Transworld Business Investigates: The Jake Burton Children’s Book Controversy

By Mike Lewis

If you work in the snowboard industry, odds are you’ve seen the email going around about a book for kids called Jake Burton Carpenter and the Snowboard. The email, sent by “History of Snowboarding” or H.O.S., states “Burton has teamed up with a kids’ book publisher to create their skewed version of snowboard history… Probably so that they’ll be inclined to buy Burton product as they get older.If you read this cartoon book, despite its after-the-fact footnotes, it is clear that Burton is trying to brainwash little kids these days that Jake invented snowboarding.”

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Transworld Business decided to get to the bottom of this issue by actually reading a copy of the book, then reaching out to all parties involved to see if there really was some kind of conspiracy in play. After a few days of unbiased research and fact-checking, it’s pretty easy to see that H.O.S., who didn’t respond to repeated emails, either didn’t read the book, has his own agenda, or both.

The short, comic-style hardcover, published by Capstone Press for school libraries in 2007, opens in 1968 on a snowy hill in North Andover, Mass. with Jake Burton being prodded by some unnamed friends to give their Snurfer a shot. The book goes on to tell how Jake saw the potential of the Snurfer and took his idea of making a better board and turned it into a business.

The book’s author, Michael O’Hearn, is not a snowboarder and says he didn’t talk to Burton or anyone else for his research. “I used what books I could find and a lot of articles… That was primarily it.” O’Hearn, who has written a number of similar books for “reluctant readers,” felt there was enough publicly available information, and didn’t think an interview was within the scope of the book. He also knew from past experience that Capstone would bring in an expert to fact check his work.