You’ve heard it before. Its probably popped up in your FaceBook feed or arrived via one of those “forwards” emailed from your uncle Frank. “37 things dying people say they regret” or “advice to new graduates”. In one of those lists you often come across a statement like “Do what you love…the money will sort itself out…” and you’ve probably thought…”ya right…that’s not very realistic”. Well, a little while ago I met two people who are doing just that. Angie and Evan of Kindred Custom Snowboards.
Through the door of this rustic shed is the start of Kindred Custom Snowboards production line... (photo by Dave Prothero)
It all started with Craigslist. That’s right - Craigslist - and curiosity. Angie and Evan saw an ad for a board-press on Craigslist and decided “Why not?” Now they have joined a growing trend of fabricators who are essentially reinventing the cottage industry. They have ended up making a product that straddles the line between art and high performance sports equipment.
That was four seasons ago (season – not years). Since then, they have been applying their unique combination of custom fabrication and art towards making snowboards (and the occasional pair of skis).
It all starts with wood. West Coast wood to be precise. One of the things that sets a Kindred board apart is its core block. Strips of cypress and douglas fir – each about 2 cm wide and 1 cm thick – are hand laminated together to form the heart of the board. Evan is very picky about the wood. There are no knots in their wood, and they use old growth cypress and are very choosy with all of the materials they use.
Evan sizing up a core block. (photo by Dave Prothero)
The outline of each board is based on MDF “blank” cut outs that are made with a CNC machine. Once the block is glued up and cut to shape, Evan then sands the block down to set up the stiffness – thicker in the middle and thinner towards thee ends.
Once the core block is set up, further stiffness is added with fibreglass and carbon fibre. A custom base layer is added, and of course, edges.
One of the final touches, and one of the really “signature” elements of the boards is the top sheet. Made from hardwood veneers, each top sheet is custom made, and a piece of art all on its own. This is Angie’s part of the process. There have been a few customers who have ordered boards just to hang them on their walls as art the top sheets are so beautiful.
The whole thing: core block, top sheet, edges, base, fibre – ends up in the press. The board is squeezed together for 45 minutes at 180 degrees – baked into a board with as much pine-based glue as Evan can squeeze into it.
The final step is a poly-urethane spray finish – same as cars.
And it’s all done one board at a time.
Yup - I'm the guy in orange with the beard. I'm holding a pair of skies Kindred has made while Angie (left) and Evan (centre) attempt to explain to me how the carbon fibre and fibre-glass layers of the board help to make it work. I think I even understood them! (photo by Dave Prothero)
Angie and Evan
Evan is on his second season of making boards for a living and Angie just committed to making boards full time. Currently, they are continuing to do one-off custom boards ordered by individual customers. Their goal for next season is to have a retail friendly line with some fixed models pre-built and sold direct to shops on Vancouver Island only. However, this will be a very limited run, so if you want one, better be paying attention!
One of the things that makes Kindred so special is what they can do that none of the big companies can do. For instance, they are making a rather tall client a 179 cm split board with a 35.5 cm waist. This compares to the widest OEM board on the market at 28 cm.
Evan and Angie behind the top-sheet table where Angie puts together the art for each and every Kindred board. (photo by Dave Prothero)
At the end of the day, “It’s still just fibreglass and wood…” says Evan. But I don’t think so. There is definitely something more going on here. They are “kindred” spirits with those who buy the boards. So while the production model they are using can be scaled up – they both ask "why"?
At the end of the day, while they are “Not in this to get rich” according to Evan, they get to make boards the way they want – boards that meet their standards.
I'm looking forward to trying one (well, a pair of skis really; we all know I can't snowboard to save my life...)
BIG SHOUT OUT to Dave Prothero for the photos!