A Brief History of Snowboarding in NZ

Snowboarding evolved from sports like surfing and skateboarding in the sixties.  By the late 1970s small contests were being held in the United States. These attracted a lot of people and after a while the organisers started offering cash prizes. In 1979 Jack Burton Carpenter  began developing his own board with bindings and then started his own company,  Burton Snowboards, in 1977. Jack Burton found a rival in Tom Sims, from Sims Snowboards. The two began competing against each other on snow and in the development of new equipment, helping to drive the sport forward in the process.

Snowboarding started to gain popularity in New Zealand in the mid 1980s as people became inspired by what they read of the sport in international magazines. In 1986  the first imported snowboards came to New Zealand from Sims and Burton. Snowboarding was initially banned from NZ ski resorts who thought the sport was too dangerous. However, by 1987 snowboarding was being featured at industry trade shows and ski areas allowed snowboarders back to the mountains.

The first New Zealand snowboarding national championships were held at Cardrona in 1988. In 1989 the first 4-6ft international halfpipe was constructed at Cardrona. This brought a lot of international snowboarders to New Zealand to train. 

Snowboarding grew quickly and in 1991 the NZ Snowboarding Instructor Association was established. Snowboard instruction had been ad hoc up until this point, with various styles and methods and degrees of competency. The Association took over the process and ruled that snowboard instructors were required to have an instructor certification to teach. 

The New Zealand Snowboard Association (NZSBA) was established in 1992 and was set up to run the nationals. The association gained corporate sponsorship as well as government  funding to run clinics and events with the aim of  growing participation in the sport.

Snowboarding was included for the first time at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagono in 1998 and Pamela Bell represented NZ in the women's Giant Slalom. Snowboarders could only enter the Games through FIS (International Ski Federation). Some professional snowboarders disliked the strict rules of the organisation and chose not to participate in the Games. 

In 2000 the first New Zealand junior team was established and competed at the Junior World Championships in Italy. In 2002 Snow Park NZ opened in the Cardrona valley providing a dedicated park and pipe training facility for snowboarders and freeskiers.

In 2006 the interim CEO of Snow Sports New Zealand, Stu Waddel stopped the funding to the New Zealand Snowboard Association. The loss of funding had a huge impact on the sport which up until this point had experienced fast growth. This growth then stopped. 

The first FIS Snowboard World Cup hosted by New Zealand was in 2007.

In 2008 the New Zealand Snowboard Union (NZSBU) was established to showcase snowboard talent outside the rules of the International Ski Federation. 

In 2010 Snow Sports NZ took over as the representative body for snowboarding in NZ.

Snowboard Slopestyle featured for the first time in the Winter Olympics of 2014. The NZ team included five snowboarders: Rebecca Sinclair (Halfpipe), Shelly Gotlieb (Slopestyle), Rebecca Torr (Slopestyle), Stefi Luxton (Slopestyle), Christy Prior (Slopestyle).

History was made at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea when 16-year-old Zoi Sadowski-Synnott claimed a bronze medal in Snowboard Big Air. It was only NZ's second ever Winter Olympic medal, with a 26 year gap since Alpine ski racer Annelise Coberger claimed her silver medal in Slalom in 1992.  Snowboard Big Air appeared on the Olympic schedule for the first time at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

In 2019 Zoi Sadowski-Synnott  claimed a triple crown in Snowboard Slopestyle,  winning the Burton U.S Open Snowboarding Championships,  the World Championship title and  X Games gold.