This is my spade

This is my spade

This is my spade. There are many like it but this one is mine.

It has dug dirt in the majority of UK mountainboard centres and a few other tracks too:

  • Another World
  • Haredown
  • Out to grass
  • The Edge
  • Bugs Boarding
  • Court Farm/Ironsides/Hereford Board and Bike Park
  • Ride the hill
  • Hale’s Board and Bike Park
  • Little B
  • Llangollen
  • Screaming Goat
  • Flowingstone

It’s a piece of Mountainboarding history.

Mountainboarding and the Internet

It’s a curious paradox that Mountainboarding, as such a physical outdoor activity, is completely reliant on the virtual world of the internet for its entire existence. Would mountainboarding be where it is today if it wasn’t for the internet, and will making greater use of what the internet offers secure the future of mountainboarding?

A brief mountainboarder-y history of the internet

In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee while working for CERN created and implemented a hypertext system and, in 1991, CERN released the World Wide Web to the public. In 1993 the first web browser, Mosaic, was released and the potential of the internet was quickly realised by companies racing to be the first to offer new services like online ordering (Pizza Hut) and internet banking (First Virtual). Since the mid-1990s the Internet has had a drastic impact on culture and commerce, including the rise of near-instant communication through email, forums, and websites.

At the same time as the internet was becoming part of every business, community and persons life, MBS, noSno and Outback were developing their first mountainboards (You can read more about the history of mountainboarding on Remolition). With mountainboarding and the internet developing at similar times, it stands to reason that a close relationship would develop with mountainboarding becoming reliant on the internet to promote its existence, sell boards, create communities, and organise competitions.

Everyone needs a website

With the help of the Wayback machine we can have a look at some of the mountainboarding websites from those early days. In 2000 the ATBA in the US had a website as a means of communicating with other riders,mostly about competitions.

On the other side of the Atlantic, used their 2001 website to pull together mountainboarders from all over the UK to tell them about the British Championship competitions.

The MBS website has been through quite a few incarnations since the early 2000’s but has always been focused on sales along with encouraging people to get the latest mountainboarding news.

noSno has had the same website since 2002, which, in a way, reflects the mountainboards they make which also haven’t changed a great deal since those early days.

How have mountainboarders been using the internet?

Other than every company having a website to promote themselves and sell boards, other mountainboarders began using the internet to communicate with each other, arrange meet-ups and competitions, and share photos of themselves enjoying their sport. ATBSports forum was, for a long time, a key website for mountainboarders around the globe (although mostly in the UK) enabling lonely mountainboarders to realise they weren’t alone and that an entire community was out there waiting for them.

And then along came Facebook. There were other factors that contributed to the demise of ATBSports forum and other mountainboarding forums, but the rising popularity of social networks, especially Facebook, meant that people (who just happen to be mountainboarders) had another way to talk to each other. In Europe the average person belongs to 1.9 social networks, and in America it’s an average of 2.1, meaning that as people join a new site they generally leave an existing one. It wasn’t until around the middle of 2009 when Facebook hit 250 million users and everyone realised that everyone else on Facebook was just posting inane rubbish from their everyday lives that mountainboarders went looking for somewhere to talk to each other about mountainboarding.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Central America at around about the same time SurfingDirt forum was being hatched in the mind of prolific website builder McCarver. It was his fifth website and made, he said, “to be a more adult friendly site without too much censorship where a bunch of swearing, bitter old farts who love to ride could chat about how much they love mountainboarding”. Three years later and it is undoubtedly the place to be if you’re one of those bitter old farts, but also has a broad demographic of mountainboarders of all ages, disciplines, and opinions. What makes SurfingDirt work is the tone McCarver sets for the forum. When we join a group we are socially and culturally conditioned to look to a patriarch for established norms and acceptable behaviours. McCarver fulfils this role in a subtle and non-authoritarian, but always watchful, manner, but as he says, “I just have to remind myself to tone it down from time to time.”

Using the Internet to promote mountainboarding

Whilst the internet provides a fantastic means of communication for mountainboarders, it also offers numerous ways of promoting mountainboarding to those who don’t do it. Websites with articles, event reports, how to guides, photos, and videos show anyone who actively searches for mountainboarding on the internet a bit of what is going on within the sport of mountainboarding.

Websites like,, and offer a wide range of mountainboarding related content that can appeal to mountainboarders and those looking to find out more about mountainboarding. There is always the issue of communities appearing closed and insular to those on the outside, but at the very least these sites show the depth and diversity of mountainboarding as a sport, recreational activity, and community.

Extreme Mountain Boarding’, from 2006, has had more than 330,000 views on youtube, which means that either the same thousand mountainboarders have nothing better to do than watch the same video over and over again or that lots of people have watched a mountainboarding video that shows it as a serious competitive sporting activity that requires considerable skill.

Andy Milenkovic’s association with Bing just goes to show how close a relationship mountainboarding has with the internet, and how sometimes things can work the other way round with an internet-based company using mountainboarding to promote itself. So, does this tell us that the internet is the best tool for the job of promoting and increasing awareness of mountainboarding? What about mountainboarding offline? What about using other medium such as print and TV to promote it?

Does mountainboarding need to be on TV?

Mountainboarding has been on TV a bit. We’ve had a few commercials featuring mountainboarding from Ford, and Nissan, we had Johnny Kapahala, and we had Matt Brind on the BBC. In contrast, on the internet, youtube has enabled the sharing of countless videos of peoples mountainboarding exploits from all around the world.

The differences between mountainboarding on TV and on the internet comes down to Reach, Frequency, and Relevancy. TV ads arguably have a great Reach as more people see them, but that reach is often limited to a particular geographic area. TV ads suffer from very limited Frequency due to the huge costs involved in buying airtime on television networks, and often struggle to achieve Relevance as the percentage of people watching TV who actually want to get into a new action sport is going to be very low.

Videos on the internet are different. Their Reach is potentially far greater as wherever you are in the world you can watch videos from everywhere else in the world. Frequency is also greater online as the video is always there, waiting for you to press play. But Relevance is where online videos really come into their own. It’s only those that want to watch mountainboarding videos who search for them. This makes the videos very relevant to the viewer. But what effect do the videos really have? Just seeing something on a TV ad or in a youtube video doesn’t necessarily make you want to do it.

And what about being in newspapers and magazines?

Mountainboarding has had it’s fair share of mountainboarding-specific magazines for such a small sport, including Off-Road Boarding Magazine, ATBMag, Scuz and Mountainboard Magazine. It has, however, always struggled to gain any real sustained coverage from local and national newspapers.

Off-Road Boarding Magazine founded in 1999 in the U.S. by its editor Brian Bishop and other dedicated riders. All Terrain Boarding Magazine aka ATBMag was the longest running, 4 years, and only mountainboard magazine to make it onto mainstream newsagent shelves. Scuz Mountainboarding Zine was first published in July 2004 as a paid-for magazine, but subsequent issues were distributed for free. And Mountainboard Magazine was a was re-branded Scuz designed to suit changing trends in mountainboarding but only one issue was ever printed. All of these magazines started well but ultimately all suffered the same fate.

Winning the World Downhill Championship gets your photo in your local newspaper, and if you were a journalist working for the Guardian or the Telegraph between 2002 and 2007 you might have been lucky enough to get sent out for a lesson in how to mountainboard, but that’s about as far as mainstream coverage goes for mountainboarding. This of course is completely understandable as very little about mountainboarding is actually newsworthy, and as editors often have their own agenda which doesn’t always portray mountainboarding in a positive light, may not be a bad thing.

Lots of time, effort and money was put into producing printed media about mountainboarding during it’s first fifteen years, but just as the internet has drastically changed the way mainstream newspapers and magazines work, it also affected the viability of mountainboarding magazines. This may be seen as a negative effect the internet has had on mountainboarding, but the benefits of mountainboarding being so intimately intertwined with the internet greatly outweigh the downsides.

Would mountainboarding be where it is today without the internet?

I, for one, wouldn’t be mountainboarding today if it wasn’t for the internet. I bought my first board online. I went out to the nearest hills looking for somewhere to ride and bumped into the local mountainboarding club. Until then I didn’t know there was such a thing as the sport of mountainboarding, competitions, or a community of riders. Not long after that I started running a mountainboard centre and became more involved in the wider mountainboarding community.

My example illustrates that although mountainboarding undoubtedly needs the internet to promote itself, there needs to be a direct correlation with the offline activities. An online campaign to tell people to go mountainboarding isn’t going to achieve much if it doesn’t tell people where and how to do it. Mountainboard Centres need a strong online presence, including a website, youtube channel, facebook page, etc., but all those efforts need to be focused on getting people to go to the Centre for a lesson. Without that follow through all that online promotion is wasteful as it doesn’t convert into income for the centre or new riders for the sport.

Without the internet as a promotional, communications and sales tool, I have no doubt that mountainboarding would not only not be where it is today, but would not exist globally as a sport, recreational activity, and community. At best there might be a few people occasionally taking out their old frame boards for a carve on a nice day when they have nothing else to do.

So, what does the future hold for mountainboarding?

We ain’t seen nothing yet. However we conceive of the internet now, and whatever we can conceive of as its future, it will surprise us all. The relationship between the internet and mountainboarding will only get stronger and more interconnected.

For mountainboarding websites, the increase in smart phone use will mean they have to ensure they are optimised to work well on small screens and make greater use of geo-location to do more than just be an online brochure, but offer real unique value to the visitors. Without this evolution, websites will rapidly lose visitors as they will be too busy to return to a site that is not updated regularly with new content, which will have the knock-on effect of the site not showing up in search results as so losing even more visitors.

For mountainboarders, the future of the internet will most probably involve being more connected and more mobile. As 4G is rolled out across the UK in the coming years, greatly improving mobile internet connection, we will be in a position to develop more useful and interactive apps that will still work when you’re out riding in the woods. Using GPS to find new routes and track every ride whilst streaming live video straight to youtube from the head-up display on the glasses that connect wirelessly to your mobile phone will become the norm.

But the real question is whether mountainboarding can leverage the connectedness that the internet offers to achieve our aims of growing the sport. This won’t happen by accident. There needs to be a plan, a strategy of constant development, and, of course, a strong relationship with mountainboarding in the real world.

A bit of downhill history

Gordan, from Llanwrtyd Wells Events Committee, brought his old Ground Hog board to Dave the downhill competition to show us a bit of mountainboarding history.