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Muskegon “snurfers” plowed the way for snowboarding’s popularity

Jan 17, 2018

 

Some hate the snow, others love it, but there is no arguing that snow has been the mother of invention for many a Michigander. Case in point: Snurfing.

 

Rachel Clark, Michigan History Center historian, and Ron Pesch, Michigan High School Athletic Association historian and film documentarian, joined Stateside to teach us about this unique sport.

 

Listen above for the full conversation, or catch highlights below.

 

On what snurfing is

"Muskegon really became the epicenter for the new industry that was emerging where people took to Poppen concept and altered it," Pesch said.
Credit Courtesy of Michigan History Center

 

"Snurfing is kind of a precursor to what we now know as snowboarding," Clark said. "It came out as essentially two skis that were together."

 

"It measured four feet long by about seven inches wide. The original ones were yellow and black and it had a rope on the end of it, and you would stand on it – hopefully – and go down the snow hill on it.

 

"It was invented by a guy named Sherman Poppen from Muskegon."
 

On the local interest

 

"Locally, of course, it was huge, and a local fraternity at Muskegon Community College decided that they were going to host the world's first 'World Snurfing Classic' in 1968," Pesch said.

 

On the evolution of the term

 

"Poppen had trademarked the name snurfing, and, because of that, that really evolved into an issue for these guys that were creating boards," Pesch said. "They couldn't call it a snurfer. So, to escape that, what they did was really change the name of the sport. It evolved from snurfing into snow surfing, into what we know today as snowboarding."

 

This segment is produced in partnership with the Michigan History Center.

 

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