The History of Dirt Boarding – How It All Started

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Dirt boarding, also known as mountain boarding, is an idea that borrows heavily from one that already existed before it: snowboarding. The idea came about mostly because snowboarders around the globe got bored during summertime.

For an avid snowboarder, summertime can mean six months of nothing but boredom as they wait for the return of waist-high powder, which facilitates dizzying drops and radical high-flying half-pipes.

During these summer months, avid board-sport fanatics could pass their time and stay fit by skateboarding and surfing. However, these sports aren’t quite as thrilling as dirt boarding for someone who actually enjoys flying downhill at crazy high speeds.

In 1992, a couple of snowboarding fanatics from California, known as Patrick McConnell and Jason Lee, were desperate to feel the thrill of riding down mountain sides without the necessary snow that made it all smoother and faster.

So they decided to take a couple of their snowboards and rig four tires on each one. They came up with a hybrid of a snowboard and a skateboard capable of sending them down the grassy slopes of dried-up ski resorts as they waited for the snow to return.

And that’s how dirt boarding or mountain boarding started.

Jason Lee was the first to call this new sport mountain boarding. Even though the consequences of bailing out on gravel and grass were a bit drier than rolling over 6 feet of snow, the sport still presented an equal amount of thrill for those who missed snowboarding during summertime.

The Progress of Dirt Boarding

electric longboard on a dirt covered trail

Unbeknownst to Patrick McConnell and Jason Lee, a few enthusiasts around the globe were also of the same opinion, with many attaching different types of tires to their snowboards to come up with roughly the same idea.

To their great advantage, these two friends from California adapted the idea the fastest and created a company called MBS Mountain Boards in 1993.

They quickly built three prototypes in California before moving to Colorado, where the business was officially started. The following year, in 1994, MBS manufactured the very first mountain boards for the market. They only produced 35 mountain boards that year.

With that, the buzz around the company and the new sport grew as more and more snowboarders turned to these new dirt boards to keep shredding hillsides during the summer and pretty much any time they liked. The biggest advantage offered by mountain boards to date is that you can ride them anywhere, anytime.

World Championship Mountainboard Serbia
Image Credit: Shutterstock

That’s one of the main reasons the company grew steadily over the next few years. Another excellent reason was the clever marketing campaigns employed by MBS and positive word-of-mouth marketing. By 1998, MBS was already so established that they took the time to refine their main product to make it more beginner-friendly.

The next year, in 1999, MBS, thanks to positive reviews and steady market growth, received funding and investment, which were heavily spent on marketing and creating even further awareness of the sport. That marketing campaign paid off massively, as the company sold more units during the holiday season than they did in the entire previous year.

The year 2000 saw the company get even more media exposure as their brand was touted on TV, print, and even radio. On their tenth anniversary, the company introduced a host of proprietary products into the market. These include:

  • Matrix Truck
  • T1 tires
  • F3 bindings

Many of the products produced and introduced that year are still sold today. It’s also the year when the company launched a tour of high schools to introduce the sport to avid young enthusiasts and demonstrate just how much fun dirt boarding can be.

What You Need to Know About Dirt Boarding

There’s almost nowhere mountain boards can’t go or be found. They can be found on dirt BMX courses, single-track mountain biking trails, steep hillsides, skate parks, city sidewalks, and gravel roads alike. They are a wonderful way for snowboarding enthusiasts to maintain their riding condition through the summer and remain entertained as they wait for the snow to return.

Thanks to the efforts of MBS founders and a horde of near-fanatical enthusiasts, dirt boarding has taken on a life of its own and carved out its own sports culture, which includes a rather thriving competitive scene. Within that scene, there are three main types of dirt boarding competitions:

  • Downhill Mountain Boarding: This involves high-speed races where the riders go downhill on individual courses at breakneck speeds. These courses are generally quite long, and the race is time-trial based. The riders must complete the course in the fastest time possible, with the fastest time being declared the winner.
  • Freestyle: This is a competition where dirt board riders must perform a list of different tricks on steep slopes. Their routines are judged by a group of professionals who look for trick execution and the number of tricks performed. Points are awarded for the execution and difficulty level of tricks performed.
  • Freeriding: This is the non-competitive option where riders recreationally go over different terrains.

Are There Any Sports Like Dirt Boarding?

Mountainboard rider during downhill in mountainboard park
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Since dirt boarding or mountain boarding originated from snowboarding, it’s only natural that there would be a list of other similar sports that emulate those two and give riders almost the same kind of thrill that they are seeking. Here are a few sports that emulate dirt boarding:

  • Longboarding: This is similar to mountain boarding in that competitors or participants go down steep slopes on longboard skateboards.
  • Street luge: This is where the participants use a modified skateboard to race feet-first downhill.
  • Kite Landboarding: Riders use a kite and the power of the wind to ride a huge skateboard over land.
  • Skateboarding: Perhaps one of the most common types of board sports, skateboard participants compete to perform tricks and race on different tracks.

How Mountain Boarding Works

Unlike kiteboarding, mountain boarding does not depend on the wind. It depends on gravity instead. If you place a mountain board on a steep slope or the side of a hill, gravity and the hill’s gradient will pull the board down at different speeds.

To slow down the board, riders need to depend on friction. That’s one of the main reasons mountain boards have very broad tires made of thick rubber. These tires are designed to produce a great deal of traction, which slows down the mountain board as it goes down the rugged surface.

Even though it might have started as a replacement for snowboarding during the summer, dirt boarding or mountain boarding has taken its own path and become a sport in its own right.

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