It's been a decade since NOW founder JF Pelchat set out to redefine response in the world of snowboard bindings. It's rare to see a company break the mold, even more so to see them succeed. But NOW is thriving, with a ripping team, more offerings than ever, and a devoted customer base that's grown steadily for the past 10 years. From what we hear, folks are never going back.
"10 years!! It's crazy how fast times flies. Reflecting on the decade behind us, we can't help but be amazed of where we are today. From a Frankenstein prototype built in JF's garage to winning the ISPO Overall Product Award for the IPO in 2012, we've come a long way. We're celebrating these ten years of innovation by presenting our 2022 binding line. We've prepared an interview with NOW founder and mastermind, JF Pelchat, as we look back on where it all started, and where NOW is heading in the years to come.
We would like to send out a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who ever strapped into a pair of NOW Bindings and never looked back. None of this would have been possible without your support during these first ten years. Here's to many more and see you on the slopes!"
What was the spark that made NOW become what is it today?
In a nutshell, riding sub-par bindings for too long! Hard work, perseverance, filing a few patents and partying in my garage with the YES boys, showing them my proto, having them try it, which led them to introducing me to the Nidecker family and getting the financial support from them to launch the brand.
How did you create your first prototypes?
My fist proto was done in my garage using random binding parts, and getting the hanger welded together with custom aluminum rails and heelcup to create the pivot point. At first I designed them without bushings, but it was too responsive and saw a potential hazard for breaking boards. So I cut pieces of rubber and glued them to the 4 corners of the hanger. That changed everything– it was the moment I first felt the progressive response that really sets our bindings apart.
What did your years as a pro snowboarder for Rossignol bring to the table in your transition to becoming a product creator?
I always worked closely with them on board design so I had knowledge in that field and it gave me confidence to start playing around and designing. Reimagining the binding interface system was a little different for sure, but with all those years of snowboarding at that level under my belt I knew my idea was legitimate.
Who tested the prototypes?
When I designed my first proto, I took Devun Walsh for a rip. I wanted a real test so I told him to bring two of the same boards. We mounted one with the NOW prototype and one with a pair of traditional bindings and traded the two setups back and forth all day. The snow was really bad, that cruddy snow that can grab your edge, but with the NOWs you could feel way more control and power. That setup sliced through the shitty snow like nothing we'd ever experienced, and it was a way smoother ride overall. Whoever was on the traditional bindings could barely keep up.
How long did you keep your idea secret until you could unveil your first official NOW binding?
My first proto would have been designed in the early 2000s, then I believe I filed for a patent in 2004. We launched in 2012, so about eight years. When you think about it that way, it's almost 20 years of NOW!
How many models did you start the brand with?
We started with only one model the IPO we chose that name in relation to the stock market IPOs (Initial Product Offering) we felt it was a coherent name with what we were doing. The IPO is still one of the best selling models in our line.
How many models are there in the 2022 lineup?
There are 11 models total, three women’s, seven men’s and one youth. We're still innovating and having more models lets us offer dialled in performance depending on rider needs. I'm pretty excited about the new Hanger 3 baseplate that's on our Select Pro, Drive and O-Drive bindings– it's lighter and brings a wider footprint to our bushings, which only offers more response.
You’ve been into 3D printing, creating the first 3D printed snowboard binding; what do you think the future of that technology holds?
3D printing is now the most essential tool for us, it allows us to bring a product to market way faster, saving us time and money. The future is 3D printing at a manufacturing scale. We're not quite there yet but getting closer everyday. Imagine having a binding made specifically for the boots volume and size that you are wearing or down the road printing yourself a part for your bindings from the comfort of your home or even crazier having a 3D printer at the hill for if you broke a part or just want a stiffer highback.
Obviously, the future of snowboard bindings is NOW, but do you have any innovations in the works for the years to come?
Yep we are working on something radical, just waiting for the patent to be granted. If you're lucky you might see it floating around or catch me testing it. Our Newsletter is the best place to get the latest news– make sure you sign up if you want to be the first to know.
What are some of the best memories that you have since creating NOW?
It’s not so much of a memory but more of realization, it’s crazy for me to go to a resort and see my creation on so many boards, it’s surreal and humbling and the same time.
After being a part of the snowboard industry for decades, did you ever think back then that you’d be a brand owner and making your entire life from snowboarding?
I definitely knew what I wanted to do when I returned from Craig’s Kelly camp the summer of 1990. I had to move to Whistler and become a pro, that’s all I cared about at that time. The rest wasn't clear, but I've always felt that if you give your heart to something it will give back. I'm very fortunate to have this life, and designing products that bring people joy is my way of passing on the incredible feelings snowboarding has given me.
You licensed your bindings to Jones Snowboards a few years ago. Can you tell me about that partnership?
Jeremy and I go way back to the Rossi days, we are good friends and part of the same world wide distribution group with Nidecker. Jeremy is a former NOW rider and he was also one of the first to try an early prototype. He was very stoked on it and wanted to be part of the movement. It’s a pretty big thing to see him give you the thumbs up and his seal of approval. Now moving forward and with his brand's success, we both felt that it was logical to introduced Skatetech to more of the world and have as many people as possible feel the benefit of riding them.
What makes you excited for the future?
On a personal level, Travelling again to Japan/ Europe or exploring new places, riding in BC with my girls and building my dream home on Vancouver island. On a business level I would say working towards sustainability and new radical developments in binding design.
What are your favourite days in the mountains nowadays?
Going on the hill riding pow with my girls and friends or getting on my new sled. When you are up there and can ride anything you want- it doesn't get any better than that.
I could not of done it without the help of my family, friends and everyone who's supported our vision by buying our bindings. Thank you so much, and here’s to another ten!
Check out the 2022 NOW Bindings line