Why the Jake Burton Doc Is Essential Viewing, According to Those Who Knew Him

The snowboard community weighs in on "Dear Rider," an inspired film about an endlessly inspiring man

March 9, 2022 9:59 am
Jake Burton, the legendary snowboarder, standing on a snowy mountain holding a snowboard with goggles and a hat on. We spoke with Jake's friends and colleagues about the new documentary Dear Rider ahead of "A Day for Jake."
Jake Burton, the godfather of snowboarding, is the subject of the doc "Dear Rider."
Photo courtesy of Burton

Recently, your correspondent was afforded the opportunity to join the Burton team for a screening of the film Dear Rider, the new HBO Sports documentary chronicling the life and times of the late snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton. It’s a beautiful film, a testament to the passion and determination of a true visionary, and a shining example of how the dreams of one person can eventually have a profound effect on the lives of millions. 

I’m not ashamed to say that I got a little misty during the viewing — and watching it with the Burton team, it struck me that it is a truly unique experience to watch a documentary about the life of an icon with a group of people who knew the subject so intimately.

At which point I came to a realization: what better way to advocate for this film to you, dear reader, than to allow you to hear from these people who knew Jake so well — these people who actually participated in Jake’s life story — directly?

So I decided to ask as many of them as I could the same question: “What was your favorite part of Dear Rider, and why?” From close personal friends to pro riders to snowboard journalists to Burton employees to the people behind the film itself, the answers ranged far and wide. All, however, are imbued with the same deep sense of gratitude that every one of us who has ever strapped on a snowboard feels toward the man who made it all possible: Jake Burton Carpenter.

Speaking of which, if you do happen to be a member of the snowboarding tribe and want to further pay your respects to the godfather of our sport in the coming days, Burton’s third annual “A Day for Jake” event takes place on March 13. Participation is as simple as grabbing your friends and getting outside to ride, hike, surf, skate or do any other activity that celebrates Jake’s legacy and puts a smile on your face, and sharing your experiences on social media with the hashtag #rideonjake. Hell, if nothing else, use it as an opportunity to give Dear Rider a spin on HBO Max. Whether you’re a snowboarder or not, your correspondent would be willing to bet you find it worthwhile and inspiring.

Ride on, Jake.

“My favorite parts of the documentary are the home videos. After working at Burton for over 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of the other footage. But the home movies Jake shared with us before he died … they are gold. The family footage and photos show a different side of Jake, Donna and the boys that most of the world hasn’t seen — as children, newlyweds, new parents, new homeowners and new business owners. Snippets of holidays, horsing around at home and Jake’s jokes give the world a glimpse of the family that gave birth to Burton and the family that continues to foster the growth of snowboarding today.” — Abby Young, Head of Global PR at Burton and Executive Producer of Dear Rider

“The moment Dear Rider really hit home for me was when my dad came up to me after watching it and said, ‘I feel like I understand you and your love for snowboarding more clearly.’ The movie is Jake and so much more.” — Mark Sollors, Burton Team Rider

“Jake handwriting his thoughts and feelings to his family during his first battle (Ed. note: with Miller Fisher Syndrome, a rare nerve disorder) when he can’t speak and is bedridden. It’s a beautiful look into the human vulnerability of such a larger than life public figure.” — Selema Masekela, action sports commentating icon

“It’s very hard to pick a favorite part of Dear Rider for me. I’ve seen it so many times now and even still it makes me laugh, cry and just plain grin from ear to ear. Jake was most certainly the most profound human I have ever met, and likely will ever meet in my lifetime. He was such an incredible presence and inspiration to work for, his passion was contagious, and we miss him every day. So I honestly think just being able to hear his voice for 90 minutes talking about all the things he loved most was my favorite part. It motivates me to get outside and have as much fun as possible.” — Taren Dolbashian, Senior PR Manager, Burton Global

Jake Burton with a beanie and goggles on sitting in the snow holding a snowboard
“Jake was most certainly the most profound human I have ever met, and likely will ever meet in my lifetime.”
Photo courtesy of Burton

“Easily my favorite part is all of the amazing old footy. Jake and Donna were so good at turning on the camera and capturing all these really rad moments. The love that comes through for the boys, for each other. It’s like they knew they would be making a movie one day. The amount of love and feeling you get through the home videos is just unreal. When someone lets you into that world you just kind of melt a little bit. Too cute really!” — Danny Davis, Burton Team Rider

“Just seeing Jake on screen doing what he loved, sliding down a snowy mountain makes me happy because that’s what I enjoyed with him!” — Dave Downing, snowboarding legend and former Burton Product Designer 

Dear Rider was a great tribute to Jake and everything he did for snowboarding. I loved the archive footage — they did such a great job of documenting the history of snowboarding. I found myself feeling nostalgic and walked away missing Jake but so grateful that I get to be part of such a great community.” — Kelly Clark, Burton Team Rider, Olympic gold medalist and Olympic snowboard commentator

“To me the most resonant takeaway from Dear Rider is the fact that it is both the story of a visionary as well as a documentation of a collective pastime which became a cultural phenomenon. Therefore, the part of Dear Rider that I find most compelling are the vignettes involving the mid-‘90s ‘salad days’ when both the progression of the riding and the angst-fueled creativity were at their peak.” — Pat Bridges, former Editorial Director at Snowboarder magazine and Founder of Slush magazine

“The film is a history lesson on snowboarding. It brings to life Jake’s personality and everything he did to make snowboarding a globally recognized sport.” — Zachary Nigro, Burton Team Manager

“One of my favorite parts is a quick, funny one. It’s the scene where Jake is running past a sign with a pot leaf that reads ‘500 feet ahead!’ We were driving to Mount Hood for his annual Day 100 of Riding and he saw the sign and made me turn around and pull over to get the video! Totally premeditated. He was always funny like that. And yes, we had to check out the weed store since we were there!” — Mike Cox, Global Special Projects Director at Burton and close personal friend of Jake

“Nearly impossible to narrow it down to my ‘favorite part,’ but getting to see the archival footage of Jake’s life before I got to know him was so incredibly special. It really showed just how much heart and sacrifice he poured into creating the world of snowboarding that we all get to enjoy. Also, to finally see footage of all the stories I have heard about Jake — like Jake as a baseball coach — was also very special.” — Jack Mitrani, ESPN X Games Host and Burton Mine77 Creative Director

“What I love most about Dear Rider is that it truly captures the multifaceted essence of Jake. It’s a love story, a business story, a snowboard story, a friendship story and a community and lifestyle story. It captures the duality of life so beautifully, expressing the love he had all around him for snowboarding, his family, his friends and Burton, but then the other side as well — heartbreak, illness and struggles that are inevitable in life. I have known Jake the entire 34 years of my life and he really lived, loved and fought for what was important to him, and Dear Rider really captures that. I laughed, I cried and I really felt his essence throughout the entire story. There is a moment at the end of the film where my uncle, MC Heingartner says, ‘But he lived a good life, that dude, and we’ve been living a good life on account of him’ (cue music, memories and many tears) and I love that quote so much because it’s deeply true. Jake changed the world, the people he was close to and the people he impacted by bringing snowboarding into the world. I am forever grateful for him, the memories I had with him and to have this film to come back to over and over. Thank you, Jake.” — Whitney Heingartner, Strategic Alliances Manager at Burton and lifelong family friend of the Carpenters

Jake Burton in an orange jacket snowboarding down a mountain with snow flying behind him
“he lived a good life, that dude, and we’ve been living a good life on account of him.”
Photo courtesy of Burton

“My favorite thing about Dear Rider is that it’s something I can show my friends and family who don’t know anything about snowboarding and it gives them a picture of how it came to be, why I love it and what a great community we have.” — Chelsea Waddell, Athlete and Ambassador Marketing Manager for the Americas at Burton

“I think my personal favorite part of Dear Rider was learning the history of how Jake started making his own boards in the first place and how he was getting these boards around the world. Was such a cool process and I was truly inspired by his dedication to make snowboarding big and for everyone! Thank you, Jake — I love snowboarding so much!” — Luke Winkelmann, Burton Team Rider

“The footage from the original U.S. Open [Snowboarding Championships] held at Stratton Mountain, Vermont took me back to when that was the biggest event of the year. All the icons of the sport came to The Open! Dear Rider gives you a glimpse into how Jake never gave up on his dream. His passion turned into not only an Olympic sport but a full blown lifestyle. Thank you Jake!” — Todd Harris, NBC Sports Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding Play-by-Play Announcer

“My favorite big section of the movie is Austria, it was the most fun for me to cut. And at the end of that section there’s a VHS moment — there were so many great VHS moments of Jake that didn’t make the film, we had hours and hours — but there’s a moment where he’s talking to Hermann (Ed. note: Hermann Kapferer, Jake’s first partner in Austria who eventually became Burton’s European General Manager) and he says, ‘I’m so excited I could meet Hermann and lose so much money together.’ And Herman’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s really a great opportunity.’ When you see it, it’ll definitely make you chuckle.” — Rose Corr, Editor of Dear Rider

“My favorite thing about Dear Rider is how it captures my passion and I can tell my family to watch this movie and it explains to them why I do what I do.” — Meg Procter, Experience and Partnership Specialist for the Americas at Burton

Two black and white photos. Left, Jake Burton riding an old-school snowboard. Right, a profile of Burton with snow goggles over his face.
“His passion turned into not only an Olympic sport but a full blown lifestyle.”
Photos courtesy of Burton

“My favorite part of Dear Rider is the early history of snowboarding and how Burton started with a hardworking shredder who loved the pre-sport and how they both grew together like siblings in the same house of awesome. I came into snowboarding when it was already established, but the things that Jake, Tom Sims and the Mervin family did would impact my life forever.” — Danny Kass, snowboarding legend, Olympic medalist and Founder of Dover Developmental

Dear Rider was a touching tribute to the most important snowboarder who has ever strapped in. My favorite part of the film was learning about Jake’s early upbringing and the passion and perseverance that drove him. I didn’t start snowboarding until 1995, so to learn about all of the stepping stones that led to the main brand that ignited my passion in my formative years was really amazing. Jake is greatly missed and this film will live on to tell generations to come of his life, legacy and influence on our culture.” — Tom “T-Bird” Monterosso, renowned snowboarding photographer and journalist

Dear Rider shined a bright, loving light on Donna and her Herculean efforts through the years. Burton Snowboards would not have grown without Donna Carpenter, full stop. Donna’s business savvy, creativity and wisdom was Jake’s rock for him, the family and the brand. We are all so grateful to her and Jake in creating a culture we now call family.” — Jessica Kaplan, former Burton employee, Creative Director at Sidereal Haus and Board Member at the Chill Foundation

“All of Dear Rider pulls at my heartstrings. I’ve watched it many times and each time a different part makes me cry. My favorite part of the movie is seeing footage of Jake and Donna when they first got married, the playfulness and love is so special. I also love Mike Cox’s story about the XL T-shirts!” — Jesse Lynn Dawson, Photographer at Burton

“My favorite part about Dear Rider is that Jake had the vision to start a completely new sport amongst everything that everyone told him not to do. And to execute on that vision — bringing it from the backyards and shutting slopes in the east all the way to a brand new coast. And then to see it executed all the way to the Olympics? It’s one of the best entrepreneurial stories in American history. Started in the U.S. and has now become a global sport that continues to seek new and diverse crowds … it’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.” — Bryan Reid, Burton National Brand Ambassador

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