Behind the earliest snurfing footage

15 Jul, 2009

In May a snurfing video hit the internet that quickly spread through the snowboarding world of media, blogs and twitter. The video showed remarkable footage of snurfing powder in Utah and Wyoming from 1968 to 1973, the earliest footage of it’s kind. Many wondered about the snurfers, Rob Patterson and Howard Sorensen, who were captured on old footage carving up endless powder with the greatest of ease. Howard’s son, Jake Sorensen is the author of the youtube video so I got in touch with him to find out about the film and the snurfers.

Jake Sorensen and Howard Sorensen were kind enough to answer questions about the footage which will be featured at the Olympic Park museum in Park City, Utah. 

Shay: How did you come across the Snurfer footage?
Jake: My father was at the Olympic park museum in Park City Utah and noticed a small display on the “first snowboard”. He talked to the director and asked her if she would be interested in footage from at least 5 years prior to what they were claiming to be the first snowboard. They were extremely interested so we pulled out the old super 8mm footage and had it digitized. I then worked on a little color correction and tried my best to doctor up the old film, which was beginning to slowly deteriorate.

Shay: What were the decisions behind editing the footage and putting it on youtube?
Jake: We had a two fold reason for editing the film. One was to preserve the film which was slowly being destroyed by time, and the other was to place it in an exhibit at the Olympic park museum in Park City Ut. Once I edited the film, I knew that it was something that had to be shared. There is no other footage like it out there. We have searched and searched and have found nothing even remotely close to what a true snurfer is capable of. Obviously the easiest way to share it is through youtube.

Shay: How did you get introduced to snurfing?
Howard: I had a gift certificate to a local department store in 1965, saw the original yellow Snurfer and purchased it. My friend Robert Patterson also purchased one and we began Snurfing on small hills around Salt Lake City in the Winter, but quickly were attracted to the mountains for more challenge and the deep Utah powder which was where Snurfing was really fun.

What was the reason for making the video?
Howard: Rob and I were in an English class together in High School and were basically failing the class. We discussed with the teacher if we did a special project using super 8 movie combined with music and poetry, would it help our grade. She said go ahead and give it a try and she would see. When she saw the finished product we passed with a B- in the class.

Shay: Did you keep snurfing after 1973?
Howard: We snurffed a great deal up until 1974. Then Robert left for 2 years to Norway and I for 2 years to live in Peru, serving full time missions for The Chrurch of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “The Mormons”

Shay: Did you ever try snowboarding?
Howard: Only a few times on packed snow mainly, our passion however was powder and today we prefer powder skiing over snowboarding because of its mobility. I believe however if we were both sitting high atop a huge powder bowl and given the choice of our skis or our snurfers, we would choose our snurfers. The resorts do not allow them due to no safety bindings. We did add leather straps to our snurfers which enabled us to jump with them.

Shay: What are your thoughts on snowboarding and how it developed from snurfing?
Howard: As young men, we knew what the snurfer needed. It needed to be wider, loose the lead rope, have a better edge and bindings. We were very interested in producing such a board, but in the end choose to serve missions instead. By the time we returned home Burton was well into his Burton Stick and Demetree was moving forward quickly with the Winterstick, and we moved on to other occupations.

Shay: The snurfing powder looks amazing, was it was easy as it looks in the film for you to ride?
Howard: Like many sports, when people first tried it, they were lucky to go 5 feet in a straight line. We had been snurfing almost daily in the winter for about 5 years by the time the shots you see in this current youtube movie were taken.

The snurfing video and paragraph below will be featured at the Olympic Park Museum in Park City, Utah.

The Beginnings of Snowboarding
In 1965 Sherman Poppen of Michigan invented a snow toy for his 11 year old daughter and called it the “Snurfer”. He then licensed the manufacturing and over the next 10 years sold over a half million Snurfers.  The original Snurfer was a narrow board with no bindings, rather small cleats to stand on, and a rope attached to the front and was a retail cost of $11.99 
In 1966 “snurfing” enthusiasts Robert Patterson and Howard Sorensen at the age of 10 wanted more than snurfing down small hills in their Salt Lake City, Utah neighborhoods. They started climbing and “snurfing” down the local Wasatch mountains, beginning the first mountain “snowboarding”. Rob and Howard wanted to jump with the Snurfer, so they adapted the boards by adding a leather strap onto the back.  By the late 1960’s and into the early 1970’s they were seeking higher peaks and deeper powder throughout the region. With the now modified leather strap, they began landing jumps, mastering 360’s. 
Above is the film footage they took snowboarding around Park City, Snowbird, Brighton, and Grand Targhee, Wyoming. Many of the runs seen were from hiking up remote parts of the resorts in that there were no safety binding on the original boards. Some of this footage filmed in 1971 at Grand Targhee Ski Resort, may be the first snowboarders to ride a lift.

About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!


  1. Julie Poppen
    July 15, 2009

    Greetings. My dad is Sherman Poppen. He was at my house in Boulder, Colo., recently. He showed up just as I received a copy of this video on Facebook. He was so thrilled! Footage he hadn’t seen before. Thanks for sharing. Julie

  2. July 15, 2009

    so awesome. that video made my day. i had never seen it before. thanks shay ! now im gonna go have some beers at the river with jason from milo sport.

    cheers !

  3. Duane
    July 23, 2009

    Double dog dope! What a cool film/ video. It really brings back memories of riding my Snurfer back in the early ‘70s. Before that it was taking the trucks off the old Logan Earthski and sliding down ice covered streets on my butt.
    Living in Virginia, I never got anywhere near the pow that Jake and Rob were getting. After a few years I remember when I got my license, some friends and I would go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway when it snowed and hike the field at Humpback Rock (now overgrown). Later after getting Burton boards with P-tex bases we could actually ride down the parkway itself (after hiking a couple miles).
    The beginning was so cool. I remember realizing at the time it was special and wondering ‘why doesn’t everyone do this?’ I guess such great things are only reserved for people like us huh?

    Julie – I still have my first Snurfer. I couple of years back I was able to send it via a mutual friend to have it signed by your dad. Awesome! I keep it displayed at the shop I work for.
    I often tell customers that the first snowboarder was a girl; that would be you. There’s an inspirational thought for you Shea.