When asked what makes Gentemstick boards different, Founder Taro Tamai says in broken English that it comes down to the craftsmanship, a love of snowboarding, and how those combine into unique products. He flips through the Gentemstick catalog as we sit on the floor of the yurt that serves as a restaurant next to Gentemstick’s showroom in Niseko, Japan, as the snow piles on the skylight thicker by the minute, and shows me the inside cover that sums up the brand and its philosophy:
The Northern Empyrean and all the existence up there, the sun, the moon, and the stars. In other words, absolute blessing of the raw nature, the natural passage that connects you to everything else. It is like a thick tree trunk that stands tall and straight. No need of questioning the existence, something that stays and will be unchanged,eternally. That is GENTEMSTICK.
Take a tour of the Gentemstick showroom and cafe:
Over the last several seasons, there has been a serious renaissance in snowboard shapes. A plethora of new designs beyond twin tips, directional, and the occasional powder board have spawned a whole movement away from “snowboard designers” to “snowboard shapers,” taking their cues from the surf world to liven up board walls, create playful new ways to approach terrain, and give riders a reason to beef up their quivers.
While this movement has been revitalized in the States over the last couple years, Taro Tamai, the godfather of many “new” shapes, has quietly been building Gentemstick boards in Japan since 1998, and this renewed love for alternatives to popsicle-stick shapes is opening doors for Gentemstick to make moves internationally.
After attending ISPO for the first time last year, Gentemstick signed deals with several shops in Europe, partnered on Tailgate ISPO, and will be coming to the US in early March for a powder board demo in Jackson Hole.
Its attention to detail, unique shapes, and use of rare woods like Japanese Cyprus allow Gentemstick to craft boards that retail between $900 and $1,600, and they’re having trouble meeting demand with the 1,300 or so boards their staff of five turns out each year. Shops in the States like The Levitation Project, whose team rider Mads Jonsson is on Gentemstick, are bringing them in and expect them to do well as the market increasingly turns to high-end, small run boards.
While visiting the mountains around Niseko last month, there was a running joke each time we saw it was snowing—”look, it’s snowing.” It got old quick. That’s how much it comes down there, and when asked if it was normal to measure snowfall in meters, the Gentemstick crew responded simply, “That’s what it does here, it snows.” Which makes for perfect powder board testing grounds. And around 80% of the Japanese riders we saw in Niseko were on Gentemsticks.