April 01, 2016
By Victoria Kidd
Spring is in full force here in the Northern Hemisphere, where the winter blahs have given way to brighter days and a lighter step to our walks. But for the Gilson Boards (GB) “tribe,” as they call themselves, the warmer temperatures mark a time of mourning. Winter is long gone in the Susquehanna River Valley where they make their home, leaving the tribe to “struggle for survival” in a land devoid of snow. Or so says the documentary-style “wildlife” video that the snowboard manufacturer created to poke fun at their location.
It is only their kinship and love for each other that allows them to survive, says the video’s narrator in a faux British accent. They may wait all year to ride their mythical boards, but they must work together as one tribe, as one family, if they are to see those.
Austin Royer ’10 and his business partner Nick Gilson are making a name for Gilson Boards across the country and around the world.
Who Needs Location When You’ve Got Innovation?
Driving north along Route 204, a 10-mile stretch of a Pennsylvania two-lane road between Selinsgrove and New Berlin, you encounter something unexpected amid the farmlands and forest. That something is innovation, and the name of innovation in these parts is “Gilson,” painted in broad, black strokes across the gray, pitched roof of a former auto body and tire shop.
That’s how Austin Royer ’10 sees it, anyway. His purpose and his vision for the company are simple: “finding a different way to do it better.” Royer is GB’s head of manufacturing, and for years, the building that houses the company was a garage owned and operated by his grandfather.
Royer, an earth and environmental sciences grad who grew up on the adjoining farm, and his business partner, Nicholas Gilson, moved their fledgling manufacturing business into the building in 2014. But Gilson Boards is anything but your typical central Pennsylvania manufacturer.
For one, Royer and Gilson live and breathe snowboarding and the culture that’s emerged around it, even though the rural river towns surrounding them don’t offer the best terrain for “shreddin’ the gnar.” Yes, like any self-respecting snowboarder, they are well-versed in the culture’s lingo, lifestyle and grunge-inspired fashion. But these young entrepreneurs are anything but stereotypical snowboarders.