"All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together."
– Jack Kerouac
He's an unassuming, happy rebel. A one-man army marching to the beat of his own drum. I mean, the guy is entirely impractical. He cares way more about creating fun new snowsliding tools than getting rich. And as for his, hmm... admittedly offbeat design ideas, well, let's just say they often leave him standing outside snowsports' mainstream gospel tent. Still, it's becoming increasingly evident that Frenchman Serge Dupraz is on to something... again.
I get to meet a lot of strange and wonderful people in my travels. But few have entertained me as much as this colourful Savoyard has. You see, for the last three weeks I've played Sancho Panza to Serge's Don Quixote. And it's been quite the ride — a four thousand-kilometre epic that's taken us to a dozen mountain resorts in three different countries. We've tilted at industry windmills, jousted with design clichés and saved fair maidens in the snow. We've skied, snowboarded — even paddled — our way through some of Europe's prettiest countryside. Sipped on priceless wines and dined at fine eateries. Eaten bad roadside sandwiches and had worse coffee. We've slept in chalets, chateaus and four-star Andorran hotels, even caught a few badly needed winks in a van in a ski area parking lot one night. And my impressions?
Dupraz is an artist; a quirky mountain genius whose main goal in life for the last thirty years has been to design stuff that makes snowplay, er, well, even more playful. "C'est tout pour le plaisir de la courbe," he tells me. Literally, it's all for the pleasure of the curve. "That's really what my design philosophy is about," continues the floppy-haired 51-year-old. "I just want people to have fun surfing the snow."
Maybe you've seen one of his pointy-nosed Dupraz boards on the mountain. It's usually on the feet of a longtime local, flashing down the hill on some gnarly offpiste slope at Mach 10. The folk who ride his D1's speak of them almost in awe. And with the same respect for their creator as big-wave surfers show the best shapers.
So who the heck is this Dupraz guy? And how did he manage to win the 2012 ISPO award for best new ski design? Wait a sec. Best new ski design? What is a roots rider like Dupraz doing making award-winning skis anyway? "I just thought it was time that skiers enjoyed some of the fruits of my thinking too," says Serge with that near-elfish twinkle in his eye. "But seriously. I just wanted to make some fun new ski designs..."
Hmm. The pre-eminent sporting-goods show on the planet, Munich's annual ISPO brings together thousands of manufacturers, distributors and retailers to showcase/discover all that's hot and new for the coming year. Awards aren't usually bestowed on upstart companies. But this past February — despite the best efforts of Salomon, Atomic, Fischer, Head and all the other big brands — Dupraz's little-company-that-could beat them all out for top prize. And with a huge-headed ski design so radically different from anything else on the market that you can't help but gape when you first see it. Talk about stepping out.