The Burton Blog

Beyond the Shift: How Culture Shifters Is Shaking Things Up Off the Mountain

A creation of Zeb Powell and Selema Masekela, Culture Shifters brings together BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) change-makers to build a community of riders that represents what we hope the future of snowboarding will look like—diverse, inclusive, and empowering.

The real work at Culture Shifters is in leading conversations about what can be done to create a more radically inclusive snowboarding community. The goal is to build a community of riders that represents what we hope the future of snowboarding will look like—diverse, inclusive, and empowering.

As we gear up for this year's event, we want to express endless gratitude to our friends at Fat Tire, Red Bull, Aspen Snowmass, UAG, Ikon, and Anon for their support in helping to push snowboarding culture in new directions.

To get in the spirit of Culture Shifters, we reached out to past-attendee Joe Kanzangu with a simple question: How has Culture Shifters impacted your life over the last year?

The following is his response:

Amidst mild winters, increasing wage gaps, and folks pulling back on inclusionary initiatives, Culture Shifters goes in even bigger. The community movement has set the framework for a new type of culture in snowboarding. Where we can all eventually move past “nice-to-see” acknowledgments on the mountain and into a norm focused on impact, everywhere.

Last April, I sat across from award-winning director and action-sport photographer, Atiba Jefferson; NFL tight-end and fellow Chelsea football club supporter, CJ Uzomah; adventurist painter, Chase Hall; organizational change consultant, Shannon Howell; and to my left, champion cyclist and community builder, Justin Williams. Remarking and laughing on overlapping life experiences, we settled into the shared nuance of our individual expressions. Culture Shifters, a dynamic movement reshaping how snowboarding is depicted, centered us. As we looked around the room, we saw the joys of snowboarding on a variety of luminaries. Faces like mine, that were intent on building a new norm on every mountain.


Culture Shifters, the brainchild of Selema Masekela and Zeb Powell, has become a sort of pilgrimage for artists, athletes, and community leaders who look to build stronger bonds despite political disenfranchisement, cultural marginalization, and social neglect. With snowboarding as the conduit for progress, Culture Shifters is building a more empowered community.

After last year's Culture Shifters, I came back home to New York City still shook from the meetup. The gathering had left a Saiyan-like frequency. Virtually, I saw the energy flowing through social media as other attendees recounted their unique perspectives. Many of us, eager to share Culture Shifters in our own worlds.

We had spent 72 hours or so in Aspen for Burton’s Culture Shifters tapping into what the snowboarding community should look like: People from everywhere, all walks of life, coming together to connect, inspire, and support while riding sideways through it all.


To this day, I have flashes of the final night’s iconic back-to-back performance from director and producer Basil Tweedy and Ebony Beach Club founder and fellow DJ, Brick. But I’m convinced now, what I knew even then, that Culture Shifters is much more than a mere singular experience.

For many of us, even those who’ve yet to experience it, Culture Shifters has erupted into a catalyst for the change we want to see off the mountain. It’s emblematic of our shared experience in snowboarding but on a grander scale: in navigating the world.

Snowboarding has a simple way of restoring one’s joy in life (yeah, I still geek every time I land a clean half-Cab on a roller). In a world where there are so many factors affecting our lives, and our day-to-day can seem so bleak, not to mention the historical implications of current social conflicts, it can be tough to just be alive. The mountains seem like the only place where we can have some stub of peace in this world.

But regardless of how much we love riding, we have to come down at some point. It’s necessary to acknowledge the complexity of the world; it’s even more radical to not remain neutral. Which is kind of like the social responsibility of living. Like the environmental responsibilities we have to this planet, we have to acknowledge when something’s not right.

The disparities. Human crises. Genocides. No matter how hard we try to act like it’s not there or it’s not like it sounds—it is. And it’s up to us to instigate changing these real issues. Lately, I’ve been asking myself how I can maintain that high, that joy that permeated from Culture Shifters. Then I remember the joy that’s shored up by the real conversations we had about the state of our communities.


I think there’s relief in having those uncomfortable conversations. We all get to understand each other better. We all see where we come from with so much more clarity. We can pick up pieces without there being a clash. Yes, tensions can rise at times, but at events like Culture Shifters, Mystery Series, and Technically Doing It’s upcoming 6290 Showup meetup in Austria, we find ourselves all on the same team, and to me that’s massive. That’s the point of it all. Culture Shifters brings different people, with different styles, together.

Beyond the shift, a new standard of inclusivity has formed with Culture Shifters. Burton has helped those of us trying to make a difference in this world stay tapped in. The communal support has propagated into a movement. And how can I not smile at the bottomless joy of seeing others who look like me have seats in previously closed-off rooms, going up more lifts, and absolutely ripping it.


Culture Shifters is a place where we can talk about life off the mountain. Where we all learn, educate, understand, and recover. After my experience at Culture Shifters, I’ve been able to recognize those same energies imbued again and again. Whether I’m at Mt. Hood talking about Bojangles with Zeb, supporting Kenny Stills’ Athletes For Ceasefire initiative, or running into data analyst, wellness instructor, and all-boardsport-athlete Yaz Wilkerson, I’ve seen how community shows up when it’s based in action.

I’ve felt the authenticity of Culture Shifters while at Zion Wright’s Mental Health series with the Harold Hunter Foundation. I’ve seen camaraderie foaming over beers after cycling across the five boroughs with producer and attendee Gladimir Gelin. I’ve relished in Culture Shifters’ essence from nights out in SoHo being misfits at art galleries with Burton athlete Kody Williams. I’ve experienced Culture Shifters’ comfort as I attempted to bike from Brooklyn to Boston only to be rescued and towed in by filmmaker Karlos Jeri (I was like 7/8th of the way there, though).


Burton’s built on doubling down. Not just when it comes to the planet but to each other. We’re not meant to be islands. We’re more alive than the bars depicted on our screens. Burton’s Culture Shifters exemplifies that living ecosystem. The sort of coagulation that paints the world better. Where we celebrate cultural dubs like Chase Hall x Selema Masekela’s new Family Tree line board.Where we can coordinate park sessions whenever we find each other in the same city (dinner on me next time we’re in Denver, Bryan Reid).

What started as an introduction to the sport we all love for a small group of talented musical artists has shifted into a mantle for continued progress. Each year, Culture Shifters has gotten bigger and bigger. The build-up is essential for the type of norm we’ve still yet to witness. We’re far from the reality we wish to see in the grand scale of things. Yet the culture is here and we’ll never stop running it up.

This upcoming April, Culture Shifters springs up once again. I hope it continues to reflect the communities we’re starting to see ride together.

Between Morocco and Montréal, with joy,
Joe Kanzangu