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Jake Burton And The Snowboard Conspiracy

February 29th, 2008 · 1 Comment

0-7368-6481-4It seems that someone has sent out a mass email to “Industry Insiders,” along with images, of a reportedly apocryphal book titled Jake Burton Carpenter And the Snowboard, and not surprisingly, I am listed in the book as a “consultant.”

The email goes something like this (according to a blog post on Group Y):

Industry Insider,

If you are unaware, check out the linked images of this Dr. Seuss-style kid’s book, available at school libraries and Amazon.com. Burton has teamed up with a kids’ book publisher to create their skewed version of snowboard history — for very young kids to “learn” from in early elementary school. Probably so that they’ll be inclined to buy Burton product as they get older. If you read this cartoon book, despite its after-the-fact footnotes, it is clear that Burton is trying to brainwash little kids these days that Jake invented snowboarding. They compare him to Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and a bunch of other historic inventors.

In the footnotes, they even spell Tom Sims name wrong “Tim Sims”.

The name of the book is “Jake Burton and The Snowboard”.

Here is a link to where you can buy the book on Amazon.com:

Please forward this message to anyone who you think cares about Burton twisting snowboarding’s history for their own gain, and post it on any blogs you participate on. If you don’t care, delete this message.”

Yes, I “consulted” on this book. What that means is several years ago someone from what I now know is Capstone Press called me at Transworld and said that they liked the snowboard historical timeline that I had edited and wondered if I would look over a new comic book they were producing for elementary school students. After trying to talk them out of my help, I finally agreed saying, I would look it over if I had the time.

When I opened the .PDF I half expected to find exactly what this “Industry emailer” is suggesting: “a skewed version of snowboard history” that was favorable to Jake Burton Carpenter and Burton Snowboards. That would have been great, right, because I love controversy.

What I found, however, was nothing of the sort. Jake Burton Carpenter and the Snowboard is a cute, little, inspirational comic book outlining the story of Jake founding Burton Snowboards. It is the story we all know well of how a former New York stockbroker left the big city and started making snowboards in a barn. It is about doing what you believe no matter what other people tell you. And sticking at it tenaciously until you find success. The only suggestion I had was that they make sure Jake was riding regular and not goofy.

I’m guessing Capstone Press had discovered that today’s kids weren’t all that interested in reading Amelia Earhart: Legendary Aviator or George Eastman and the Kodak Camera and wanted to spice things up with a topic that “the kids are really into right now.” I can almost hear one of their interns: “Hey, snowboarding is really hot right now, let’s do something on that.” Because, after all, Capstone is in the business of selling books.

So far this “email” has shown up here, on Burton’s Forums, TransworldSnowboarding.com, The GroupY marketing club blog, and potentially on Transworldbusiness.com. In other words, people are talking about it. The reaction to this email really says more about the current state of the snowboard industry than it does anything else. Right now people are scared of Burton Corp. Burton has been doing a great job of combining and conquering action sports lately and this has many business people frightened; even big people. In an interview last year with Sports Business Journal Quiksilver’s Bob McKnight said the two companies he most feared were Nike and Burton.

When people are scared they are willing to believe all kinds of things. Even more, they’re likely to mob up and start waving pitchforks. Sure, it would be great to think that this book was some kind of insidious conspiracy by the evil marketeers at Burton to subjugate the minds of America’s youth into only buying Burton products. But anyone who has read the comic (the first chapter is titled Snurfing USA) would likely laugh out loud at that suggestion.

While I’m all for being critical when it comes to companies like Burton, it would be better if those critiques were based in something other than fear and ignorance. But then, if they were they’d probably be a whole lot less entertaining for “the industry.”

[Note Added March 6, 2008: Transworld Business‘ newest snowboard editor Mike Lewis writes about the controversy in a Transworld Business Investigates story.]

Tags: Media · Snowboarding

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 liz // Mar 3, 2008 at 11:51 am

    hey Lee, just stumbled across your blog…

    thanks for the back story on this. I’ll link to it on our blog if you don’t mind.

    haven’t seen you in forever, hope you and the lady and the kidlet are great.
    .l

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