shredding the gnar

Shredding The Gnar! The Bizarre Meaning And Origin

by Fraser

For decades, the phrase “shredding the gnar” has been connected with extreme sports, especially skiing. Still, many people don’t actually know what it means; even more people don’t know the origin. So, what does it mean to shred the gnar?

Shredding the gnar means daring to ski, snowboard, or surf on difficult terrain or waves, enthusiastically and without fear. The origin of the phrase goes back to surfers who used words such as “gnarly.” Today, the phrase is connected with McConkey’s point system, GNAR.

In this article, I’ll explain in detail the origin and meaning of the phrase “shredding the gnar”. Plus you’ll find out who exactly invented the word gnar. Let’s get it!

shredding the gnar

What Does Shredding The Gnar Mean?

Now you’re getting an idea of what it truly means to shred the gnar… let’s take a deeper look. 

The phrase “shredding the gnar” is a slang term primarily used in extreme sports like skiing, snowboarding, and even surfing.

Nowadays, the phrase basically means to ski, snowboard, or surf over particularly difficult terrain. (Also known as “gnarly” terrain). 

This is no average riding… this is for when you’re going all out and riding super hard!

The Definition Of Each Word

As you’ve probably already guessed, the phrase combines two slang terms: “shred” and “gnar.” 

In slang, to shred means to ski, snowboard, or surf skillfully. Metaphorically speaking, skis “shred” the terrain covered with snow (or waves, in surfing terms).

In its simplest definition, “gnar” means “snow.” or an “ocean wave”.  

Put them together and “shredding the gnar,” basically means skiing or snowboarding like crazy on the snow… or surfing your heart out on huge waves.

It’s of course worth mentioning that the adjective “gnarly” was first used by surfers to describe big and difficult waves. 

But there’s MUCH more to the word GNAR than meets the eye. Read on!

shred the gnar

What Is The Origin Of “Shredding the Gnar”?

As with many other slang terms and phrases, it’s almost impossible to point to a single original source. 

The most probable answer is that the origins of the phrase go back to surfers’ slang from the 1960s and through the 1980s. Over time, other extreme sports adopted the phrase, and today it’s mostly connected with snow sports. 

Sorry surfers, we stole it!

The Game Of GNAR

Another core origin story comes from the game of GNAR. 

It was invented by Robb Gaffney and Shane McConkey, two expert skiers out of Squaw Valley, California. They were looking for ways to score their moves on the mountain. 

And hence the game of GNAR was born. 

G.N.A.R. therefore became an acronym for:

  • Gaffney’s
  • Numerical
  • Assessment of
  • Radness

It serves as a point system.

Skiers can earn GNAR points in the game if they perform various stunts while skiing.

Some of the stunts can include skiing naked or talking to your mom over the phone while you’re skiing. 

Shredding the gnar may have its origins before the GNAR game, but the game actually popularized the term that is now a common expression for doing something difficult with ease and, most importantly, with enthusiasm. 

The Rules Of GNAR

Points can be scored for tricks, certain runs, clothing items and shouting certain phrases. 

Equally, points can be lost for doing certain things deemed to be somewhat lame. 

Here’s some examples to give you the idea. 

Point scorers:

  • Front flip, 500
  • Double front flip, 1,500
  • Add in:
    • Spread eagled, 50
    • Crotch grab, 100
    • Twister, minus 50
  • Butt naked, 5,000
  • Tell a pro “I’m better than you”, 500
  • Radness yell, 200

    “Hey! Check me out! I’m going to rip the shit out of this!”

Negative scorers:

  • Day ending injury, minus 3000
  • Gaper gap, minus 500, 
  • Yard sale, minus 3000!
  • Belly flop, minus 1000 

Here’s a full scoring sheet if you want to play the game yourself.

What happened To The Inventors?

Unfortunately there’s a sad story behind this epic game. 

One of the founders, Shane McConkey tragically died in March 2009 whilst skiing in the Italian mountains. Following a double backflip from a cliff, McConkey was unable to open his parachute in time and fell to his death. 


The skiing community rallied together in 2010 and resurrected the late co-founders game. An epic game of GNAR ensued, with riders battling it out over the course of a single day at Squaw Valley. 

Since then McConkey’s legacy lives on in the heart of the thousands of skiers and riders who play GNAR every day on slopes across the world.

It also lives on through his friend Robb Gaffney, who continues to shred the GNAR, even through a battle with cancer!


The word “gnar” is difficult to define.

It’s a larger than life phrase embedded deep within the zeitgeist of extreme sports. 

Ultimately, no-one truly knows who invented the slang term gnar. However, the acronym GNAR was invented by Robb Gaffney and Shane McConkey as a point system for daring stunts in skiing.

So are you going to get out there for an epic game of GNAR with friends this winter? 

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