Exploring the origins of the Surf Series with Chris Christenson and Jeremy Jones
Like a lightning strike, it was a chance encounter that was meant to be.
Two like minded sideways sliders drawn toward a common vision from different directions, united by a campfire on a beach in Southern California one summer evening.
This is how Jones Snowboards founder Jeremy Jones met renowned San Diego surfboard shaper Chris Christenson in 2010 - at a campground gathering of mutual friends after a day of surfing. Chris offered to let Jeremy ride one of his surfboards the next day, and just like that, the fire of a friendship and partnership was lit.
While their introduction was coincidental, Chris and Jeremy had been vibrating on the same frequency for quite some time. Both were lifelong surfers and snowboarders, and both recognized that snowboard design had a lot to learn from surfboard design. By joining forces they combined decades of design and production experience to create what both had dreamed about - the Jones Surf Series, a quiver of boards that brought cutting edge surfboard performance to snow.
The board line that Chris and Jeremy have crafted over the past seven years has gone on to become one of the pillars of our brand. With his boots glued to these boards for most of his winter, the Surf Series has also come to define the most recent chapter of Jeremy Jones’ professional career. One of his latest films, Life Of Glide is a celebration of his passion for surf-inspired snowboarding and Chris Christenson along with the Surf Series play a starring role in the film.
In celebration of our tenth anniversary, we’re thrilled to share a detailed history of the Surf Series as a TEN YEARS microsite feature. Kick off the story by watching the full length Life Of Glide and read on to hear from Chris and Jeremy about what makes each model in the Surf Series such a unique and special creation.
"When I started the company in 2009, and was building the original line, I wanted to connect with a surf shaper to help design one board. But what I didn’t want to do was cut out a basic swallowtail, slap a surf graphic on it, and call it a surf shape. I wanted to dive deep into surfboard design concepts and make a board that really reflected the cutting edge of surf technology."
"When I met Chris Christenson in 2010 I knew I had found the perfect design partner. Chris had the right vibe, and most importantly, he was really into snowboarding. When we started talking about ideas he was like, ‘What about this? What about this? What about this?’ Chris’ motivation to break new ground in snowboard design was exactly what I had been looking for. "
– Jeremy Jones
"My roots as a snowboard designer actually go way back. My grandparents had a cabin in the San Gabriel mountains in Southern California, and when I would visit them in the winter, I used to take my trucks off my skateboard and turn the board into a snowboard. I’d varnish the underside of the board to make it as slick as possible, and then attach a bicycle tube nose to tail that held my feet on like a binding. Sliding down the snow slopes around the cabin I’d pretend I was surfing."
"I took a break from snowboarding for a while, but I got my ‘born again’ snowboard bug around 2005 after a trip to Japan, and a couple good Sierra powder days. What I didn’t like about snowboarding back then was the board designs. They all seemed really stale. I was so bored with twin-tips and felt like everyone was missing the boat on how different shapes and profiles could improve performance. The biggest issue with the twin-tips was that they didn’t have the reach of a surfboard in the flats. Surfboards are designed to help you accelerate in the flat part of the wave so you can connect one section to the next section. Twin-tip snowboards had no reach. As soon as you hit a flat you started slowing down. I knew that there were a lot of concepts from surf design that I could roll over into a snowboard and dramatically improve the glide."
– Chris Christenson
I was riding the Sherwood chair at Alpine Meadows on a deep powder day and kept seeing these awesome 30 degree waves that I couldn’t quite reach with the amount of speed I had. It got me thinking that if my board could glide faster I could be slashing these lips and having so much more fun. That next summer I met Chris and started our partnership with just that in mind - make boards that turned 30 degrees into 40 degrees using design concepts from his surfboards.
"I’ve surfed my whole life so I knew that just because two surfboards may look the same, it does not mean they will ride the same. If you take two similar boards and paddle out on them, the board with the faster bottom contours will be way more fun to ride. You’ll be catching more waves, making more sections and getting longer rides. Chris makes some of the fastest gliding surfboards in the world so this was what we focused on, bringing Chris’ bottom contours to snow."
The first offspring of Chris and Jeremy’s design partnership was the perfect crossover point between surfing and snowboarding - a binding-less board made for pow surfing. Their goal was to create a pow surfer that offered them the same freedom to pivot their feet and lean into turns as they felt on their surfboards. The board was dubbed the Mountain Surfer.
The original Mountain Surfer design was based off a surfboard model I had called the Ocean Racer. That was the first board I loaned Jeremy and he said it was the fastest surfboard he’d ever ridden. I felt every curve on the bottom of that board would work on snow so that became our first template. He gave me a pow surfer blank that he got in Japan that was a half-inch thick piece of plywood with a basic rocker bend. I used my surf shaping tools to carve up that blank until the bottom contours were nearly identical to the Ocean Racer. I bent it to match the entry and exit points of the Ocean Racer’s rocker profile and beveled the edges to match the Ocean Racer’s bottom contours. The shaping process was real similar to a surfboard, all analog.
Jeremy rode the proto pow surfer on his backyard slope and was blown away. The board was really, really fast. This proto design immediately went to production as the first Surf Series model - the Mountain Surfer. To no surprise, Chris had nailed his first attempt to bring his surf designs to snow using nothing more than the tools in his shaping tool box
"I have always trusted my eye more than the tape measure. I’m a good friend of a ¼ of an inch. To the trained eye of an experienced rider, you know by looking at a shape whether it has potential, or if the design is way over indulged. I’m always looking for the right feel and look, and I usually know what I want the shape to look like before I start shaping it. I always draw the outline first, then take measurements second. This is the complete opposite of a modern computer based design process. I’ve always been a big fan of analog design. I’m also horrible on a computer. Email and Amazon are about as far as I get."
Riding the wave of the Mountain Surfer, Chris and Jeremy set their focus on making a real snowboard that used those same design elements of the Ocean Racer. Later that summer they made the first proto of the Storm Chaser shape. Chris shaped the proto outline on a thin piece of plywood in Jeremy’s garage, once again using traditional surf shaping tools and techniques.
The Ocean Racer is a super short board that glides like a long board. It’s compact shape packs a ton of volume into a short running length which makes it a really fast gliding board for its size. This outline concept is exactly what the shape of the Storm Chaser is based on.
"Around the time we were designing the Storm Chaser, most pro surfers were moving toward shorter surfboards. Traditional board measurements had also changed from how long, wide and thick a board was, to how much volume it was in liters. 2-3 years before that, a 160 lbs pro surfer was riding a 27 liter board that was 6’0”. Now we were shrinking them down 2-4 inches, but making them wider to keep the same literage. We were packing the volume of an old 6’0” into a new 5’9”. Translating that to snowboards, your average 5’10” 160lbs rider was riding a 158cm twin-tip. By changing the wide points and sidecut apexes on the Storm Chaser we packed the same amount of surface area as that 158cm twin-tip into a 147cm swallowtail."
The success of the Storm Chaser brought Chris and Jeremy back to the shaping room that next summer. This time, Jeremy had a specific shape concept in mind.
"I had fallen in love with the nose contours of the Storm Chaser. The smoothness of the board’s entry point and contact point makes it effortless to turn. The Storm Chaser has its limitations though. It is very wide so it starts to beat you up when conditions get choppy and the swallow tail makes it tricky to ride switch. For the Mind Expander I wanted to use the nose of the Storm Chaser, but match it with a narrower waist width and a full size tail that would make the board more approachable. Something you could ride anywhere on the mountain in all conditions."
– Jeremy Jones
"Jeremy gave me a sketch of the Mind Expander on a napkin at breakfast one morning during the SIA tradeshow. The gist of his concept was that he wanted to blend the Storm Chaser with the Hovercraft. I had experience on both boards so that was really easy for me to translate."
"The Mind Expander is an awesome alternative daily driver. It works in everything, but it has a little bit different feel than your average board. It’s also a great board for beginners because it’s so forgiving and easy to turn. If I’m teaching someone how to ride, I put them on a Mind Expander."
– Jeremy Jones
With snowboards or surfboards, I don’t believe in riding the same board every day. I like to base what I’m riding off my mood and the conditions. The Mind Expander is a smooth and casual cruiser that I like best for riding pow in the trees. That’s where it out shines other boards. Or in spring snow. The Mind Expander is a slush machine.
Having made two boards with exceptional glide and low speed turn response, Chris and Jeremy drew from Jeremy’s racing roots for the next Surf Series model. The new goal was to make a board that was effortless to turn at high speeds. Jeremy had begun his professional snowboard career as an alpine racer and had a lot of experience riding and designing race boards. They blended elements of a race board with elements of Chris’ big wave surfboards to develop the Lone Wolf.
The Lone Wolf is all about moving down a mountain as fast as possible. It’s an intimidating board that many riders are afraid to approach, but once you ride it you’ll understand. It’s a very, very special board because it allows you to confidently lock into huge turns at high speeds. You’ll be riding 20 mph faster on the Lone Wolf then you would on the Storm Chaser, and you’ll feel like you are going the same speed just due to the stability of the board.
"The Lone Wolf design stemmed from Jeremy’s racing experience. His idea was to make a board that looked like a big wave gun and was likewise, designed to ride fast. The Lone Wolf is exactly that with a long sidecut that helps you draw out your turns more, and a narrow, long outline which means less friction and more glide. It’s like riding a longboard on a small wave."
I like riding the Lone Wolf on clean, low angle groomers. You can hammer that thing on a 20 degree slope and carry a ton of momentum turn-to-turn. It’s a niche board though, a mood piece, not a daily driver or a novice board by no means. But riders who understand the Lone Wolf, love it. You can take a gutless situation and make it a lot more fun on the Lone Wolf.
By 2018 the Surf Series now featured eight models including two splitboards, the Storm Chaser Split and Mind Expander Split, plus four variations of the Mind Expander including the high performance Ultra Mind Expander plus the Women’s Mind Expander and Mini Mind Expander. The Surf Series now offered a board for everyone, no matter size or riding style. In the process of designing the expanded line, new production technologies had become available that opened up new possibilities for Chris to incorporate even more complex surf shaping concepts to future designs. The first project Chris and Jeremy tested the new production techniques on was a redesign of the board that started the series - the Mountain Surfer.
Mountain Surfer 2.0
The biggest issue we had with producing the original Mountain Surfer was keeping the bottom contours consistent. Because the board was all wood it wanted to warp and twist during production. For the redesign we were able to mold the board like a normal snowboard which allowed us to use much more complex bottom contours because we knew we could get it right everytime.
"The bottom contours on the Mountain Surfer are designed to give you float and control. The middle of the board has concaves to give it lift. On the side of the concaves are pontoons for planing and then outside of the pontoons are gutters in the rail of the board. The board doesn’t have metal edges, so when you roll off the pontoons and onto the edge the gutters give you bite. I also eliminated all the high spots in the gutters to add hold without drag."
The original Mountain Surfer was a rocketship that was hard to harness. The new Mountain Surfer glides at the same speed as the old one, but it is way easier to control. The more aggressive bottom contours keep you floating in a wider range of conditions and offer way more edge hold than the original model. You can feel the gutters in the rail biting like an edge when you tip the board into a turn. The added control makes it a lot easier to ride, which is a really nice thing, especially if you are learning to pow surf.
So what does the future hold for the Surf Series? Just like surfboard design, Jeremy feels the secret will be in the subtleties of new designs and shapes.
We will continue to play with bottom contours and new outlines, but it’s important to not let ourselves get carried away. It’s all about smoothly and subtly blending the bottom contours, profiles, sidecuts and outlines. Chris is a master at blending these curves together and finding sweet spots that the average eye might not even be able to see, but when you get them on snow you really feel it.
The Surf Series will also continue to focus on creating new models that inspire you to ride your home mountain in a whole new way.
We understand that the majority of the surfing or snowboarding we do is in 1-2 star conditions. That’s what is so exciting about the Surf Series. These alternative shapes work really well in 1-2 star conditions. If your mountain is getting a little boring riding a traditional shape, that’s when it’s time to mess around with a Surf Series shape. That’s also why I really wanted to make the film ‘Life Of Glide’. That film is mostly shot under the chairlift at a resort I have ridden for 20 years. Riding a Storm Chaser or Mind Expander on my home mountain lets me experience terrain like it’s brand new. These boards turn the mundane into magical.