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Lockdown Lookback: Shaper Summit Japan 2020

Sharing snowboard design and culture when the Shaper Summit came to Japan 

The Shaper Summit is the world’s premiere powder-focused board test and snowboard design gathering. Founded by pro snowboarder, Rob Kingwill, the Shaper Summit (formerly Jackson Hole Pow Wow) has been held for nearly a decade in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Before COVID shut down international travel, last year saw the first Shaper Summit Japan added to the calendar. Rob Kingwill connected with local legends in the Japanese shred scene to bring together a diverse selection of Japanese snowboard brands, from major brands to individual hand-shapers, alongside selected international brands and dedicated riders, all sharing their love of shredding and the nuances of board design.

The Shaper Summit aims to get people out of their comfort zone, trying new shapes and generating conversation between the board makers and the end users with on-the-day feedback. Japan was experiencing one of its worst winters on record, but that didn’t dampen spirits at the first Shaper Summit Japan. Held at Kagura ski area, one of the more snow-sure spots in Japan, the snow gods turned on a storm cycle for the event. Undeterred by high winds and heavy pow, the stoke was high for laps shared with Rob Kingwill and Mike Basich, with the shared passion for snowboarding overriding language barriers. We were there to be witness to this, and look forward to times when international melting-pots of stoke like this can be back on the menu again…

Atsushi Gomyo and one of his hand-shaped Make Snow Toys yuki-ita. Atsushi has been at the forefront of the bindingless movement, sharing his passion at workshops throughout Japan.
Yuki-ita kids at the Japan Shaper Summit
Let’s go and play! The future generations are going to have no problems ripping pow if they grow up on hand-shaped yuki-ita bindingless powder surfers.
new shapes from Yes snowboards
Something special from Yes snowboards
Shaper Summit Japan rider session in storm
Rider session in the storm – when you’re getting a snowdrift on your head every time you stop for a minute, you know it’s time to go and ride.
No (safety)bar to communication as event-founder Rob Kingwill and a Japanese rider compare shapes on the stormy chairlift ride.

A personal highlight was taking a unique HT Craft for a spin. These hand-crafted boards caught Rob’s eye and they made the special prize boards at this year’s Tenjin Banked Slalom too:

Rob Kingwill was a constant source of positivity in the challenging conditions over the weekend, and when the powder had settled at the end, we sat down with Rob for an interview about his impressions of Japan, board design and growing the Shaper Summit  – read that here

High fives all round at the Shaper Summit Japan
This image sums up the feeling of Shaper Summit Japan 2020. High fives all round and the passion for snowboarding together, lead by stoker-in-chief and event founder, Rob Kingwill.

Mike Basich went as far from the normal as possible and took the edgeless handmade ‘pow surfer with inserts’ board from Hokkaido’s Powsterdam for a test run. No edges, varnished base, this was about as far from a regular as you could find. In another authentic moment of sharing shred culture, Mike was also spotted riding wooden yuki together with Atsushi Gomyo of Make, making a small slope into challenging fun after the wind had shut down most of the lifts. 

Mike Basich Shaper Summit pow surf
Mike Basich taking the bindingless challenge

Japan Grabs Shaper Summit

Hosted by TJ Brand rider Nobuhiku Ohe and expertly translated by 241 Clothing’s all-round brainbox Natsuki Sato, the evening saw Rob bring the Shred Talk part of the Shaper Summit to Japan. Creativity was the theme of the evening, from the influence small handmade boards can have on snowboard design to pro riders overcoming the hurdles of staying in the game. Rob himself gave insight into his long career, undying passion for snowboarding and his less well-known artistic talents. 

Rob Kingwill and his Mt Baker LBS poster
Rob Kingwill talked through some of career highlights, including doing the artwork for the 2014 Mt Baker Legendary Banked Slalom poster.

Mike Basich shared the creative lengths he went to in order to stay a part of snowboarding. Talking through how he made some of his most iconic self-portraits and giving tips on why those images captured the viewers’ attention in unique ways. Nidecker rider Shin Biyajima gave a very personal insight into his journey from first seeing ‘AK’ as a location in snowboard videos to making the sacrifices to get there himself and add his own style of riding to the rarified list of Japanese riders who had gone before. 

What do you do if the magazines all want jibbing but you aren’t into hitting rails? If you’re Mike Basich, build a ridiculous metal rainbow and shoot a self-portait that becomes a cover shot. Mike breaking down the creative process of overcoming problems to stay in the game on his own terms.

A round table talk among the Japanese shapers, riders and snowboard media rounded out the discussions – translated back to Rob and Mike to close the loop of international exchange – before the band ‘The Fighting Farmers’ finished the night with acoustic tunes to accompany the good company and good beers. 

Special shout out to 241 Clothing Design who played a big role in making the Shaper Summit Japan happen last winter, supporting snowboard culture despite the challenging weather conditions! We can’t wait to see these face-to-face conversations around snowboard design continuing in years to come…

Shaper Summit 241 clothing
241 clothing supporting snowboard culrure, no matter the weather!

Thanks to Shaper Summit Japan and Kagura resort. Read more about how Japan has influenced Shaper Summit founder in our interview with Rob Kingwill here