Sustainable Snowboarding with Heresy Snowboards

There is no doubt in Australia we have a huge choice of snowboard brands. In todays global market, brands can truly become international and worldwide selling can be done with ease. Many of the companies we see in snowboarding come out of the USA or Canada, many also from Europe. They are the heavyweights that have been in game as long as anyone in the industry. But it is todays market, in Australia, that we are seeing the new breed of emerging brands in the snowboard industry. These brands might not have the financial backing of some of the major corporations, but they do have the knowledge, the skill, the ability and the love to make good quality snowboard products. Welcome to the Australian snowboard manufacturer market.

Snowlife was lucky enough to catch up with 3 of the new breed of snowboard manufacturers doing it for snowboarding in Australia. They are local guys who grew up riding and are now sharing their love through the boards they design and develop.

Over the next 3 week, we will be featuring 3 snowboard manufacturers who are Aussie born and bred. Out there making a name for themselves in the snowboard market and taking it to the major brands and challenging the consumer. Our 3 part series begins now, with Heresy Snowboards.

Q / Who makes up Heresy? And what’s the name about?

Heresy was founded by myself in May 2002.  It has been run almost exclusively by myself until recently, where we have started to add sales reps to the mix in order to free up my time for more strategic tasks.  I aim to add more sales reps globally as well as a mix of other skills as we need them.

The name was chosen in reference to the Middle Ages Heretics – those who spoke out about something contrary to the widely accepted belief, or dogma, at the time.  For instance, someone who spoke out against the church or God was considered a Heretic (think naturalist witches).  Galileo and his championship of the theory of Copernicism (the Earth revolving around the sun rather than the widely believed vice versa position) was considered a Heretic, and the heretic’s opinion was considered an act of Heresy.  So our company really does reflect this mindset; doing something contrary or different to the vast majority.  Many people don’t know what it means either, so it provokes questions about the origin of the name, which then gives us the chance to tell the story.

Q / Why was Heresy Established?

To be honest, when I started, I didn’t really know what I was in for, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew why I as doing it and what it could be.  Many people (including many very successful business people) go through the exact same process.  The learning is part of the fun.

The fundamental ideals were, and still are, to create a movement – not a brand in the traditional sense – but a real movement.   As a snowboarder in 2000/01, as a standard consumer, I felt like the great majority of brands were soulless and were simply a corporate branding exercise.  I felt product was just pushed on me.   I thought brands like Illuminati and Joyride really were close to what a brand could be, but were missing something.  Looking back now, I didn’t think that at the time, but I do think that now.

My goal was to create a truly egalitarian experience, a company people could feel a part of, and I know that in the last 24 months we’ve really started to hit my goals in this area.  We’re starting to use a wider variety of artists (but have some big plans to go further in this area), and our fellow riders have a say over how we operate, design decisions (voting on designs) right down to what we can do better and product choices.  It humbles me to have people wanting to be involved, and it’s excellent to see them stoked to be involved.  At any time people can email us, get us on Facebook, or Twitter, or Friendfeed, and they’ll get a response from me.  I love people emailing us saying how stoked they are to have found us and so on, it’s an incredibly humbling experience, and tells me we’re on the right track, and people are listening.

We actually have a reasonable amount of cachet in that people are stoked to help out and will often give us a lot of their time because they believe in the movement and what we’re creating.

It’s all coming together, but I want it to be better. I’m insanely focussed on reading loads of business books to try and make us even better.

Q / Where can we find your products?

We are exclusively available through our reps and online only.  Admittedly this limits our exposure, so my immediate focus will target the addition of more global reps, specifically in North America, NZ and Europe (so if anyone reading knows anyone, we’d love to hear from them).  We’ve been down the shops route, and it’s just not a space I want us to be in.

For many reasons, being in shops is anathema to our story.  Certainly, being in shops does give you more floor exposure, but it’s really to the wrong market and constrains your flexibility and dynamicity.  For me, it really locks you into a rigid development path and operational model; i.e. you’re expected to be at trade shows, run teams, there’s a perceived need to spend on magazine ads (despite print media being a black hole for marketing spend).  All these things are almost a codified process to ensure uniformity and systemise companies, and for me snowboarding is supposed to be a little chaotic and dynamic, and I want that in our brand.  Additionally the whole shop/big brand ecosystem, wittingly or unwittingly, stifles operational and marketing innovation.  It almost seems a little cartel-like, so I have no interest in being there.

Additionally, it’s hard to tell the story behind Heresy from a shop floor. You’re competing against brands that are big, big businesses, with massive marketing budgets and smart executives with a lot of capital backing, and therefore large amounts of power to compel shops to really push their brand.  The best way to lose money is in a price war with another brand, so again, we steer clear.  Plenty of people are in the snowboarding industry to make a lot of money out of it, we’re not, and I know better than to get in the way with someone who is only in it for money.  That means a bloodbath and that means we swim off in the opposite direction.

The people who we’re targeting will find us eventually, so we made a hard decision last year that we would are “not available in shops, ever.”  My best friend Michael really pushed me to think about doing this, quite frankly the idea was staggeringly frightening, after all, everyone is in shops, aren’t they?  And I knew that once we made that statement we could never go back.  Since then we’ve had interest from shops overseas, in places like Zurich, and we turned them down.  It’s been a liberating experience and has allowed me to focus on getting the online store and rep model better and better.

Q / Whats the range for 2009? Whats new and whats better?

This year I made a conscious decision to remove a whole lot of lines which I thought we didn’t do exceptionally well, or that we did well, but others did better.  Our thermals and trackie dacks are an example.  Although both are super popular, and will almost certainly pop up now and then, I really wanted to tighten the focus to doing a small tight range of stuff really well.  Our apparel always gets a good response because of its quality and the fact it’s sweatshop free, so I focussed on getting a good range of tees, hoodies and girls singlets in good colours.  We ran a lot of questions past our mailing list and by asking people who support us what colours they’d like to see.  This was really important with the girl’s stuff this season.  I think the outcome in terms of designs and colourways is by far the best range we have done.  Usually something will come back from the printers that doesn’t meet my really-high expectations, but this year, I’m really stoked on the result.

With the boards, we decided to tighten to two really standout graphics; one for guys and one for girls, although both boards can really be ridden by anyone.

Crucial this year was a conscious decision to only put products out there that really, really stood behind and backed up our core ideals on the environment and animals.  I think the board graphics are singularly the best things we’ve ever put out there, period.  The decision to start using top level artists is bearing fruit.  I have to admit, letting go of the creative process was difficult at first, because this is my baby that I’ve developed from scratch, but I realised there were so many people who were stoked on the brand and dying to be involved, and I wanted to harness that enthusiasm and completely lose control and let them help dictate the creative direction of the brand.  Jason at Messy Design gave us the Shark/Amaze board as well as the Roots tee, and Kat at came up with We Love this Earth and the Birds tee.

Technically, the boards have had a reverse camber added to the range.  We also started getting really specific on stance widths according to a lot of feedback we’ve been collecting.  I’ll discuss the board improvements below.

Q / What sort fo response have you got from riders fo your boards?

Outstanding.  One of my absolutely non-negotiable rules is trying to put boards out there that meet my own personal standards.  We’ve had some stuff ups on the way, but gratefully, we have a lot of brand cachet, and people believe in us to the point that they feel they can point out our shortcomings honestly and constructively, so we can improve the outcome both in terms of quality, but also technically.

It’s edifying to hear stories from the reps of on mountain staff or general public who’ll swap boards with our rep to try a Heresy, do one run, and then buy one based on that run – that’s the response I want.

Obviously our boards don’t suit everyone, but that’s cool.  I don’t want us to appeal to everyone.

Q / How and where are your boards made? Whats the best thing about them?

You can read about how our boards are made on our website or our blog ( – I went over to spend a week making boards and created a 7 part series taking readers through it.

Basically, our boards are handmade in California, and have been since day dot, although we have changed manufacturers twice (from California to Eastern Canada for one season which was a debacle, then back to California).

We use high end materials only and I think the best thing about them at the moment, apart from the overall ride you get, is the sidewalls.  We don’t use ABS for technical and ethical reasons (it’s a plastic!) and the difference in ride quality, snap and memory retention is phenomenal.

We’re doing some exciting stuff in our goal to make a truly sustainable snowboard which is going to shock a few people.  We’re very close to removing all non renewable or recyclable components from the board.  I’ll be testing a demo this Australian season that removes the fibreglass and toxic resin, replacing them with renewable and natural alternatives.

Q / What is the 3degrees Initiative? Why did you decide to be involved in the inititative? What are you doing for the cause?

The 3degrees initiative is something I came up with last year to create a focal point for global warming and the role it will play in determining the future viability of our ski seasons, here in Australia and also overseas.  Many, many snowboarders are apathetic towards global warming and they’re the ones I created it for.  People MUST care about this issue.  I do a lot of reading on this subject, and if I am being perfectly honest, I think it’s probably too late for the Australian snow season, I think it’s in decline and within perhaps 20 years we will have an almost exclusively man-made snow snow season.  Although I think it’s too late, the issue is too important for us to shrug our shoulders because the alpine ecosystems and larger cryosphere (glaciers, Arctic, Antarctic etc) are the canaries in the mine – humanity is in big big trouble if we don’t change, soon.

I’m basically heading toward creating an enviro fund with 3degrees, but until that point, it’s a name that allows us to tell the global warming story and try and educate skiers and boarders on what is about to hit us, and what they can do to help.

3 degrees was chosen to reflect the destruction in ski seasons due to global warming.  A 1 degree temperature increase basically lifts snowlines from the base by between 100-150 metres.  A 3 degree rise, which are bearing down on, will lift snow lines dramatically and threaten resorts that are already marginal (think Buller, Baw Baw, and resorts in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and so on).  It was also chosen as a play on the “6 degrees of separation” theory.  Same theory but in this case we’re separated only by our common love for snow and the temperature rise that will render it marginal.  It also refers to the tight knit nature of snow lovers – instead of being separated by six degrees, it’s only 3.

In terms of what we’re doing, besides blogging a lot on this, we’ve joined 1% For the Planet, whereby we commit to give 1% (for us it’s more like 2.5-5%) of our revenue (not profit, but revenue) to a 1%FTP-affiliated enviro not-for-profit.  Last year we gave about 2.5% to Greening Australia to abate carbon.  So we run fundraisers as well to make a bigger contribution.

All aspects of the business are geared toward to making a positive difference to the planet, be it the atmosphere or its animal inhabitants who are really vulnerable to extinction or profound change as a result of human activities.

Q / Do you have any Heresy Riders? Who should we be looking out for?

No we don’t.  We used to, but again, having riders means extra expenses, and I’d rather have people involved with us because they really want to be (not because they just get free stuff).  Extra expenses means a more expensive product, so again, for these reasons, and others, it’s something that’s not the right fit for us.

To create a truly egalitarian brand, we need to all realise that it’s just about fun.  Having team riders do get exposure, so I realise we shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes, but that’s the price for staying true to our ideals.

We don’t need to, or want to, be massive anyway.  I just want us to be big enough, that enough people find us, dig the message, and want to be involved.

Huge growth isn’t my goal.  A truly sustainable snowboard company that stokes people out is what our aim is.

Q/ What can we look forward to and see more of in the coming years from Heresy?

Whilst you won’t see us on Sea Shepherd boats just yet, you’ll continue to see ranges from us that benefit someone or a particular cause, like our anti whaling tees (profits went to Sea Shepherd), or our anti-shark finning boards and tees (check out for a truly profound experience).

On the technical level, we’re very close to having an almost 100% recyclable/sustainable board. That’s my goal, and when we get there, we’ll start trying to rip carbon inputs out of the company.  Ideally our goal is not to be carbon neutral, it’s to be carbon negative – sinking other people’s carbon footprints as well as our own.  Humanity is a greedy carbon monster, munching its way over the cliff, so we’re trying to put more cliff under us.  It’s probably pointless, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try.

Q / Last Words

Thanks for reading, and I would like to really say, if you’re a snowboarder or skier, and care about your snow seasons, and are reasonably indifferent to global warming and your impact on the planet, start caring, start reading.  Without a healthy planet there will be no snow seasons, less food, less water, and a much less happy place.

This planet will be just fine regardless of us; it’s been here a long, long time, and acts without impunity.  If it decides humans aren’t playing nice with her, she’ll get rid of us.  So get educated, start caring and making a difference.  There’s only one planet and the greatest threat to her is indifference.

If we don’t start caring, the 2 billion humans (plus another 3 Billion by 2050) knocking on the door of a consumerist western lifestyle won’t care either, and then we’ll be in really interesting territory.

Heresy Snowboards are happy to announce an exclusive offer to Snowlife readers. Heresy is offering a 33% discount on all snowboards to Snowlife members, all you need to do is sign up to become a Snowlife member today to receive your discount voucher!

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