Every year a handful of brands appear vying for your cold cash. With small marketing budgets and a little media exposure a lot fade away into nothing and someone’s dream falls flat on its face. Compatriot Snowboards isn’t one of those brands. From the moment I discovered Compatriot four months ago I knew there was something different about what Compatriot was doing and an inherent longevity to the branding and message. Coming out of Jackson Hole with the backing of snowboarding superheroes Rob Kingwill and Kevin Jones, Compatriot is focusing on timeless graphics, low key product awareness rather than over-hyped marketing glitz and mostly importantly quality snowboards handmade in the US of A. I emailed Rick at Compatriot insisting he did an interview for Snowboard-Review.com, Rick couldn’t have been more helpful and promptly delegated the task to Rob (that’s what I call management!). If my experiences are a small peek into how the Compatriot team run the rest of the business Compatriot is going places.
How did Compatriot Snowboards come about?
Compatriot is the result of some of the greatest talents in the snowboard industry coming together to make rad snowboards for all the right reasons.
There are hundreds of snowboard brands on the market; we feature over 50 on Snowboard-Review.com. With that much competition isn’t it a struggle to make a hardgoods company work?
It is a struggle to make any company work in the action sports industry, especially during a recession. What makes Compatriot different is who stands behind the brand, and our passion for snowboarding. Together we have over 80 years of experience riding mountains. We know what works and what doesn’t, and we know how to do it right.
What is unique about the Compatriot brand?
What makes Compatriot unique is that we are actually based in a mountain town, and run by snowboarders who shred almost every day. Snowboarding and living in the mountains is truly our way of life.
Where are Compatriot boards made?
Our boards are made in Colorado and Salt Lake City, Ut. We do all the design and development here in Jackson Hole.
Compatriot’s slick graphics, freeride shapes and vintage team are definitely going appeal to the more mature rider (not ancient, late twenties and older). Is this a snowboarding demographic you’re actively going after?
I wouldn’t quite put KJ and me in the “vintage” category just yet! Knowing the mountains takes time, and I consider freeriding and backcountry riding more of a craft than a skill. I think our team has just barely pulled off the training wheels, and the real progression has just begun.
There is definitely a need for heroes like Kevin Jones out there still killing it like he always has and inspiring both the older and younger generation. Our customers are the true snowboarders who live to ride, every day they can, regardless of age.
The industry has always focused on the up and coming kids and a younger demographic. As snowboarding has matured, all those kids have grown up and have real jobs, but still want to shred as badly as they ever have. The only difference being that now that they are older and have careers they can actually afford a new board every year and a trip to a rad shred spot like Jackson Hole.
Compatriot recently signed Kevin Jones and you to represent the brand. How did Compatriot get two of snowboarding’s most respected names to sign to a relatively unknown brand?
Kelly D Williams came to me one day and asked if I wanted to be a part owner of the company. I had gotten to the point where I really wanted to be directly involved in building a brand and be able to create something that I loved rather than always having my ideas go to a committee. Kelly asked if I knew anyone else out there that might be down to be on the program. I immediately thought of KJ. He recently had moved to Jackson to get back to shredding every day, which is really what I felt Compatriot should be about. We are dedicated snowboarders who will never give up the dream. Snowboarding is just too important to us. Once I explained what Compatriot was all about, Kevin decided to come on board and here we are. A snowboard company run by snowboarders who ride everyday.
Talk us through the 2011 snowboard line-up? The boards, the type of riding and terrain they are for and what ability and style of rider they’re aimed at.
Our boards are built for all terrain assault, from the park in Mammoth to top to bottom runs at Jackson Hole, to dropping in to a spine line in Alaska. We have 7 boards in the line this season, so we have a shape and size to fit almost every rider.
Our premiere line consists of the Kevin Jones pro model and my pro model, the RK Valkyrie.
Kevin’s boards come in a 149 and a 160. The 149 is built more for park and rail riding, and the 160 is built for freeriding and everyday shredding KJ style. He likes a damper feel in his boards with a longer sidecut radius.
The Valkyrie comes in a 154.5 and 158. Both are true twin, and are designed for solid riders who like a snappier ride. I designed the 154.5 to be a little softer for getting nasty on rails, but not so soft you can’t stomp the biggest jump in the park. The 158 is my perfect all around board- I ride it in pipe, park and in the backcountry. It is super responsive and built for stomping big cliffs.
Here’s a quick rundown of the rest of the line:
The Lupara 151 - This is a rad board for the dedicated up and coming rider with an affinity for the park.
The Movement - I absolutely love this board. It is a directional twin, super responsive and stompy as hell. I smashed it on rocks all season last year doing the North Face Masters contests and the King of the Hill and it just kept on rocking.
The Otra Vez - This mid-wide board is perfect for powerful riders with bigger feet that want a snappy powder destroyer. Like all of our boards, it is surprisingly light, but still tough as hell.
The Commissioner - This is my AK charger. I use it for those times when I feel like I need to ride a line at Warp 9 and still be in control. I was sceptical at first- I was afraid that I wouldn’t like riding a board this big, but the tapered tail and Hellbent rocker make this board handle like my 158.
What technologies is Compatriot pushing? Are Compatriot snowboards using any of the rocker/camber hybrids?
Our primary focus at Compatriot is building the best snowboards in the world for people who really know how to ride. For KJ and myself, that means bad- ass cambered snowboards.
In my opinion, rockered technology is great for beginners and powder, but not for everyday shredding. I feel like the rocker revolution has actually made snowboarding take a step backwards as far as the overall skill level of the riders in the sport. People have forgotten how to actually carve a board, and mostly swish from place to place.
That being said we do have the Hell Bent early rise rocker tech built into the Commissioner- which is our powder gun, and we are not completely writing off the development of some other boards that use that technology to enhance powder specific boards.
Compatriot’s graphics are right up our street. Who have you got working on the designs and how did you discover the artists?
We have a pretty rad team of artists that we draw from. I personally paint the graphics for the Valkyrie line, and our founder Kelly D Williams, who doubles as a graphic designer at the Distrikt Collective, either designs the graphics or coordinates with artists like Aaron Draplin and Benji RUCKUS Pierson. My personal goals with our graphics is that they have to convey that feeling of stoke and inspiration that you get when you ride, as well as feeling that you connect directly to the rider/artists behind the graphic.
Have you got any plans to expand Compatriots product range into bindings or outerwear?
Not at the moment. We are focused on building the best snowboards in the world and that’s it. We do have a rad line of softgoods so that you can show that you are a Compatriot on and off the hill.
Where can our readers get hold of Compatriot snowboards? Are the boards available in Europe, Japan or the Southern Hemisphere?
Our boards are available at the finest core shops in the US. We are stocked by World Boards, SnoCon, Eternal, Habitat, Jackson Treehouse and many others. For the full list and a shop near you check out www.compatriotsnowboards.com. We have distributors in Austrailia, Japan and Korea as well.
Is Compatriot running any demo days over the coming season?
You can demo Compatriots at several of the fine snowboard shops listed above.
What are the best and worst things about running a snowboard brand?
The best thing about running a snowboard brand is that you are your own boss and work with a bunch of snowboarders. The worst thing is that you are your own boss and work with a bunch of snowboarders. We are all so driven to ride it can be hard to find the time to get all the responsibilities involved with running a company done, but we manage pretty well. There is nothing like designing a board from scratch, tweaking it and making sure it is perfect before it goes into production, and then finally getting to shred on the final product.
Where would you like Compatriot to be in the next five years?
I would love to see us continue to grow sustainably, and keep pushing the threshold of snowboard design . Independent voices are vital to the survival of the snowboard industry, and we are in it for the long haul. See you in the mountains!
Thanks for checking out Compatriot!
Posted by Rich Ewbank in Features.Next entry: Free Rome Snowboard 100 Day Tracker iPhone App Previous entry: Movie Premiere - Standard Films’ The Storming Calgary
on November 11, 2010 at 06:26 AM
My favorite part: “The best thing about running a snowboard brand is that you are your own boss and work with a bunch of snowboarders. The worst thing is that you are your own boss and work with a bunch of snowboarders.”
This brand is amazing. I love what they are doing for the industry.
on November 16, 2010 at 10:14 AM
Where are these being made in Colorado? Never Summer?
on November 16, 2010 at 03:41 PM
I don’t think Never Summer are building boards for anybody else. Is Revolution based in Utah? Ah.. who knows. Great boards mystery factory… keeping it quiet is probably the best option.
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