A comprehensive retrospective from the former Editors of SNOWBOARDER Magazine, originally published in the 30th Anniversary Issue of SNOWBOARDER Magazine, pick up your copy now!
Words by Mark Sullivan, past editor of SNOWBOARDER Magazine and founder of Tailgate Alaska
Still Pointing it.
“I can boil my life, and the six years I spent at SNOWBOARDER, to a single word: Kaizen. In fact, when I first discovered the word, as a marketing student at the University of Vermont, I found it so powerful, so connected to my life, mission, and the sport that made me who I was, I began to define myself by this single word; still do. It made things easier to explain and more difficult to do, just like snowboarding. The idea of Kaizen, as expressed in my first editorial at SNOWBOARDER, is simple: it means to improve, or to seek constant improvement.
I knew it was already the goal of every athlete, articulated or not, to improve with each passing season, to break through existing limits and create new ones for the breaking. For the contest guys, it was easy to keep score, improving on results as time went on. For riders who relied on parts in movies and pictures in magazines, much less so. Going bigger than before, or adding to existing tricks was more difficult to quantify in print and could be an illusion created with wide angles or other manipulation and camera trickery. Still, and just as relevant to today's pros (and regular riders), Kaizen is the goal, whether they know it or not.
For me, Kaizen was not just about the riding, it applied to all aspects of my life, and reshaping this publication. It applied to the voice of the magazine (welcome on board Pat Bridges), the design (I still laugh about putting my job on the line to hire Aaron Draplin), imagery (snowboarding is a lifestyle, not just tricks, as Jeff Baker demonstrated) and even the emerging world of new media (with out-of-the-box web editor Evan Rose). As a team, we challenged convention, and our bosses, and the results speak for themselves to this day. Those were the salad days for sure, but I feel our crew did its part to challenge ideas and conventional thinking in snowboarding publications of the day while fending off the blitzkrieg budgets of the "new" internet media era.
For us, it was a battle of ideas, not money (otherwise, skiing would have crushed our sport long before I had a job doing what I loved). But Kaizen doesn't end with a job, and neither did defining myself as a snowboarder or defying convention (what I always saw as the easy way out). Doing new things is easy to ridicule and hard to accomplish, like the sport, and learning from mistakes is often more important than basking in the glory of success. And so the progression continues. With 15 years of hindsight, having never shied away from pushing limits both in snowboarding and business, this much I can say with confidence: For the business of snowboarding, more Kaizen. Make our sport more compelling than other options available to 14—24 year olds (and old men like me), and for the riders, go to Alaska because nothing else even comes close. Kaizen.”
Founder/Owner Tailgate Alaska