actually choosing to be old“ and thus neglect snowboarding as a sport to pursue and his company’s youth-driven style in particular.

The interview was later published in Pleasure Snowboard Mag. A snowboard magazine, founded by youngsters who had met while snowboarding to form a scene and push their stoke for snowboarding - and become friends along the way. Jake had a huge part in us coming together - through snowboarding. He provided inspiration, context and a lot of stoke for what was our youth and is a part of our lives now. Burton Snowboards served as a cultural and sportive inspiration to us. Long before we became self-proclaimed professionals talking about sport and culture. 13-year-old kids, soaking in the music, the aesthetics and statements from videos, magazines, and catalogues - sponsored, designed, supported and presented by Burton. It's fair to say that our minds today build on these formative years when looking at the world and asking ourselves whether something is “cool" or "whack”. Judgmental, for sure, and thus maybe not so suited for today’s PC Zeitgeist, but essentially snowboarding. A culture built on the paradox of wanting to produce self-confident individuals neglecting leadership, enjoying to find their very own line, while factually looking up at their best, almost granting them cult-leader-like status. Jake was one of these leaders. Maybe the epicenter of the paradox. For sure, someone who had a great time shredding. Stoked! 

I think it is fair to assume that he faced just as much resistance as he appreciated worshipping for his efforts of building the largest snowboard company in the world and the culture that is snowboarding. Through his work, Jake inspired kids to become self-confident adults. And I bet he found himself banging heads with these adults once they were aiming to create their own cultural space and brand, attacking the dominance of the brand that he himself had created. It is a fact that Jake’s drive resulted in a lot of controversy about „Burton did this“ and „Burton did that“, but essentially it kept snowboarding vital from the core. Media presented him often as Mr. Snowboarding, but it never felt that Jake had any interest to become an industry-board-like spokesperson. Instead he wanted to stay the youthful and self-determined entity to drive his personal and individual vision of "rider-owned and -operated".

Riders were always welcome in this market Burton built and to this industry. Since not every snowboarder shared Jake’s ideals of shapes, graphic-design, teams, speech, advertising, and storytelling, there always was room for other brands to push their vision and add another interesting facet to the culture. Something a less youthful maker and more parental industry leader might have tried to stop at all costs. With Burton Snowboards one always had the feeling the company simply deemed their idea of snowboarding to be „the cool“ in winter. No need to join forces with anybody else. The best snowboards in the world, hands down. Made by Jake and Burton Snowboards to get you stoked when taking the best perspective on winter one could have: sideways. Sticks to feel young, carefree and great on.

Jake died of cancer on the 20th of November 2019. A shock to myself and every shredding friend of mine I reached out to, trying to make sense of this. I don’t talk about snowboarding’s meaning in my life a lot. But Jake Burton’s passing reminded me of it as nothing has in a long time. We are the snowboarding family Jake built. And we are happy for it to be this way.  

Goodbye to a great young man. Wherever you are, I hope it’s dumping there right now and a bluebird is getting ready to sing his song for you.

Thank you, Jake. 

Über den Autor:

Christian Bach fährt gerne Snowboard. Heute ebenso wie früher, deshalb war er vor gut zwei Jahrzehnten der erste festangestellte Pleasure-Mitarbeiter überhaupt. Christian ist bis heute - inzwischen meist als freier Creative Director - dem Pleasure Mag immer wohlwollend verbunden geblieben. Geschätzt als Freund, Snowboarder, Shape-Connaisseur und treibende Kraft vieler angeregter Debatten ist er ein Komet mit fester Flugbahn im Pleasure-Universum. 

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Auf das Pleasure Product Special 2020 sollte man sich als Angebot zum Streifzug durch die kulturellen Identifikations-Möglichkeiten als Snowboarder einlassen. Nehmt euch die Zeit und findet jede Menge Inspiration auf den insgesamt 178 Seiten. Denn eines ist sicher: Ein Tag auf dem idealen Snowboard verspricht mehr Kontemplation, Glück und Seelenheil als jede Meditations-App.