Monday, March 27, 2017

Board Brands to Watch: Gentemstick

Sometimes I get tasked with a job that requires me to distill the essence of a thing into not nearly enough words to do that thing justice for not as much pay as I would hope for. Recently, Transworld Snowboarding gave me just such a task and it was published on their site as Eight Board Brands to Keep an Eye On.

Transworld graciously allowed me to share the interviews and pictures that I drew from here on my humble blog. Here is part six with legendary Japanese shaper Taro Tamai of Gentemstick, edited sparingly for spelling and clarity.

How would you explain your brand to someone stumbling across it for the first time?
Once you try a Gentemstick, it may change your whole snowboarding experience in the future. To be interested in our boards means that you’re already thinking out of the box. We are challenging ourselves to find the essence, or the core, through the art of snowboarding that we love.

The man himself, Taro Tamai
How did you get into the whole snowboard manufacturing game?
The snowboarding culture started with the birth of Winterstick and has branched out to various styles, all of them growing and evolving at a very high speed. All ski resorts would accept snowboarding and it even became an Olympic sport. The gears also evolved at a great speed, thanks to the popularity of the sport, but it seems the essence was lost in the path and there was no real answer to what snowboarding really is. Snowboarding used to be the symbol for freedom, and board design that used to play an important role in maintaining that culture lost its identity, became standardized and ended up being a marketing tool for business purposes. It lost its appeal. In these times, I was trying to focus myself on the riding, but when I realized the limit of the boards’ performance, but still craving for a board that would allow me to draw the lines I was tracing in my mind, I found myself having no choice but having myself involved in the board designs. That was in 1990.

What separates Gentemstick from other brands on the market?
I keep telling people that Gentemstick are not powder boards. I make boards that let people ride and make great turns on hardpack, groomers and deep powder in the same balance, stance or weight placement. I don’t know what other brands are thinking, but I simply focus on the rider and the ride.
I shape boards for the riders, not for marketing or business.

What do you draw inspiration from?
I get inspiration from Nature, fish in the streams and birds in the winds. I look close to the movement of their fins and feathers tips.

That glide
How does having different boards for different days change the experience?
The same rider can ride the same snow, same slope in a various way by changing the gears. Changing gears means changing perspective, or even changing your consciousness for the ride. Every board is different, gives you a different experience, and makes you realize that he potential of snowboarding is unlimited.

What is essential to snowboarding for you?
Staying true to its essence. To be committed to its core.

How or why do you think Japanese riders kept a more surf-inspired approach while much of the industry followed skateboarding?
Most riders in Japan have been heavily influenced by the American standard as well. The media’s influence is universal in this market economy. Although they became a minority, there always has been surf-inspired styles in the US and in Europe, and that was the same in Japan. I was simply believing that the glide itself was the essence that would allow me to keep riding all my life. I was riding and making boards every day with that in mind, and I believe many of my friends have been influenced by that ethos. Alpine style, free style, they all are branches of the same tree. People are not only excited by jumps and spins, but get exhilaration from the glide itself. It think the glide itself is the trunk of that tree. I didn’t create anything, I was just a mediator that stayed true to the essence, and was urged to propagate this thinking. I tried to tell the story not only through the riding but also through photos, footage, words. I just happened to be Japanese and living in Japan, that’s all. 

Where and how are your boards made? 
I draw sketches of what inspires me. I repeat the same drawing until I can draw the same lines with my eyes closed. I start imagining the outline and use this image to shape a board out of wood. A bit similar to making a concept car. From that image, I use a computer software to draw out the outline and pass it on to engineers to reproduce it into numerics. The drawings are matched and made sure they correspond to the original image. Depending on the design, we use different factories that suits best for the concept of that particular board and start making the mold. Each model has its own name, each board is not the same board in different length, they all have their own characteristics and we changes shapes to accentuate each board’s character.

On to the next one
How can the public get their hands on your boards? Is there any chance they can ride one before they buy it?
We’re not a big brand. Our boards may still be hard to find. But we also don’t think that it should be sold in every possible shop. We think it’s also important that our dealers have a good understanding of what we do. You can find the list of dealers on our website. We’ve been creating demo centers in Japan and some shops have demo boards too. We’re working on building the same system in US. We’ll organize demo events in the US and planning to have some demo boards at our dealers too.

What do you see in the future for Gentemstick?
I am not sure. But, what I want to see is a hybrid. The present mainstream snowboarding is about pretty much going straight, getting speed and hitting a jump. Only turns to speed-check. I call this riding two-dimensional. The classic riding that riders like myself have been doing is to try to make use of the natural terrain to turn and draw lines three-dimensionally. I think that talented future riders will combine those two aspects into one and make it a hybrid. I think that’s the ultimate phase for snowboarding and makes my heart beat just thinking about it. 

4 comments:

  1. This fella is so kool!! I was thinking im gonna try snowboarding this season. I'm all geared up and ready to hit the snow. Eagerly waiting! and im definitely using these tips.

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    1. Taro-san is a true legend. His is viewpoint is unique, and his advice is priceless.

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  2. This is my first time go to see at here and i am really impressed to read everthing at single place. google mail sign in

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    1. Welcome to the blog! Glad to have you. Let me know if there's anything specific you want to see or know about.

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