The Man Who Windsurfs on Snow

May 17, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018

Levi Siver was born in Ketchum, Idaho—a mountainous skiing destination almost 500 miles from the coast where he learned to skiing and snowboarding. His parents were avid windsurfers and often took him and his brother on windsurfing trips, preparing him for a career of a professional windsurfer. Now, at 36, he has found a way to bridge his childhood passion for winter sports with windsurfing.

On the pristine slopes of Mount Rishiri, a 5,600-foot stratovolcano rising from the Sea of Japan, Siver tested his idea of snow windsurfing.

“The goal of this project was to create the same sensation as windsurfing in the ocean by using fins, footstraps, and wearing surf booties on long open-face alpine lines on the higher part of the mountain,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I wanted to take the same gear setup as the ocean but reduce the volume of the board and change the outline, which allowed me to complete bigger runs from up high down to the lower parts of the mountain.”

He first trained on a snowboard with a mast attachment. “It was by miles way easier to ride but I didn’t feel the real windsurfing sensation,” he wrote.

His modified windsurfing setup gave him the right feel, though there were setbacks as well.

“Hitting the fin on bad snow is the worst or basically not being able to stop is a good one too,” he wrote.

He spent eight days on the slopes doing 6-7 runs a day and plans to return.

“Next time I would like to take a friend with me and do some big criss-crosses going down the hill and be able to bounce ideas off someone else,” he wrote.

To be sure, this novel pastime has little to do with actual windsurfing. For starters, Siver had to wait, sometimes hours, for low wind (under 9.3 mph). That’s the opposite of what a windsurfer wants.

But he’s still convinced the idea has merits.

“I’m sure some people might consider something like this a gimmick,” he wrote. “[B]ut I’m telling you, when the snow was right it was the kind of fun you have where your [sic] hysterically laughing as you go down the hill.”

Besides experimenting, Siver is a successful competitive windsurfer. In 2014, he even won the American Windsurfing Tour stop in Pistol River, Oregon.

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