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15 Aug, Monday
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Kemper Snowboards is extending its wares beyond the snowy slopes with an introduction into the metaverse with new Kemper Snowboards NFTs.

Kemper Snowboards is back (and they’re into NFTs now)

Kemper Snowboards launched in 1987 out of founder David Kemper’s garage in Canada. The brand achieved success, but it was short-lived—by the end of 1994, the company was defunct. 

Until 2018.

The former professional snowboarder Jib Hunt decided to give the company a new lease on life, reviving the company and moving it to Utah to take advantage of the Utah snowboarding scene—he’s experienced some early success as well.

Hunt says Kemper was one of the top three snowboard brands in the world at its peak. Now, the company is experiencing 3x-4x growth year-over-year since its revival. Kemper is even bringing back more categories of inventory and expanding product lines into skins and bindings.

In its first year, the company sold 300 boards, Hunt says. Last year, 3,500 boards were sold.

Hunt attributes some of the company’s early success to a revitalized interest in retro snowboards and a swing back to some of the trends that made Kemper a hit in the first place. The flashy colors and designs of the 1990s are back in style, and that’s what Kemper is all about.

“There’s this pretty large and growing group of 35 and older snowboarders who are collecting and seeking out the boards they had when we were kids and trying to get all those old boards again… There’s that whole nostalgia element,” Hunt says. “At the same time, retro is starting to pop with the younger generations. Some of these bright brands, and fashion, and lifestyle action sports were bringing back the neon colors and the really funky print. I just thought that snowboarding needed an injection of that excitement.”

The pandemic also brought more people into outdoor sports. According to market research group NPD, sales of splitboard snowboards surged 134 percent from August 2020 through January 2021, while all-mountain snowboard sales were up 13 percent.

Kemper is also expanding its operations in Utah and will soon begin to manufacture certain boards in the state, moving some of its manufacturing from China. Hunt hopes this will be a better strategy long term. Though the move will add labor costs, it will cut exorbitant shipping costs. Hunt plans to start by manufacturing one or two models in-state, hoping to expand operations in the future, possibly even moving into a bigger facility in the state.

“We’d like to be the biggest snowboard-specific brand in Utah and become the brand that Utah knows the most,” he says. 

Hunt doesn’t expect to get back into the top three snowboard brands in the world right away, but he’s eying the top ten right now. He compares it to starting a NASCAR race in the back of the pack and working your way forward, and he has some ideas on how the company can edge its way forward: by taking advantage of cryptocurrency and NFTs.

“We’d like to be the biggest snowboard-specific brand in Utah and become the brand that Utah knows the most."

Kemper accepts payments on its website in Bitcoin and Ethereum, though Hunt admits he’s not sure anyone has used that feature yet. They also released a line of NFTs in late June. The NFTs launched in conjunction with the SIMBA Market, a digital collectible marketplace that hopes to be a leader in sports and entertainment releases.** Hunt will also be serving as CEO of Riders Collectiv, which will form collaborations with partners in the action sports world to house NFTs from those companies.

Kemper’s initial NFT offerings include three NFTs, with two selling for $49 and $99. The $49 NFTs will be a snowboard character with different attributes, while the $99 option will be a fully 3D-rendered archive of all of Kemper’s snowboards. 

Hunt was initially skeptical of NFTs, but he saw Nike purchase the Utah-based NFT company RTFKT

“A light bubble immediately went off in my head. I’m like, ‘I know why they’re buying it: digital and physical.’ Nike wants this connection between people buying these digital shoes, and they want to tie it somehow into the physical shoe,” Hunt says. “That’s where I think it’s going to go, and I want Kemper to be one of the first brands, specifically in action sports, to do that. That’s going to be the wave of the future.”

With that in mind, there will be a gold NFT version that will come with an actual physical board to come with the NFT. Those will sell for $675 initially.

“Now, if you’re actually buying a Kemper snowboard and it’s attached to an NFT, a digital deed, that will go in your wallet. Ten years down the road, if everything is attached to an NFT that you buy, you now have a catalog of all these items.”

With SIMBA, all purchases are made with credit cards, not cryptocurrency, which Hunt believes will lead to more purchases in a time when cryptocurrency values have dropped significantly, and there’s a cloud of uncertainty and nervousness in the NFT and crypto worlds. He also believes that Riders Collectiv focusing on brands instead of individual creators will give consumers confidence. 

Throughout the summer and into fall, Riders Collectiv will start to roll out new brand partners in the worlds of skateboarding, surfing, and skiing.

“The whole Riders Collectiv concept that we’ve created is we want to have a specific community around action sports where we invite all these other brands to the party,” Hunt says.

**Note from the editor: Since the publication of this story, SIMBA has shut down its NFT market. Kemper Snowboards has since announced plans to parter with Cloutchain on this project.