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Fans remember LI native behind Burton snowboards

Jake Burton Carpenter grew up on Long Island.

Jake Burton Carpenter grew up on Long Island. Credit: WireImage/Jun Sato

Ski and snowboard shops across Long Island have been carrying Burton snowboards since the mid-1980s — soon after they were first manufactured, upending the skiing industry and creating a new sport.

But not everyone knew the person behind the brand, John Burton Carpenter, was a kid from Cedarhurst. Decades later, the Long Island native is remembered as the pioneer of snowboarding, among the first to manufacture the boards seen on snowy mountains across the world.

Carpenter, 65, died on Nov. 20 of complications from recurring testicular cancer, a company representative said last week.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we share that Burton founder Jake Burton Carpenter passed away peacefully last night surrounded by his family and loved ones as a result of complications from recurring cancer,” the company shared on Instagram and Twitter with a photo of Carpenter.

To Tony Artusa of Woodmere, Burton was more than just a name on a board.

“He was a kid from Cedarhurst and people said he and his friends would go up to Vermont and basically that's where he turned this thing ... into a sport,” said Artusa, who works at Sno-Haus Ski Shop in Hempstead. The shop has sold Burton boards since the 1980s, Artusa added.

Carpenter founded Burton, based in Burlington, Vermont, in 1977. His creations at the company “revolutionized” the skiing industry, said Scott Bochner, former president of Maximum Tours in Oceanside.

“I’ve been in the ski business for 35 years and I still remember when there was no such thing as a snowboard,” said Bochner, of Long Beach. “He helped shape the industry as we know it, and there wouldn’t be snowboarding in the Olympics if it wasn’t for him.”

His boards — an innovation of the snurfer, a sled-like board with a rope attached to its front — later led to a multimillion-dollar business and sport that became a staple of the Winter Olympics.

“I think anybody who’s ever been snowboarding, knows a Burton board and knows the Burton name,” said Eric Geist, manager at Ridgeline Ski and Snowboard in Manhasset.

Local snowboarders said they often visit the Burton facility to join other enthusiasts on the slopes.

“If you ever go to the Burton headquarters up in Burlington, his aura is around everybody that works there or hangs there,” Artusa said. “He did something very special for the sport of snowboarding, other than starting it — he created a community around it.”

Carpenter was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011. “You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back,” he emailed his staff earlier this month.

The news of his death triggered a wave of emotional outpouring from local enthusiasts and top snowboard athletes he sponsored, such as Shaun White, a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

Carpenter is survived by his wife, Donna, and children Timi, George and Taylor. 

The couple founded the Chill Foundation, which works with social service agencies to provide young people the chance to learn to snowboard who would otherwise not have the opportunity to hit the slopes.

“The work that they've done with this project is unlike anything we've seen in the industry,” said Geist, of Sea Cliff. “I think that's where his legacy lives, in giving back.”

He's also known for helping others in the Burlington community, said Artusa, of Woodmere.

“Rather than being remembered for making the best boards ever, people are really talking about on a more human level how much of a good person he was and how he always kept it about having fun,” Artusa said.

In lieu of flowers, the company asked for contributions to be made to the foundation.

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