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HBO's 'Dear Rider' a portrait of LI snowboard pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter

Jake Burton, the creator of Burton Snowboards, center,

Jake Burton, the creator of Burton Snowboards, center, and his wife Donna Carpenter, right, applaud Gov. Peter Shumlin after he signed a bill in Stowe, Vt., making skiing and snowboarding the official sports of Vermont on March 8, 2012. Credit: AP/Toby Talbot

If "Dear Rider," the HBO film about snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter, had picked up his story post-childhood, one might assume he grew up in Vermont or Utah or some other rural, powdery outpost.

Certainly not Cedarhurst.

"I do think it’s unconventional," said Fernando Villena, who directed the documentary, which premieres on Nov. 9. "But he grew up by the water, and that’s where his love affair with surfing began . . . That is where he found the ocean – on Long Island."

It was a love affair that married surfing with skiing, a pursuit Burton picked up on family ski trips to Vermont – and was inspired initially by a snowboard ancestor called a "Snurfer."

The seeds can be viewed on ancient home videos of sliding down modest suburban hills on snowy days in the 1960s, as Burton began to mull the business opportunity unfolding under his feet.

By 1977, he was living and working in Vermont, where he began making boards and launched a company, "Burton Snowboards," that grew to dominate the field, eventually making him an iconic and powerful figure in a sport he helped create.

"He had a vision that surfing on snow can be a sport," Villena said, "and he married that together with this idea about a get-rich-quick scheme, like: I can make a lot of money if I turn this toy into a sport."

Villena added, "Ultimately, it became less of a get-rich-quick scheme and became his passion."

"Dear Rider" is a largely sympathetic portrait of a sometimes controversial, contentious figure, and Burton was involved in the early planning – and hiring of Villena – before he died two years ago at age 65 of cancer.

But it does address some of Burton’s darker impulses. Villena said he had "100%" freedom to tell the story honestly.

"He didn’t want to sugar-coat anything," the director said.

Burton’s widow, Donna, offers compelling history and insights, and there are appearances by his two sisters, one of whom still lives on Long Island, as well as an array of competitive snowboarders, including Shaun White.

But the biggest edge the film has is the vast archival video record of a guy who was an open book and had a knack for promotion.

"He’s very complex," Villena said. "Some of the themes of his life, to me, are very compelling. His resiliency, his tenacity. I love his entrepreneurial story, and ultimately this idea of living life passionately and having as much fun as possible, not taking life for granted.

"It’s a lesson that you learn, but I think it’s something that he understood at some level from his very early days."

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