Muskegon Exhibit Celebrates 50 Years of the Snowboard

Did you know the modern snowboard has its roots in Muskegon, Mich.?

In 1965, Sherman Poppen invented the Snurfer, a board his children could use to navigate the snow in their backyard. It inspired the modern-day snowboard and with it, an entirely new sport and devotees.

It also paved the way for two Michigan-born and raised men to embrace entrepreneurship and make their own mark on the snowboarding community.

Josh Skiles and Nathan Morse own Marhar Snowboards.
Josh Skiles and Nathan Morse own Marhar Snowboards. (Courtesy photo)

Growing up, Nathan Morse and Josh Skiles were best buds. Morse fell in love with snowboarding at a young age and eventually got Skiles into the sport. They both went to college, graduated, and got “grown-up” jobs. They were roommates in Muskegon experiencing their early 20s together, but neither of them were particularly enamored of the 9-to-5 grind.

Morse came home one day and proposed the idea of starting a snowboard company. He’d handle the design and engineering, while Skiles would work the business side of the operation. Skiles jumped on board, no pun intended, and Marhar, the only snowboard manufacturer in Michigan, was born in 2009. The duo started their business in their garage and now work out of a manufacturing facility in Grandville.

“I think we were just young, naïve, and dumb enough to go for it,” Skiles said.

The gamble paid off and now the pair’s work is on display through Jan. 10, 2016 at the Muskegon Museum of Art with the exhibition Freestyle: The Art of Snowboards, featuring Marhar Snowboards. The exhibit also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Snurfer and its ties to the Muskegon area.

“It’s really special to have an art exhibit,” Stiles said. “It’s unique. Our style is unique.”

Morse still handles almost all of the graphic work for the company. He’s inspired by everything around him including music, fashion, media, art, and nature. Attendees at trade shows routinely remark on the brand’s unique style in the marketplace, Stiles said.

A board being assembled at Marhar's shop. Photo credit: Julie Bitely
A board being assembled at Marhar’s shop.
Photo credit: Julie Bitely

After learning the business from the ground up, Morse and Skiles have seen the Marhar brand experience solid growth year after year. A passion for the work and a drive to do things a bit differently than the rest of the industry keeps them going. They both clearly remember what it felt like to ride on the first board they’d designed and manufactured.

“I’d never felt that excited in my life,” Morse said. “When I got out there that first day, it was better than anything I’d ever rode on.”

“I would never work this diligently or this hard for somebody else or for a company I didn’t care about,” Stiles said.

“I still wake up every day excited to come in,” Morse said.

Do you snowboard? Where are your favorite places to go in Michigan? 

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Main image photo credit: 616 Graphics

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