Jake Burton Carpenter, 'soul of snowboarding', dies at 65

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01:  Burton pro snowboard riders, Chloe Kim,  Kelly Clark, Danny Davis and Ben Ferguson are joined by Chairman Jake Carpenter (C) and head designer, Greg Dacyshyn (far Right)  attends 2018 Olympic U.S. Snowboard Team Uniform Unveil on November 1, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
Burton pro snowboard riders, Chloe Kim, Kelly Clark, Danny Davis and Ben Ferguson are joined by Chairman Jake Carpenter (C) and head designer, Greg Dacyshyn (far Right) ahead of the 2018 Olympics. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Jake Burton Carpenter, known as the godfather of snowboarding who founded the company that now sponsors all the top riders, died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, at the age of 65.

Carpenter’s battle with cancer, Guillain-Barré syndrome

Carpenter was diagnosed with testicular cancer in September 2011 and after several months of chemotherapy was determined to be cancer-free. In an email to Burton employees dated Nov. 9 — 11 days before his death — Carpenter wrote, via Shop-Eat-Surf:

“You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back. It’s the same tumor as the first time around. We just never got rid of it all. A bit of it hung out in my lymph nodes and got back into business.

The odds are in my favor, but it is going to be a struggle for sure.

As much as I dread what is facing me, it’s easier to deal with when you know that you have a family that will carry on.

I feel the same way about my company, my friends and our sport. I will be back, but regardless, everything is in good hands, which is an amazing feeling when entering this zone of uncertainty.


Carpenter also dealt with Miller Fish syndrome, a rare type of Guillain-Barré syndrome, that left him paralyzed and on life support for two months in 2015. The New York Times detailed his illness and recovery.

The snowboarding icon made it back to the slopes and traveled the world.

Burton Snowboards leads Olympics

Carpenter quit his job in 1977 at the age of 23 and founded what is now known as Burton, a snowboard company known around the world, in his garage in Londonderry, Vermont. Burton sponsors the best in the sport, which celebrated its 20th year at the Winter Games last year thanks in part to Carpenter. That lists includes snowboarding pioneers and icons Kelly Clark and Shaun White as well as Chloe Kim.

“He was our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we all love so much,” Burton co-CEO John Lacy said in his email to the staff, from the Associated Press.

Carpenter liked to ride a “Snurfer,” a stand-up sled, as a kid in Vermont and created a snowboard based off of it, thereby launching the new sport. He detailed how he made it with NPR two years ago. The sport grew rapidly in the 1990s and early 2000s due to the X-Games, White (aka the Flying Tomato), Clark and fellow champions such as Lindsay Jacobellis. It’s difficult to imagine now a time when only skis were allowed on the slopes and snowboarders were judged harshly for their sporting choice and attire.

“I had a vision there was a sport there, that it was more than just a sledding thing, which is all it was then,” Burton said in 2010, via the AP. “We're doing something that's going to last here. It's not like just hitting the lottery one day.”

He watched Olympians win gold from the finish line at the events, most riding his Burton product, and was seen as more than simply a founder of a massive company.

Carpenter’s wife, Donna, is one of two CEOs for the company. Burton Snowboards asked that in lieu of flowers, people donate to the Chill Foundation to assist underserved youth. The Carpenters founded the organization in 1995.

Lacy, the other CEO, offered an alternative to honor the man who gave the world one of its most popular action sports and winter hobbies.

“I'd encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that's riding. It's opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together, in celebration of Jake.”

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