Burton: one of the most well-known figures and brands in the snowboarding community. Whether you’ve ridden a Burton snowboard, worn a Burton beanie, or been lucky enough to attend a Burton US Open, there is no denying that snowboarding is what it is today thanks in large part to Jake Burton Carpenter.
In the recently released HBO documentary Dear Rider, you are transported from your living room into the epic odyssey of Jake Burton’s life and ascent from humble beginnings on Long Island, New York to revolutionizing winter sports on a global scale. Jake Burton changed ski-hills worldwide forever.
You’ll hear from those who shared memories with Jake Burton, and whose lives were changed so much by him, professional snowboarders Shaun White, Terje Hakonsen, Jamie Anderson, Anna Gasser, Danny Davis, and other snowboarding legends. As well as his wife, Donna, his sisters, sons, and many others who loved him.
If you haven’t watched Dear Rider yet, you need to pause whatever show you’ve been binge watching and settle in for a touching tribute to the god father of snowboarding: Jake Burton Carpenter.
If I could choose one word to describe the life of Jake Burton as it’s depicted in Dear Rider, it’s tenacious. Jake grew up being labeled as the kid that wouldn’t amount to very much. He spent his time messing around with his friends, ditching classes, and trying to have as much fun as possible.
One of the fun things that he was bound and determined to try was surfing. But for one reason or another, he was never able to get his very own surfboard. So, he set his sights on the next best thing: the snurffer. Jake got his hands on one and became obsessed with learning to master it.
And thank goodness he did! You get to watch as Jake hikes his new snurfboard up the hill in his backyard home in Long Island and slide down holding onto the front rope as tight as he can, only to tumble down at the bottom. But time and time again, he rises with a grin on his face to go back for another run.
It’s this sort of determination that he would carry with him as he set out to design his first snowboards in Londonderry, Vermont after quitting his corporate job in New York to chase his dream: spreading the love of snowboarding to everyone that he possibly could!
Dear Rider follows his progression from building his first snowboards in the poorly ventilated barn in Vermont to building a global empire that spread from coast to coast in the US and all the way to Austria and Japan! You’re taken on all the thrilling highs of how he went from selling about 300 boards his first year to sponsoring snowboarding legends like Shaun White.
But just like snowboarding, when you go up, you gotta come back down. Dear Rider certainly doesn’t pull any punches as it discusses the hard times as well.
One of the most emotionally crushing parts of Dear Rider is when it features the relationship that Jake Burton had with Craig Kelly. Craig was one of the very first professional riders to make Burton snowboards a serious name in the winter sports space.
Originally riding for Tom Sims at Sims Snowboards, Craig chose to quit riding for Sims in favor of riding for Burton because Burton really valued Craig’s input in designing boards. Craig felt heard and respected by Burton, which really demonstrated the type of relationship that they had.
Burton even respected Craig’s decision to leave the professional circuit riding for team Burton to pursue less competitive snowboarding pursuits. It was absolutely crushing when Dear Rider then went on to show the tragedy that took Craig’s life: avalanche. As you watch the documentary, your heart breaks because you got to watch how Jake admired and respected Craig and how in an instant, that relationship was wiped away.
Dear Rider is an absolute must see for anyone who skis, snowboards, or just loves to watch a good story. It encapsulates the life and spirit of Jake Burton so well. You really get a sense of how this legendary man was loved and thought of so highly by all that he encountered in his life.
So, after you’ve gone and done a few laps this winter, be sure to check out Dear Rider and raise a glass to the god father of snowboarding: Jake Burton Carpenter.