The Fubuki Story
Rolling edge to edge on powder, corduroy and all the in-between conditions the Alps offer up, Nicholas Wolken focuses on the simple process of turning and gliding on snow—a humble pursuit that has never gotten old for the Korua Shapes co-founder. And for Wolken, coming back to the art of the turn is what saved his connection to the sport.
Nearly a decade ago, Wolken and his friends “were getting kind of burnt out,” he recalls. “We’d been snowboarding all our lives and there was just a time we felt like, ah shit, we’re getting old. Back then it was all about doing the hardest tricks and stuff—with time we just started to feel a bit disconnected with it.”
Thankfully for Wolken and Korua co-founder Stephan Maurer, inspiration struck on a trip to Japan in 2013 when they fell in with a deep snow-surf culture utilizing fishtail boards. The ethos mirrored their own ambitions, and the pair saw an opportunity to bring that style of riding and board development back to the European Alps. A mere year later, Korua Shapes was born.
“In the beginning we thought we were doing a little niche, fun, artsy project, and we never expected [Korua] to be where it is now,” says Wolken. “Maybe that was good—we were core snowboarders (we still are) and we just made boards that felt interesting or would be fun to ride.”
Today, Korua Shapes, based between Berlin and the Swiss Alps, has blossomed into one of the preeminent names among specialty snowboard makers. The brand made a conscious choice to focus innovation on shape design rather than graphics and transitory trends. The company’s blank, clean designs started as a fresh reprieve from the lurid graphics of the time—only later did they realize that by foregoing annual graphic changes, their boards garnered a timeless value. Korua, a One Percent for the Planet member, embraced those implications for environmental sustainability as consumers felt less pressure to keep up with the times with new boards.
We were kind of worried in the beginning that you’d get bored of the graphics, but there’s nothing to get bored about if there’s nothing there!
While the top sheets and bases remain the same, Korua enthusiastically pushes the envelope with innovative designs under its Concept line. Paying homage to the company’s namesake—an aesthetic sound evoking the idea of “a lonely island with some surf,” as Wolken envisions—the brand looks for influence off the snow, seeking design inspiration from surfing and other board sports.
“If your head is only in your own bubble, it’s hard to find inspiration. [We] always keep our eyes open to other sports and see if we can translate it to snowboarding in a way.”
Korua’s ethos is simple: everything they do falls back on a deep appreciation for turning on snow. And it’s perhaps because of this simple mission, rather than in spite of it, that the brand continues to push the creative limits of snowboard shaping. When the goal is simple, the approach feels less limited. For Wolken and Korua, the constant pursuit of a unique riding experience is always worth the risk.
“I think if you don’t try and fail and allow yourself to do that, it’s hard to progress,” explains Wolken. “In the Classic line we know what we’re doing, we have experience with the numbers, materials, and build—it’s tested and proved. The Concept line is kind of the area where we’re like, this board might be crazy or it might only be good for that one thing, but we’re still going there to see where it takes us.”
Where one could view Korua’s unconventional designs as a cavalier salute to the counterculture from which snowboarding initially grew, the brand is simultaneously renown as the “mature” snowboard brand—a moniker attributed to its refined, stripped-back focus on the most fundamental premise of snowboarding: the turn.
In a sense then, I realized, many of the trees I spend time with have evolved to “like” snow. And if that can’t make a skier love them even more, nothing can.
“In the beginning, we thought we were just making a niche product, but the times show they’re actually all-around boards anybody can ride,” explains Wolken. “Our customer demographic is a little bit older than a freestyle focused brand, [but] they’re easy to ride boards, and in that way, I think it makes it a bit more approachable.”
“I remember the days when I’d show up at the park—and I’d been snowboarding all my life—and I just felt like I’m not part of this gang, these guys are on another level, it’s just a different kind of scene,” continues Wolken. “But just gliding on snow, feeling the sidecut—that gave us a place where we belong, and everybody could be part of it and feel like a snowboarder.”