19 March 2020

Let's make a Burton DIY Throwback snowboard

To spice things up a bit his winter, rather than, you know,  just go out snowbiking or just go out cross-country skiing in the woods above my neighborhood, I determined to try to find a few other fun things to do when I'm out in the snow, 'cause, well, I'm 53 now, and I really do need to find new ways to hurt myself.

Mounting a Cooziecage™ to the downtube of my Pugsley made beer-drinking in the winterwoods possible and, so, that was a great and rewarding first-effort in this regard.

Then I did some, well I guess you could call them, multisport-snowbike-to-xc-ski excursions up Schultz Creek, which were a hoot.  Probably got the first-ever ski descent of Kentucky Waterfall in the process, too.

Snurfer Nomad, snecret snurfhill
Around that same time, my buddy Lyle told me about some of his adventures lightweight/low-angle backcountry skiing in the San Juan’s carrying a bindingless snowboard called a Burton Throwback (an homage to one of Jake's original snowboards from the 1980s, the Burton Backhill) on his back. He was super stoked on how bringing the snowboard along on his tours made it possible for him to have serious fun carving big graceful turns on wide-open backcountry slopes.  He suggested that I get a board of my own and attempt to use my touring skis, or even my fatbike, as an approach vehicle to do the same thing on some of the more open north facing slopes in the Dry Lake Hills area.

To test this idea on the cheap, I bought an inexpensive but nonetheless quite clever little snowtool called a Snurfer Nomad from the Vermont manufacturer who's been making them in the USA since 1965.  Because it doesn’t have any bindings or metal edges, it’s super lightweight, so it was easy to mount on to the rear rack of my Surly Pugsley or to carry lashed to the old Craterpacks backpack I use when I go lightweight ski-touring in the hills north of town.  Only everso-slightly safer than sledding, but nonetheless gloriously stupid and also terrifyingly fun, turns out snurfing is a rad, additive wintertime diversion from the typical just a snowbike ride or just a xc-ski tour adventure, precisely as Lyle said it would be.

I had some good fun a few times riding on my Snurfer Nomad solo early this winter.  But then, midseason, I got to watch another one of my friends shred my snuper snecret snurfhill on his kid's Burton Throwback.

DIY Throwback unboxed
Up close and in person, it was easy to see that the Throwback was wider and longer and heavier than my Snurfer, a big-boy's version of the Nomad if you will, and it had a full p-tex base. As far as I was concerned, it was from a different planet, and it enabled him to easily ride faster and farther, and make better looking turns, every time, way better than my best-ever run on the Nomad.

So I started looking around for a cheap used Throwback on eBay, but it would appear that such a thing doesn't really exist.  Then I looked at some of our local used sporting goods and thrift stores for a decent used snowboard that I could remove the bindings from and improvise into an ersatz backcountry snurfboard.  But all I could find around town was garbage, all of it thrashed from years of abuse or neglect, and often both.  For about 10 minutes I even searched online for a legit vintage Burton Backhill, but they must be very highly sought after.  Every single one I saw for sale cost as much as a used car.

It was about then that I stumbled upon Burton's DIY Throwback kit, which, it turns out, sells for something like 30% less than the Snurfer Nomad.  The DIY Throwback comes as a rockered-on-one-end rectangular plank of unpainted laminated wood with a p-tex base.  Not really a kit, I guess, but nonetheless very DIY.  There are no templates, no plans, no instructions with the DIY Throwback.  It's just a gorgeous naturally-grained plank of wood, a couple sticky-backed footpads, a long rope, a wooden handle, and thou.

DIY Throwback ready to ride
Given the freeform, unguided nature of the project, before I ever put a saw to it, I spent quite a lot of time staring at the naked plank, trying to envision the shape I hoped to render upon it. Even after this great and prolonged period of introspection and planning, I can still spot a few small mistakes I made during my project's three-hour execution (does not include contemplation time).

In the end, I can tell you this: Burton is definitely using some sort of rock-hard ballistic epoxy when they're laying up the laminate for this board.  I went through the teeth of four different jigsaw blades while trimming the nose and tail on to the beautiful bombproof blank plank Burton sent me.

After using my hand jigsaw (and a carefully rendered long paper template to make sure the two halves mostly matched left-and-right) to cut out the rough shape of the board, I finished all the edges and curves with a handheld belt-sander and then I used a router with a small round-off bit on the top-sheet to make all the things very nice and smoothish and purdy. I think the finished product looks nice.

I’m not a very handy guy when it comes to building things, but now that all has been said and done and test-ridden, I'm rather proud of this project. And, I think my Burton DIY Throwback snowboard rides pretty darn well, too.