‘Jake, we’ll catch you on the next lap’: Woodward Copper, Red Gerard honor late Jake Burton Carpenter with memorial lap
Burton Snowboards founder died Wednesday night in Vermont
COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT — Snowboarders woke up to stunning, sad news Thursday, when word spread on social media that Jake Burton Carpenter, the founder of Burton Snowboards, died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, at age 65.
In the wake of the grim news, Woodward Copper organized a memorial lap at Copper Mountain Resort on Thursday afternoon to honor Carpenter, more commonly known as Jake Burton. Carpenter was a man recognized by many as The Godfather of Snowboarding.
A collection of snowboarders — and some skiers — gathered at the top of the American Flyer lift, where Woodward Copper senior manager Adam Kisiel shared some thoughts about Carpenter’s legacy on the sport. Carpenter was the man, the pioneer, who brought snowboarding to the masses and who played a force in taking the activity from the fringes to a billion-dollar business and a sport at the heart of the Winter Olympics.
“In an interview in 2000, I believe, he said, ‘I live this. I love this,’” Kisiel said as the memorial-lap group, including Colorado pro snowboarders Red Gerard and Nik Baden, listened.
“‘This sport has made my life. This sport is my life,’” Kisiel said, continuing Carpenter’s quote. “And I think that’s important, because that’s something each and every one of us finds some sort of connection to. And there’s a lot of us who may not even be snowboarding without Jake Burton.
“Jake, we’ll catch you on the next lap,” Kisiel said before pointing the nose of his Burton Danny Davis-model Deep Thinker board down the hill.
Leading the lap were Steamboat Springs native Baden and Gerard, an Ohio native who honed his elite skills as a preteen and teen after moving to Summit County with his family. Gerard practiced in the Woodward Copper barn on the Burton Park Board, learning the air awareness and skills that led him to Olympic superstardom with his slopestyle gold medal win in 2018 and his Burton U.S. Open championship in Vail a year later.
On Thursday, Gerard shared on his Instagram a photo of him with Carpenter during the 2018 Olympics, wearing the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team gear, which was, of course, designed and supplied by Burton. To go with the photo, Gerard kept his thoughts short and simple with merely a heart emoji.
“Snow’s falling for you today, Jake,” Gerard later wrote in another Instagram post, using the hashtag “#rideonjake.”
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Carpenter died Wednesday night of complications stemming from a relapse of testicular cancer.
Before founding his namesake company, Carpenter quit his job in 1977 in New York with a goal to advance the rudimentary snowboard, then called a Snurfer, which had been invented by Sherman Poppen a dozen years earlier. More than four decades later, snowboards are as common as skis at resorts across the globe, namely Colorado.
Earlier in the day, Burton co-CEO John Lacy put Burton’s near-half-century legacy into perspective.
“I encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that’s riding,” Lacy wrote in an email to Burton staff that was shared with The Associated Press. “It’s opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together in celebration of Jake.”
That’s just what Gerard and Baden did Thursday, leading the Woodward Copper group down the hill.
“Somebody like Jake Burton has changed a lot of lives, including the pros who just showed up here like Red Gerard,” Kisiel said. “He’s been somebody that’s been pivotal in bringing in more people and supporting them in a career in snowboarding. With the outpouring that happened this morning as soon as the news hit that he passed away, I think there’s just a lot of posts out there that said, ‘I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing without Jake Burton.’”
Thinking back to some of his favorite Burton boards, Kisiel remembers riding Burton’s Ross Powers pro models back in the day. He had a Burton Code when he first moved out to Colorado. And then Kisiel frothed as a teenager over the Burton Custom boards he’d see in catalogues, just like so many other young snowboarders, including Gerard and Baden.
“Both of those guys are kids who grew up in snowboarding and made careers of it,” Kisiel said. “And a lot of that wouldn’t be possible without Jake Burton.”
Down at the base of the Flyer lift, Devin Bishop of Arvada remembers doing a school project about Carpenter in the fourth grade. To a guy like Bishop, Burton Snowboards introduced a skateboarder like him to a bigger and better board-sport world.
“I always liked skateboarding, but it’s like skateboarding in nature instead of these dirty, urban places,” Bishop said about snowboarding.
Former Summit resident Maximillan Crouch described Carpenter’s legacy as cultivating the ethos, the essence of the sport.
“Snowboarding is all about the love,” Crouch said. “He spread, he made that possible for all of us to share in.”
“Snowboarding creates bonding,” added Crouch’s friend Kirsten Lima of Blue River, who was riding a Burton Deep Thinker on Thursday. “And America needs bonding.”
Reporting from The Associated Press was used in this story
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