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December 24, 2007

Burton Surfboards!?

Imagine, Burlington, VT, becoming a rising star in the research and development of surfboards. Never mind that the closest ocean wave is some 150 miles away, a story in the January issue of Surfing Magazine (note: the full article is not available online) outlines a fledgling alliance between Channel Islands Surfboards and Burlington's Burton Snowboards and pinpoints Burton's Industrial Parkway headquarters as the epicenter of emerging surfboard designs.

Evan Slater writes incredulously:

The next quantum leap in surfboard technology will likely come from a brick building in the northwest corner of landlocked Vermont.

Jake Burton, who talks about an unfulfilled childhood itch to surf as a major impetus behind the creation of his company, is coming full circle - influencing the sport he set out to emulate.

He's coming to the table at an interesting time for surfboard manufacturing. In 2005, the company that held a de facto monopoly in surfboard foam (Clark Foam) unexpectedly called it quits. The dust is just starting to settle and surfboard shapers are starting to look at new materials. Many of the stories in the mag refer to it as the Post Clark age.

Since its deal with Channel Islands (Burton flat-out bought the California-based company last year), Burton has hired an engineering team that is apparently working with materials surfers have never experienced. Aerospace stuff, the article alludes to. But what's really going on behind closed doors in those engineering labs is a tightly guarded secret.

How cool, though, that it's going on here.

Everything Burton has touched has turned to gold. With a responsible business ethic, solid relationships with top riders, high-quality products and an unrivaled passion for the sport, it's built a snowboarding empire. Now it has a chance to become a leader in the surf industry.

The fact that Burton is entering the market during a time of reorganization caused by the Clark Foam closure makes this an auspicious new beginning. Its affiliation with Channel Islands, which has some of surfing's biggest names on its team roster, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and Dane Reynolds, won't hurt either.

The point of the story is that Burton will bring its exacting standards and manufacturing prowess to what has been a very inexact science of surfboard shaping.

Matt Biolos of Lost Enterprises, a competing surf manufacturer, is quoted:

"They have access to resources and equipment that no one else has."

So Jake Burton, who started out searching for a way to surf in this snowy mountain environment here in the Greens, is coming back to the mother sport bringing with him all the energy of a gold-standard business he built from the ground up.

Now, if only we could get a swell in the waters of Champlain.

December 24, 2007 at 07:24 AM | Permalink


I think its pretty cool Burton is getting into surfing and will probably inject some revolutionary ideas into surfboard manufacturing, but, as a former Burtonite involved with their international manufacturing for over 5 years, I just want to comment that responsible business ethics is not a strong point of Burton . In fact, it was at the bottom of their list ($ always being #1) until they saw enough manufacturers getting into a lot of trouble with poor factory conditions. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: bg | Dec 27, 2007 12:51:06 PM

Appreciate the insight ...

Posted by: J Starr | Dec 27, 2007 5:50:25 PM

theres plenty of swell on lake champlain... do some exploring next time its been blowin 30mph for a day. 6-8 ft

Posted by: scott | Jan 5, 2008 12:22:14 AM

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