Looking back on splitboarding’s timeline, there were only a handful of brands who developed products, which filled the void in our little market. From Voile’s DIY kits and hardware to Spark R&D’s pin-less bindings, these brands and others have shown a high level of commitment to splitboarding which has resulted in innovations that evolved splitboarding as a whole. Not only were these brands developing amazing tech, but they were also the folks you were able to chat with in the forums, or hang out with at Splitfests. These open lines of communication between riders and brands led to loyalty within the splitboard community and fostered new ideas and innovation from the brands.
If you’re looking for a brand where you can talk the person who builds/designs your splitboard equipment, and has the freedom to be creative, then you’re in luck. In an effort to spotlight some of the splitboard brands out there, we have created a monthly “Behind the Brand” series. Follow along as we learn about these brands and who’s behind them.
In the second installment of our “Behind the Brand” series, we contacted Justin Lamoureux to hear about his British Columbia based company, Spline Snowboards.
Justin, what led to your interest in snowboarding and how did your passion evolve into a professional and Olympic snowboarding career?
I grew up by the beach and started surfing and skiing right after learning how to walk. I actually don’t remember learning how to do either sport.
After my parents moved back to Canada I really got into skateboarding and some of my friends rode and I was just instantly hooked. “Woh! You can surf and skateboard on snow!! I’m in!” Got my first board in 1988, moved out west in ’95 and competed in my first US Open in 96 I think..
I never really thought about being ‘pro’ when I was younger, I simply wanted to ride whatever I could. It seemed so out of reach and so far removed from being a geek at school out east. I thought pros were just these monster riders and were super good at riding everything. Over the years I did my best to get good at riding everything. I raced GS, slalom, BX, rode pipe, big air and slopestyle. There was always something to learn.
Luckily I had a great crew of friends that ripped everywhere and we just pushed each other like crazy. Literally the first person I met on my first trip to Lake Louise was Jonaven Moore. Then Scott Gaffney, Andrew Hardingham, Joey Vosburgh, Scott Newsome, Mikey Rencz, Tara Teigen, Mike Michalchuck, Greg Todds (RIP) Kyle Wolochatiuk (RIP), Peter Navin (RIP)… We rode every day, competed on weekends and took photos and filmed when we could. Just an absolutely crazy posse of riders came out of the Lake Louise area at that time and am so lucky to call them friends. Definitely would not have done what I did without that whole crew (and more!).
Over the years I tried to film as much as I could but it always tricky in terms of your sponsor paying or not. Contests just seemed more attainable in way I guess. You did well, made money and were able to get to the next one. No waiting for half a year to see how your part turned out. Comps are pretty instant, you did good or you sucked.
In the end, I competed a lot, traveled the world and made awesome friends. I did well at some and sucked at others. haha. It let me ride every day I wanted and gave me a couple lifetimes of memories and learning experiences.
But one thing that never changed over the years, I just always want to ride whatever is best. If the backcountry is good, I’m there. Park and pipe and firing, I’m in there. Early morning groomers, let’s lay out some carves. Deep pow, I’m so there!
Many splitboarders may recall your web series “The Backyard Project,” what led to your transition from competing to riding the backcountry and touring?
Don’t know about ‘many’, just hoping for some!
I’ve always ridden in the backcountry and enjoyed hunting down big lines. My contest abilities may have overshadowed my backcountry riding, or maybe I didn’t film enough, or maybe I suck at it. My last few years of comp riding, I was actually at K2. Then I quit, took my first guide certificate, and filmed the backyard project in 2013 while also toying with the idea of going to a 3rd Olympics (Russia). I think I could have made the team fairly easily, but I knew I wouldn’t realistically beat my 7th place in 2010. I didn’t see the point in going simply to say “I’m a 3 time Olympian”. I went to the Olympics with a medal in mind, not just to go. It felt like a direction change was needed in my snowboarding and after talking with my wife a bunch, I said “screw the comps” and put all my energy in the Backyard Project with my good friend Kyle. And I’m SOO stoked I did. It was such an amazing year riding every mountain you could see from my house. Wouldn’t trade that year for the world.
You’re like the guy who does everything, splitboard guide, woodworker, board builder, and mechanical engineer. When you decided to study to be an engineer what field were you hoping to work in?
I love learning stuff and challenging myself. The reason I became an engineer was I was good at math, physics and building stuff. I’m not sure what I was going to do with it other than ‘build stuff’. I’ve always enjoyed designing and building anything and everything. While at the University of Waterloo, I was juggling engineering and the early stages of my snowboard career, so pretty quickly I had the thought of building snowboards. At one point, I took a job designing leaf springs for semi trucks just because they were similar in profile to snowboards.
What was your role while at K2 snowboards and how did it come about?
I was the snowboard development engineer. Shaping, prototypes, materials, R&D, production, getting the art dialled in with the artists and factory. Basically everything that happened on every K2 snowboard went through me. it came about after seeing a job posting on the internet then called Leanne Pelosi to find out some contacts, got interviewed, lots of waiting, and got the job. It was a unbelievable learning experience. So many snowboards, epic prototype facility, destruction lab, the overseas production. Really thankful to the crew at K2 for the opportunity to be there.
Why did you decide to start Spline Snowboards?
At K2 I really got hooked on riding boards I built from start to finish. It’s such an insane feeling to be so connected to snowboarding and being able to build exactly what I wanted. So after leaving K2, I knew getting a press was in my future. I figured the drop in price would be offset by me not having to buy snowboards. And that way I knew who to bitch to about the board. An opportunity came up to make some boards on my friend Mike Dorset’s press. I made a handful of boards and eventually acquired that press, rebuilt it to my specs and started making boards in the world’s smallest snowboard factory. Then people started asking about the crazy, light boards I was riding, and started asking for them. Made a few, sold a few, made some more, spent some money, had to incorporate, spent more money, sold some more. It’s been interesting for sure.
The logo is one I drew about 20 years ago as a joke for a business card. It represents my winter life with engineering quite well. And the definitions of “Spline” tie in really well with that idea also. And there’s actually a little spline in the gear portion of the logo.
What are your thoughts on the changes in snowboard profile and shape over time?
The industry is pretty well right back to camber now. I’ve always liked camber, I want a spring under my feet not a wet noodle. POP! The addition of early rise in the nose and tail is nice to just loosen it a bit. I’ve never been a fan of rocker and multi rocker boards. I’ve tried them all and they all look and feel broken. If you want to rip, a mostly cambered board is where it’s at.
Shaping – finally!! The whole industry was so stuck on rounded tips and twins forever. The idea of my current Short Potato was pitched to several sponsors over the years and nobody wanted to touch anything different for so long. So it’s super cool to see all these different shapes and rides out there. If you look at surfing, the whole sport revolves around a quiver. Every board has a different feel, they’re made for a different wave and type of surfing and I love that. It’s what Spline is all about. Each one of my boards has a different feel, makes the ride different and consequently you look at the mountain differently.
Could you have ever produced something like the What? the split (an asymmetrical 144cm splitboard) while at K2?
That may have been tough. Even though I was in charge of shaping boards, I didn’t get the final say of what boards went out the door. Marketing, sales and ultimately my boss did. So I’d have to sell an idea to my boss, then marketing, then sales. Everyone had to be on board. So a symetrically asymetrical tiny wonder of a powder board that is stance specific would have been tough. But they got the cool bean out there, so maybe?
When it comes to designing and building a board, how much different is the equipment and process for you now versus when you had access to the equipment at K2?
It’s remarkably similar, just slower and not as noisy. The press is effectively the same, I have access to CNC machines when needed, and between my engineering and woodworking I’ve made jigs and tools to be very effective and similar at a significantly lower cost. It’s slower on the production side but is what allows me to customize each portion of a board if desired.
What sets Spline Splitboards apart from other boards on the market?
My potentially weird scientific brain coupled with my connection to riding snowboards. There’s not a lot of people in the industry with a similar background and experiences.
With Spline, I took the knowledge I gained at K2, expanded on it and am no longer constrained by the ‘need’ to sell a snowboard. I get to make a board because it’ll be fun to ride. If people want to buy one, sweet.
I’m not trying to spit out a ton of boards. Our boards are build for people who appreciated their boards and their time snowboarding. Most boards (these days) are made in China by people who have no idea what will happen on that board, whereas I make every single Spline board as if it were my own and knowing what situations that board might get into. When you buy a Spline, you deal directly with the guy shaping your board, which is pretty rad.
Nearly every little item that makes up a Spline and what we sell (boards, skins and Spark R&D bindings) is made in North America, also pretty rad.
What boards is Spline offering as a splitboard this season?
The only board that isn’t in a split (yet) is the “Sweet Potato”. Our splitboards all have a different yet slightly similar name to the solid version. “Quiver killer” is the “Killer Split”, “Short Potato” – “Potato Wedges”, “fat Yam” is the “Yam Fries”, “the What?” is “What? the Split” and the “Mako” turns into the “Fish Sticks”. Sort of making fun of marketing and names.
What does the process look like for Spline to build a custom board for a client?
Pretty similar to ordering a custom surfboard. I’ll chat with the rider, get their size, riding style, where they want to ride, where they see their riding going, what boards they’ve liked. I try to get a complete picture of what the rider wants to do on a snowboard and hopefully help make that happen. Drop all that info into a ridiculous algorithm, draw some splines, glue stuff together and voila.. a flexible piece of wood used in creating curves is born.
I can make a full top to bottom custom board, change the flex, colors, materials, custom stances, take the inside edges out of a split. Pretty much whatever a rider wants. As long as the change will work while riding, I’m happy to do it.