Down a winding road just past Fishermen's Terminal lies the CAPiTA world headquarters. Nestled near the ship canal, amid industrial and marine-related warehouses, this may seem like an odd spot for a snowboard company. But from the wide-open, windowed warehouse and offices—sorry, no retail shop for visitors—the view is beautiful, and sure beats working from the Seattle bedroom where founder and president Blue Montgomery established his company back in 2000. The foundation, however, began long before and far away.
"I got my diploma, walked across the stage, shook my principal's hand, then packed up my car and drove to Utah," Montgomery recounts of his high-school graduation. An avid snowboarder and shop rat in the famously flat state of Iowa, he was eager to begin summer classes at the University of Utah so he could spend the winter quarter riding the Wasatch powder. Soon after his first season there, the charismatic, blue-eyed freshman attracted enough notice to do what every pie-eyed kid on the ski bus dreams of—turn pro. He traveled the world for the latter half of the '90s while being paid to ride and doing photo shoots for industry mags like Transworld and Snowboarder, doing product endorsements and competing, until landing in Seattle in 1999.
Vashon Island–based K2 had hooked him up with a job managing its team of professional athletes, but the corporate life soon surrendered to Montgomery's snowy entrepreneurial vision: He decided to create his own brand of snowboards. "In the same month, I quit my job, bought a house, and started CAPiTA," he half chuckles. "I like to tell people they haven't lived until they have $50,000 on a Visa card at 18 percent interest."
CAPiTA's freshman debut wasn't anything to scoff at: The new boards popped up in 40 shops in four different countries. Seven years later, the company has grown to encompass 400 retailers in 26 countries, and now produces some 43 different models, selling more than 10,000 boards a year. It sponsors five pro riders, and its designs have won multiple industry awards. Despite the growth and success, Montgomery has steered clear of larger retailers, since snowboarding is—you know—all about that indie spirit. "We're more willing to take risks, and that's what sets us apart," he says. "Creatively we're different." Indeed, CAPiTA's unique Photo Fetish series features the work of five different international photographers. One board bears the image of a man's violently pummeled face superimposed with other snowboarding scenes—as though his visage were a bloodied snowscape for them to navigate.
That attitude also infuses company zines like the tongue-in-cheek Volume One of the CAPiTA Corporate Handbook. Along with clever prose from riders, and interviews with bands like Big Business and Tilly and the Wall, there are coloring-book pages featuring deer in provocative positions. Which is fine for his predominantly young clientele, although not always for the party who writes the check.
"We got a lot of calls from moms about that one," Montgomery laughs, knowing that'll only provide encouragement for the kids—and for himself, it seems. &mdash Aja Pecknold — CAPiTA Snowboards, www.capitasnowboarding.com.