Thrills on neighborhood slopes as ‘snurfer boards’ gain popularity in Hokkaido

The activity of ‘Snurfing’ – riding bindingless snowboards – is gaining popularity in Hokkaido. The boards can be made by hand and – because they are difficult to ride – the thrill can be experienced in nearby places such as parks and neighborhood hillsides. The reason behind the activity’s popularity is its accessibility to people of all ages.

 Snurfer boards – or ‘yuki-ita’ (literally, snow board) in Japanese – are generally between 90 and 145 cm long, 25 to 30 cm wide and made of plywood. Because they have no bindings or edges, they require a fine sense of balance to ride. To prevent accidents, the board is connected to a leg by a cord. Compared to snowboarding, the equipment is simpler and less expensive, and the number of enthusiasts has been increasing rapidly in the past five years in Hokkaido.

 Another reason for the popularity of snurfing is that it’s possible to ride in places other than ski resorts. At a campsite in the town of Shiraoi, the central part of a bank of snow has been carved into the shape of a bowl to create a special course. The children that had gathered there were riding enthusiastically down from the edge of 80-cm-high slope. “I can do this even in my own garden,” said an 8-year-old boy from Sapporo, enthusiastically.

 A workshop to make snurfer boards was held for the first time in February in the town of Yuni in the Sorachi region, and 5 people from the town and beyond took part. Fujita Shingo, who works for a rubber manufacturing company in the town, served as the instructor. Mr. Fujita began making snurfer boards three years ago, as a new way of utilizing the non-slip rubber pads he developed, which he attaches to the surface of the boards to prevent the feet from slipping.

 Participants used electric saws to cut and laminate four sheets of plywood and curve both ends to form the boards before sanding and varnishing them. A 10-year-old boy who participated with his father said, “I want to try it on the bank of snow in the schoolyard after school.”

 Gomyo Atsushi, a professional snowboarder from Nagano City, who came up with the concept of the yuki-ita in 2006, wanted to try riding in powder snow like a surfer, without bindings. He created a ‘yuki-ita’ by planing solid wood, and realized its appeal. Because they do not require long slopes, Gomyo had high hopes for the ‘yuki-ita.’ “Parents and children can play in the same place where they can see each other, and they can have fun even at ski resorts that have closed down, where there are no longer any lifts. I hope that in the future, snurfing will become a popular activity in snowy regions.”

An enthusiast rides a ‘yuki-ita’ down a slope of fresh snow. At first glance it looks like a snowboard, but there are no bindings connecting the feet to the board. February 12, Morino, Shiraoi
A ‘yuki-ita’-making workshop held at a tourist facility in Yuni. February 19, Fushimi, Yuni