Snow-Surfing with Gentemstick
Hidden in plain view. Hokkaido. The dimly lit northern island of Japan, although gaining in status, is a relatively unknown pow playground to the rest of the world. Far removed from the frenetic, overwhelming, visually loud Japan, Hokkaido’s calm, tranquil vibe has been quietly producing moments of snow-surfing ecstasy for generations.
The muted, yet snow-whelmed Niseko Mountain Range is home to a half dozen or so lift operations that offer mellow, yet stunning options for powder hounds. This storm obscured region commonly ignored by the masses is the natural birthplace for Gentemstick, a brand with a deliberate focus on sliding down an untracked hill undisturbed by any outside interference.
Taro Tamai, Gentemstick’s founder, has a humble explanation for the what brought about the birth of his snowboard shaping business; we all need to be able to let go.
Simply, let go.
Allow yourself to live purely within the experience. From that idea was born the premise of snow-surfing. Capturing snowboarding in its simplest form, Gentemstick has quietly worked to develop shapes that embrace the powder carve, the turn, the flow state. From bamboo decks shaped with outrageously deep swallowtails, to super-wide options that favor volume over length, many consider Taro the father of the snow-surfing and pow riding renaissance.
I’ve had the privilege to visit Hokkaido each of the last three years. On this most recent visit, I was able to ride a Gentemstick Mantaray for a deep day at Rusutsu, in the Niseko Range. The kind folks at the showroom in Hirafu suggested the Mantaray based on the expected conditions for the following day. The suggestion could not have been more pin-point.
As we rode the slightly rusted chairlift upwards, we became aware of an often un-documented blessing of riding in Japan; the deafening sound of silence. As if the falling snow created an invisible vacuum that siphoned the noise out of our surroundings and send it out to some far off place. The sensation was eerie if nothing else. Upon reaching the top, ready to finally drop down into the heavens, we strapped in and shared a few high fives. This is why we sat coach on a 10 hour, 5000 mile flight. These are moments of ecstasy.
As the snow pummels the ground in a way that has me experiencing a new sort of vertigo and I realize I have no idea where I am, or where I am going. I blindly let gravity take over and control both my turns and my emotions. That sense of freedom, that idea of absolute and utter lack of control does astounding things to one’s mental state. Playing the co-pilot in your own life is seemingly the idea of snow-surfing. As the sidecut prompts your body into the next turn, you come to the realization; there is nothing better than an open face and fresh snow. Gentemstick boards are fully aware of this fact.
The effortless float. The unadulterated speed. The simplicity of the carve. The Mantaray exhibited all of these characteristics. But most surprising was the board’s power. Flowing turns on a flawless pow field had never felt so right. The increase in speed as I engaged and released the shortened tail was a sensation you’d expect from something with a motor. The entire time, I couldn’t stop thinking, “I must be cheating.”
Gentemstick has focused its production and design progression towards those moments. Those all but too rare of times when you are one with the snow, one with the mountain, one with everything snowboarding truly encompasses. They are intentional in their ways to help people become more familiar with the splendor of this activity. They are sharing something that is rich and profound and so very important to them, as it should be with everyone who spends time in the mountains, snow-surfing.