Words & Photos: Jeff Baker
On a recent trip through lovely Reno, NV I had the pleasure of stopping by the Smokin Snowboards factory to meet up with snowboarding icon and legend "Smokin" Jay Quintin to see what a true rider owned company is all about.
First off, let's explore the term "rider owned." Many companies in snowboarding claim to be rider owned and operated. Of course they have the best intentions when they use this term but only a few brands in the entire industry are truly rider owned. The fact is, when brands grow and expand, they have top bring in "professionals" to take care biz and as a result, their crews become diluted with people who are just in it for the job, not necessarily for the passion.
That said, Smokin' Snowboards is a crew of dudes who love snowboarding and are a 100% dedicated to making hand-made boards start to finish. They work their ass off all summer to fill orders to be shipped around the globe. In the winter they take well deserved riding breaks to the neighboring resorts around Tahoe. Work hard, play hard is their motto.
Evidence of this is apparent the second you walk into their factory. Take my word for it, there's no fancy office equipment, massive servers or sexy receptionist…hell they barely have paint on the walls and this is the way Smokin' Jay likes it. Raw and real.
There is however an abundance of character around the factory from original artwork to classic boards from Jay's personal collection scattered about. I watched the glue drying as wood cores were being compressed and I listened to sounds of band saws and other machinery pressing boards.
Jay's loyal right hand man "Binky" also showed me around the factory as he planed, grinded and cut out a few base graphics himself. I wouldn’t exactly call it assembly line production, but that's the beauty of Smokin', every board has that personal touch.
While I was there, a young kid and his dad were taking a tour as well. The kid was an 8th grader who chose to write a report on Smokin' which I thought was hilarious considering the roots of the company. Jay, who is not afraid of hiding his past, founded Smokin' with his grow operation. There are still remnants of his past in the rafters of the factory, dusty and inoperable but in storage nonetheless. I spoke to the kid with a huge grin on his face as he watched the boards being made. Awesome to see how stoked this kid was and his dad couldn't have been more proud to be there. It reminded me of when I started riding back in early 90's.
Jay and I eventually adjourned to his office as I sat back and listened to a handful of great stories. My favorite was Jay's story about his first trip out west from the East Coast (circa '88) with nothing but a sheet of acid in his pocket. From sleeping in cars, on floors or anywhere he managed to find a friendly face, he later linked up with Mike Parillo and the OG Black Flies crew and pioneered the famous Bear Mtn snowboard park.
I left Reno with a smile on my face and a hand made Smokin' board under my arm. Stopping by the Smokin' factory renewed my faith that snowboarding still has some characters left in it. I learned that it's ok to be who you are and we shouldn't be afraid to say "Buck Furton" from time to time. Thanks to guys like Jay and his crew, snowboarding still has a chance of maintaining its roots.