Friday, December 13, 2013

Punters vs Core Snowboarders & What Shaun White Actually Means To Snowboarding

Over the past few months across the snowboard magazines and the blogosphere there's been a heated discussion about what Shaun White brings or doesn't bring to snowboarding. Some people hate him, some are disappointed by him and some have defended him, interestingly few have professed to actually like the fella. There's been lots of well argued opinions, but ultimately it has all been opinions and as they say, opinions are like arseholes, everyone's got one. We wondered what's the reality? Does Shaun White represent snowboarding or not?...

Let's hit the stats.

There were 6.1 million snowboarders in the US in 2010. I'm going to use the snowboard participation in 2010 from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), because it's the most useful source I can get hold of and there hasn't been a dramatic change either side of that year.

Of those 6.1 million snowboarders:
  • 34.4% of them were 'frequent' snowboarders, who snowboarded for 10 days or more that year. 
  • 43.8% were 'occasional' snowboarders, hitting the slopes between 3 and 9 days.
  • 21.7% were 'infrequent' only ridging for 1 or 2 days.

Here's those figures in a pie chart :

(OK I may have lied a little at the end of last week about not doing another pie chart)

66% of snowboarders, the whole area in blue, are only occasional or infrequent snowboarders.

Even the frequent group is not all that dedicated, take that 10 day figure up to two weeks and you'd expect to have another group making up about 20% of the overall figure. It's very likely that only 15% or less of snowboarders are on the hill more than two weeks a year.

There's a lot of people who snowboard, but on the whole they're not exactly dedicated. 

So, how big is the dedicated core of snowboarding?

Reading a snowboard magazine is an activity that's pretty much a staple of anyone who considers themselves to be a serious snowboarder, the type of people who engage in debates about the relative merits of Shaun White. It's not a bad way of counting what most people would consider to be the core snowboarders.

Here's the same chart of the total number of US snowboarders compared with the circulation figures of the biggest US snowboard magazine Transworld Snowboarding:

Hardly any snowboarders actually read a snowboarding magazine. TWS have a circulation of just 120,558 readers, just 2% of all US snowboarders. For comparison Snowboarder Mag have just 70,000 readers and Snowboard Magazine just 60,000 and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a significant overlap between those readerships too. Effectively core snowboarders only account for a minimum of 2% and a maximum of about 5% of all snowboarders.

If you're reading this article, you probably fit in this 5% group and it's likely the snowboarders you know do too. When your're a 5 percenter and your surrounded by others 5 percenters it might seem that snowboarding is all about the core values, but it's not. 95% of snowboarders don't know what the core values of snowboarding are, they don't know the history, they don't know the jargon, they don't know the names of the riders or of the tricks and they are largely ambivalent to all of these things.

95% of snowboarders are punters. Snowboarding is all about the punters.

In short; the core snowboarding values which we are concerned about do not represent snowboarding. They hardly matter at all.

So if the core snowboarders and the things we care about don't represent snowboarding to most snowboarders then what does?

Knowing that the snowboard magazines were only read by a very small proportion of snowboarders the next thing to take a look at is to see if there are aspects of snowboarding that the punters are more interested in.

  • Transworld Snowboarding has 120,558 readers, a similar number of Facebook likes (167,000) and they have 454,389 visitors to their website. They reach a few more people that way, but some of these people won't be based in the US which stops the neat comparison to the 6.1 million US snowboarders.
  • Travis Rice, core snowboarding's current poster child, has a similar influence to TWS with 175,000 Facebook likes.
  • Industry behemoth, the main supplier of snowboarding gear to punters and the guys responsible for making the US Olympic team look like homeless patchwork dolls, Burton, is more representative with 685,000 likes.

But the most representative person or brand in snowboarding to the punters is...

  • Shaun White, who has a massive 2.4 million Facebook likes.

At this point we have switched to a less useful comparison of global figures against the US snowboarders overall number, but I'm keeping it for a sense of scale. Here's a look at what the punters are interested in and influenced by in snowboarding:

Nothing and no one is more representative of what most snowboarders believe snowboarding to be than Shaun White.

Snowboarding is not our sport, it's the sport of punters.

It's not the sport of Signal, it's the sport of Burton and Nike.

It's not the sport about snowboard magazines, it's the sport of articles in in-flight magazines and in sunday newspaper supplements.

It's not the sport of Illicit Snowboarding, it's the sport of


It's not the sport of Travis Rice, it's the sport of Shaun White.

Shaun White isn't addicted to snowboarding. He doesn't snowboard all season, he's quite happy to do other things like skateboarding, play in a band, rub shoulders with celebrities, or flog stuff in Target. Sounds weird to us, but that's a closer description of the aspirations of your average snowboarder than Travis Rice who does nothing but snowboard, or me, or you, or any of the guys who wrote those opinion pieces.

Shaun White is snowboarding and it's probably time that we should all suck it up admit it to ourselves.

You Might Also Like...

50 Pictures of Shaun White being a dick representing snowboarding, nah fuck it, who am I kidding, it's 50 pictures of him being a dick.

Ed Leigh's article that sparked this all off 'Why I don't like Shaun White'  has mysteriously been removed from the Whitelines site. Perhaps they kissed and made up. I guess you'll have to read about it in their magazine (as if anyone reads those).

And Whitelines' riposte to their own article 'In Defence of Shaun White' is worth a read. It's a bit strange that they apparently don't talk to each other so they end up communicating by open opinion pieces. Look out for next week's article 'Fuck you Steve, it's your turn to make the coffee'.

Then there was the Angry Snowboarder piece 'It's not hate, it's disappointment', which kinda was hate, but good hate to read.

And finally ACM's article, also called 'In Defence of Shaun White', illustrating the current snowboard article title drought we're experiencing in the UK, which was also excellent, but lacked a comment section to soak up the vitriol.


  1. Cannot find any fault with this article at all. I respect Shaun for all he has done, but I don't want to read about him or 'be' him. Travis Rice, Gigi Ruf or Nicolas Muller on the other hand..... Non 'Core' snowboarders or punters as you describe them are the main customers for snowboard stuff, the casual gloryhunters that follow football and choose Man U or Liverpool will choose SW as their favourite snowboarder.

  2. Kristian Schou MorgenDecember 13, 2013 at 5:34 AM

    I guess we (the core that reads stuff like this) just have to accept the fact that our so called lifestyle (sport, thing, hobby, whatever) has become a mainstream thang. And for every subculture there is a hardcore loving group, always progressing the subculture. And for those punters who don't even know who Terje, Jake and Jeremy (or whoever of the grand old boarders) are, the sport is just a sport. Put in it whatever you want, it's just a shame that it has become a comercialized 'let's do as many triples as possible'-contest thing.......

    We should let people like Sage Kotsenburg, Kazu Kokubo and the other styley guys do the talking.. Read this, Ingemar Backman wrote it, and i think he's on to something:

  3. As my grandma used to say, snowboarding is not a sport, it's a lifestyle.

    Shaun White is all sport, while me fooling around the slopes is no sport at all and I think that's the main difference. Of course fooling around level of Jeremy Jones, Scott Stevens or Travis Rice far (this 'far' is like the gross understatement) surpasses mine, but they still do it for fun I suppose and not for money and fame.

  4. The measuring of relevance by comparing facebook likes (lol) goes well with measuring the sport in gold medals and is absurd and delusive. Should we call this a scientific approach? It's rather supposed to make necessary critique redundant and is totally oblivious of the history of snowboarding. Besides that.. what should Blanco even represent? The guy can only talk about himself and his psychopathic compulsion to be the guy who spins fastest. What do i even care?

  5. The truth hurts

  6. Interesting read. Too many 'core' snowboarders don't realize their views and values only represent a tiny freckle in the mass population of people who snowboard.

    I saw the different demographics quite amusingly when running ads tests for one of my snowboard training courses:

    Ad 1) Target readers of popular snowboard sites (eg - yobeat)

    Ad 2) Target people who liked Shaun White

    Both ads targeted people aged 21-45.

    The results:

    Ad 1) No increase in sales and large amounts of hateful comments calling people losers for wanting to watch trick tip videos and for not being real snowboarders.

    Ad 2) Some sales and no hateful comments.

    Ah the joys of the 'core' demographic.

  7. Couldn't agree more with the demographics breakdown. I'm in Ontario and it's definitely punters there. Depends where you go i find tho. I like this place cause i find its a good crew there.

  8. Can I just say, this blog is what got me through the day

    Every time I read it, I just get more and more excited about whats next.

    Very refreshing blog and very refreshing ideas.

    Im glad that I came across this when I did.

    I love what youve got to say and the way you say it.

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  9. The average person of any group of people doesn't necessarily represent what that group is about.

    I'd go far to say that's actually true for most groups. The average American doesn't represent what the country is supposed to be about, The average person who plays football (American or not) doesn't represent what most people care about (the professional leagues), etc.

    Sometimes groups don't have to have a unitary purpose or set of values, either, they can support lots of them. I wouldn't want artists or writers to all have the same values, or art and writing would be pretty dull.

  10. Good arguement, but if you think it through a little further, it's the 'core' and 'core values' that are the attraction - what the punters, commercializers, popular unknowing media are aspiring to? Thats the backbone of sponsorship. Core is still the core - but most of our perspective is simply wrong.

  11. Definition: SnowboardingJanuary 21, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Here is a project aimed at getting a more complete picture of snowboarding out to the punters:


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