Father’s Day had me thinking a little about my childhood and some of the shenanigans I was involved in with my family. Here’s a little look back. Thanks dad.
In the mid 1980’s, in the lost time of very big hair and leg warmers, we learned about Burton Snowboards. I must have been 10 or 12 years old. I remember seeing something about it on television, but I can’t say if it was the news or some other program. My family all thought it was pretty amazing. Everyone knew about skiing; although that was for people with more money or less children than us. But snowboards, that was like surfing on the snow! WE CAN DO THAT
Surfing we knew about. My father grew up near the coast in California. He didn’t seem to want for much as a child. (Weird). In fact he claims to have surfed nearly every morning before school, and if conditions were primo (his word), even longer. As kids, we were exposed to surfing on yearly trips to see our grandmother in California.
After staring at the snowboard intently on the t.v., my father proclaimed he could build one. This was not that unusual because he claimed he could build nearly anything…with varying results. My father was actually fairly intelligent and artistic. The only things that stood between him and successful execution of a plan were: impatience, a very short fuse, an inherent cheapness, a malfunctioning McGuyver gene, and 7 clamoring children. No problem…let’s build a snowboard, or three.
OSHA would have shit seeing three children under 10 holding a board my father was cutting with a skilsaw; nor was there a pair of safety glasses or earplugs on the premises. My father also thought the blade that came with a tool stayed with it for life, missing teeth notwithstanding. We stared intently as the saw ground through the old plywood, throwing sparks and wood chips into our wide eyes. Dad had already laid out the shape of the board prior to cutting. He was always better at layout and design, than execution. I just didn’t know any better until years later. To bend up the nose of the snowboard, he cut parallel saw kerfs partway through the plywood across the width of the board. You can imagine the wonder I experienced watching this. I could see this would allow the plywood to form a curve, but I had no idea what would keep it in place. The old man wasn’t really great at explaining things, and he would get more and more withdrawn the farther he got into a project until he exploded and banished us from the shop.
He clamped the the nose in the position he wanted. I can’t, for the life of me, remember how he did this. Although, I’m sure it was a cobbled up situation because he had no wood working tools. I may have been temporarily banished at that time. He then applied fiberglass material and resin to the top of the board. We were all crowded in around him sucking in the fumes trying to help. I’m pretty sure that some very important neural pathways were destroyed that night. No one exhibited any obvious symptoms, but my youngest brother ended up in a corner talking to a hammer, and I occasionally still lose sensation in my upper teeth. (Try eating corn on the cob with that affliction!)
TIES THAT BIND
Now we had a beautiful, snow-sliding board. The front curved up majestically like the Rocky Mountains we lived in.(Notice how memories become poetic as we age.) The rear end was cut into an efficient dove-tail that would give us more control on the slopes. Hey, don’t laugh, that’s what my dad told us. All that was left was some type of bindings (the contraption that keeps the board on your feet). I’m not sure if my father had an idea in mind from the get-go, because I distinctly remember some discussion about screwing our winter boots through the sole (from inside the boot. Duh!) into the top of the board. This was quickly discarded because of the many sizes of feet in the family. I believe we had three snowboards, and dad said he wasn’t making a damn board for everyone.
He finally came upon the idea of seatbelts, which made sense because they certainly weren’t used for anything else in those days. Hell, I even traveled in the bed of a pick-up from Salmon, Idaho to Los Angeles, California. Yee-haw! ALL A-BOARD!
Once the boards were complete, it was time to try them out. We went to one of our favorite sledding locations; south fork of Williams Creek, if you must know (Sheesh! It’s not like its a hunting spot!). There was pretty much no chance we were going to an actual ski slope.
I can’t tell you who was the first to try the snowboard, but I would guess my father. He would claim something like needing to make sure it’s safe, or to make a trail for the rest of us. yeah, right. Anyway, he went several feet, just far enough to pick up some speed, had a colossal crash and never got on a board again. The snowboards we built were a novelty, but they were difficult to control and hard to stay up on. We spent more time hopping, flailing, and crawling around in the snow than we did surfing. We soon exchanged them for our beloved runner sleds. I don’t believe we ever truly mastered the makeshift snowboards, but it was an Idaho adventure, and playing in the snow does not suck.