Snowboarding, like all the other board sports, sprang from surfing and the pure, simple goal of sliding on earth’s many landscapes. Surfing has long been popular among Hokkaido, Japan natives, who have carved out a unique subculture among global surfers. A determined bunch, Hokkaido surfers chase seasonal swells around the island and are only rewarded with perfect surf when a litany of conditions align. Thanks to this pursuit of perfection, most of them ascribe to a particular method of riding waves which is all about smooth, graceful style and a strong connection with nature.

Hokkaido Island has many surf breaks that have the potential to be great, but it takes great perseverance and local knowledge to nail the timing. When Hokkaido’s surfers score good conditions, they don’t waste the opportunity to lay down a perfect bottom turn, graceful cross-step to the nose or soulful arch in the tube. Akin to the great surfers of the 1970s, these waveriders are purists, and since nearly every Hokkaido surfer is a snowboarder, that mentality has forever transformed the course of snowboarding on Japan’s snowy northern island.

Snowsurfing style

Since snowboarding in Hokkaido heavily draws from local surf culture, snowboarders are focused on finding untouched powder lines and carving beautiful turns, rather than “jibbing” (popping off man-made and natural features). There is a serious emphasis on style and grace rather than stomping the landing of a jump or trick. Above all, Hokkaido snowsurfers ride the mountains in a way that allows them to experience the terrain in its pure form, enjoying each gully, pitch and natural feature the best way their body and board allow.

To get a better idea for this unique snowboarding style, watch this trailer for the film Snowsurf.

Snowsurfing boards

Unsurprisingly, this traditionalist culture has a huge impact on the equipment used to achieve the style. That’s where Gentemstick comes in. In 1990, founder Taro Tamai started building his original model, the TT, which married carving performance, i.e. a pointy nose and round tail, with a flat-camber system. Since then, the Hokkaido-based snowboard has gone on to create dozens of shapes. Some of these designs are heavily influenced by the classic “Snurfer” designs of the 70s, while others feature a modern influence, but all are built with a focus on carving—whether it be on a groomer or in the deep Hokkaido powder.

Gentemsticks are shorter than your average Western snowboard. The short length allows for more aggressive maneuvers and is inspired by shorter board lengths seen in the surfing and skating worlds. Gentemsticks designs and manufacturers a huge array of boards, including flat-camber boards, float or powder boards and a litany of styles called “alternative.”

Tamai is also a Hokkaido surfer and believes that “surfing and snowboarding are mutually elevating their own evolution.” This concept is more than just that, it’s also a practice. Tamai surfs the island’s northern swells in the middle of winter when snow covers the beaches and only the truly passionate prevail.

In the Western world of snowsports, Gentemsticks and the torch they bare is gaining traction. In the era of X Games and all of the gymnastics that kind of snowboarding entails, many snowboarders are finding this niche culture to be a breath of fresh air and akin to going back to “the simpler times.” Snowsurfing has already inspired dozens of pro-snowboarders to take up the mantle, including Forrest Shearer and Alex Yoder.

Gentemsticks are available for demo and purchase at the Gentem Showroom in Niseko.

Ready to get back to snowboarding’s roots on a Japan trip? Book your trip today! Our 65+ Mountain Travel Experts are standing by for your call at 800-610-8911. You can also get started by filling out a form for a free custom quote.