Snowboarding brings out the best in me. When I ride, there are no limits.
In January 2019, Jake and Donna Carpenter visited an indoor slope in the Netherlands. While riding, they coincidentally met the Dutch Para Snowboarding Federation. The Carpenters were inspired by the riders and their commitment to the sport. It also was clear that the riders lacked support from brands and the snowboard industry in general.
A few weeks later, following Donna’s suggestion, a crew from Burton Europe traveled to officially meet para snowboarding federations and riders at their training camps in the Alps. The trip highlighted one thing above all else -- snowboarding is a true equalizer. Simply put, snowboarding is snowboarding, no matter who’s strapped in.
The experience of snowboarding can be shared and enjoyed by all riders. Access to the sport still has clear limitations for para boarders. A lack of infrastructure and awareness within the snowboard community and limited resources undermine snowboarding’s inclusivity.
The experience hatched an idea, FREE, an episodic series that encourage people with disabilities to try snowboarding and amplifies the message: “we all are the same when we ride together.” The renowned snowboard photographer, Carlos Blanchard, also got involved, shooting behind the scenes of the series culminating in a photo book called “Dreams” - available from November 4 on Burton.com. All proceeds generated from its sale will be donated to selected associations in support of people with disabilities.
Also, the featured adaptive riders are now official Burton Ambassadors in Europe. “At Burton, we don’t focus on a rider’s background or physical impairments. For us it’s all about the love for snowboarding and the fun of riding,” says Burton Europe’s Team Manager Martin “Hasi” Haslwanter.
FREE Online Series:
European Adaptive Ambassadors:
Renske van Beek
32-year-old Renske van Beek is from the Netherlands and suffered a stroke in 2000 that paralyzed the left half of her body. However, this did not stop her from starting snowboarding. From the very start she wanted to be just as fast as her brothers and sisters, which she was soon trying on a board. Success followed, and in the 2015/16 World Cup season Renske won both the Women’s Snowboard Cross competition and Slalom SB-UL. Later in 2018, Renske also competed at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang and it is now impossible to imagine the scene without her. Renske is also the founder of organization “Adaptive Board Chicks”, which encourages girls with disabilities to try out boardsports.
Italian Jacopo Luchini, was born without a left hand and started snowboarding in 2015 to spend more time on the mountains. He quickly discovered his passion for the sport and soon celebrated his first competitive successes, finishing second in the SB-UL Slalom at the 2017 World Cup in Landgraaf, Netherlands, and in the 2018 World Cup in Big White, BC, Canada. He also finished third in the SB-UL Slalom at the 2019 Para World Championships in Pyhä, Finland. “Snowboarding means everything to me. It’s my big passion and now it’s also my job. I have been able to experience so many beautiful moments through snowboarding over the years and visit places I probably would never have seen otherwise. One thing is for sure, my love for snowboarding is unconditional and it has been like that from the very first moment I stepped on a board.”
Even though Chris Vos is only 23, he is already one of the most successful para snowboarders of our time. He has four World Championship titles and numerous Crystal Globes to his name, as well as a silver medal from the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games. Despite being severely injured in his right leg and pelvis, at the age of five, Chris started snowboarding when he was seven. When Chris found out about becoming part of the Burton family, he couldn’t believe it: “I’ve been dreaming of riding for Burton since I was a kid and now it’s happened. I’m super proud and I hope I can inspire others through this project. Snowboarding is for everyone, on every level.”
Lisa Bunschoten, from the Netherlands, is an exceptional talent. She won bronze medal at the 2018 Paralympic Games, in PyeongChang, and silver in Snowboard Cross SB-LL2. And at the 2019 World Championships in Finland, she made the podium twice. Lisa was born with fibular aplasia, which caused her left leg to be shorter than her right. Age 16, she decided to have her left leg amputated and soon started snowboarding again – the sport she loves so much.