NERD | Jason Broz of KNWN Mfg. & FIX Binding Co.
Photos Crispin Cannon
In 1988 Jason Broz was 11 years old. He rented a Kemper board from downtown Vancouver and hiked under the power lines at the Hollyburn cross-country ski area to catch his first turn. And that was it. Hooked.
Jason spent the early ’90s doodling snowboard shapes in class. Drooling over gear guides. Studying every shape, graphic, rider; every page was scrutinized.
His father was a mechanical engineer. He worked at his side when he was young and would travel around to different plywood mills in awe of all the equipment and production lines. Then, in 1995, he tried to make his first board in his parent’s open-air carport in North Vancouver. Nerd.
Today, Jason is one of the most seasoned snowboard product designers in the country. He’s dedicated his life to his passion and craft and has just launched his second brand in the last three years. He’s a genuine contributor to the shred scene in Canada and a gem of a human. Here is the rest of Jason’s story.
I had already been tinkering with some makeshift presses when one day my dad and I saw an old three-post hydraulic press sitting out in a yard in the tiny town of, Savona, BC. It was just rusting away. We measured it, it was 12” wide x 65” long and we asked management if we could take it. They basically begged us to get it out of there. That was my first real press. Once I had that I was hooked.
I had a lot of friends that worked at Option Snowboards back in the day, but I always wanted to do my own thing. So I taught myself—100%. And you have to understand this was pre-internet: There was no manuals, forums, websites, nothing to learn from. If anything, people were super guarded about sharing information, so I was really on my own.
At first the thought of building my own board that I could look down on when riding was too awesome not to try. It was even more addictive when I’d see my friends riding my boards, and it got to the next level when I would see people I didn’t know riding my designs. There’s something about creating something with your own two hands that people can go out and have the best time on that is super addictive to me. Snowboarding is the most fun thing in the world. Being a part of that experience for people is super gratifying.
How did I get here? I built my first board in ’95. Sold my first custom board in ’97 to a racer named, Anton Pogue, from the U.S. Snowboard Team. Anton Pogue won a World Cup on that board. I then started a brand called Logic Snowboards in ’98. Went back to get my business degree 2002. Ended up building a board for Endeavor snowboards that won a Transworld Good Wood award and was on the cover under Paavo Tikkanen’s feet. I moved to Calgary and rebranded my business Clyde Snowboards in 2006. Sold Clyde in 2010, and moved back to Vancouver to work directly with Endeavor Snowboards as the Head of R&D and production. Built the Endeavor Archetype R&D lab in Vancouver. Began working as an industry consultant for brands and board factories around the world. I launched Fix Binding Co. in 2014 and relocated the head office to Squamish in early 2016. And just recently launched KNWN Mfg.
Bindings Need a FIX’ing
I felt like there was a void in the market. I was standing in the Boardroom on West 4th in Vancouver looking at the binding wall one day and I thought, "$499 for a pair of bindings?! That’s ridiculous.” How about an inexpensive binding that looks good, and doesn’t break. That’s what people really need. And I started FIX in 2014 after a chance encounter in China. I requested a meeting with a guy named Dan Mau, because I had an idea about a business and I had heard through the grapevine that he was the most experienced guy in the industry for binding manufacturing in Asia. We got along well and at the end of the meeting he pulled out a prototype of a binding that he made. The quality was banger, but the look of the binding would never sell in North America or Europe. It needed to be reworked; it had to be bombproof and affordable at retail. If I couldn’t connect those two things, it was a deal breaker. So, we actually started from scratch and designed an entirely new binding, which is now the FIX Truce.
Year one we were already in something like 22 countries. Between Dan's contacts and mine, we grew fast. Now in year two we’ve gone from three models to right and have doubled in revenue. We have also drastically improved the quality of the product even further. We test and test and test. And Dan’s production crew in Asia is top notch.
The new KNWN
KNWN is about creating a unique experience for anyone who walks through our doors. Whether it’s coming in to see how boards are made, to get a tune, or to rent a split-board before you go to Whistler, or maybe it’s just to grab a coffee. KNWN is about connecting one on one with customers and really providing something unique. When you buy a KNWN board, you’re getting something special that has been tailored to you from the beginning to the end of the process.
There’s a lost legacy of Canadian snowboard manufacturing that used to be world renowned.
In the ’90s that got lost in the pursuit of higher margins and larger volume. When you realize that board building is more in tune with something, say a surfboard shaper would do, you realize that supporting a custom shaper opposed to a mass producer can provide far greater value for your dollar. Our customers become family. We have clinics, cat trips, splitboard trips—all created for the community and the people who support us. We’re a hands-on custom product experience. And there’s also the other side of the business where we are selling: Canadian-made high-end snowboards to the international market through distributors. I envision the day when we can really be proud of Canada as a snowboard-producing country again, and I hope that I can play my part in that.
@fixbindingco fixbindingco.com @knwnmfg knwnmfg.com
201-1201 Commercial Way in Squamish, BC | Open Thursday to Sunday, Noon to 6 p.m (tours on Saturdays at 10 a.m.)
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