I asked this exact question myself when I was thinking of making a snowboard purchase! There is soooooo much info to consider and sooooo many tweaks in the different brands out there. Sooooooo many different styles, types, lengths, and believe it or not shapes of snowboards to consider.
So I wanted to create a quick guide on how to choose a snowboard and what the main things to consider are when asking yourself which snowboard to take home and make your own!
I wish I would’ve had a seasoned rider give me some of the knowledge I am about to drop on you when I was making my purchasing decisions. So in true thatsnowboarderlife fashion, I want to help you in your journey!
First things first, let’s talk size of the board
So, you’ think that your height has something to do with how long your board is, right? I sure did. If you are like me and said yes, take the board away from your face and measuring it up to your nose, because that is actually…incorrect.
The right board size has nothing to do with your height. No need to think that way anymore.
To figure out the best board size that fits you, you want to absorb the following easy formula… Rider plus Weight plus Boot size equals board size. (for reference, I am 170lbs with a boot size of 8 and I ride a 154)
You want your board to match your body mass and boot size more than your height. Easy peasy….measuring squeezy!
What type of riding you wanna do?
Are you itching to get into a park and shred all day on jumps, rails and boxes? Or do dream of catching that perfect powder day riding the bowls or through the trees? How you plan to do a majority of your riding will determine the direction you want to go in making your first snowboard purchase.
What if you’re a beginner and don’t know what type of riding you will be doing? Well, you’re in luck! The “all knowing snowboard manufacturers” have taken that fact into consideration and created the following category of boards so you will know:
All Mountain boards. An all mountain board can take what you dish at it no matter what the conditions are or riding style you desire.
Great for those beginners that aren’t sure which type of riding they are going to be doing.
Park boards are described perfectly! They are best used in the terrain park where you can ride the rails, hit those jumps, glide down boxes, and butter press all day and they won’t complain one second.
Powder boards are for those powder hounds that are on a constant search for fresh stashes of POW! A lot of times this includes back country riding, heli-boarding (more on heli-boarding to come in a future post), or first chair rides at your local resort after a long peaceful night of snow falling!
How bendy do you want it?
Every board is going to have a different degree of bend to it, also known as Camber! What you choose will again be determined by what type of riding you will be doing. Let’s go over what each of them means, but before we do just remember that the best way to find out what board is going to be your soul riding mate is to demo different boards.
It’s like the old adage that a picture is worth 1000 words (about how many words are in this article:). A ride or demo is also worth 1000 words that are posted on the internet!
OK, lets define what Camber is and then take it from there.
- Traditional Camber – Traditional camber is where the two contact points (points that touch the snow) near the nose and tail are the lowest point of the board with the middle of the board rising (or convexing) up in an almost reverse U shape. (see below)
- This traditional camber is what all boards used to have, but now there are many more options out there.
- Camber like this allows the edges of the board to always be in contact with the snow under the riders weight giving stability, balance, and consistency in high speed turns.
- Great for groomed runs and hard packed snow.
- Great pop for doing those ollies all over the mountain.
- Rocker or Reverse Camber – Rocker is the opposite of Camber. Instead of convexing up to the middle of the board, it concaves (or arcs) the other way (more of a U shape to the board)
- This style is used to enhance your ride and it could be argued it’s for a little more advanced riding since you may not have as much control in your turns with the edges not always in contact with the snow.
- Rocker from the bindings outward towards the nose and tail moves the pressure from the contact points closer to your feet which can allow for a more loose ride and a floaty feel.
- Rocker and reverse camber boards are amazing for powder, nose presses and an overall forgiving ride!
- Flat Camber – This is exactly as the name suggests…board sits completely flat on the snow apart from a small upturn at both the nose and tail.
- Weight is more evenly spread, making it harder to catch an edge compared to camber.
- Effective edge is ALWAYS in contact with the snow which helps with stability.
- You get a predictably smooth ride that gives you an overall balanced feel.
- It may have less ollie or “pop” than a camber board, but it can also have more broken in feel.
- Camber Hybrid – Last but not least, we have the camber hybrid. When laying flat on the ground or workbench, you will notice this has a wavy pattern throughout the edge. It can also look like a W going from tip to tail.
- Transitions from camber to rocker at a couple different points on the board.
- Some brands will have rocker in the middle with camber under the bindings. This helps with looser turns without sacrificing pop.
- Others are cambered in the middle to maintain carving ability with rockers extending out to nose and tail to increase float and help you not catch those nasty edges.
- You will get the best of both styles with a hybrid, but as you can guess, you may not get the same performance as you would going with either extreme of camber or rocker.
What shape is your board?
Three main shapes of boards that will round out our discussion on how to choose a snowboard are as follows. Which you choose will be determined by what type of riding you will be doing or what stage in the riding game you’re at.
- Directional – A directional board has a definite nose and definite tail. The nose is longer with the tail being shorter.
- Directional boards are meant to be ridden always in the same direction. (so no switch riding)
- Best used for backcountry, deep powder, or high speed riding.
- Softer flex at the nose and stiffer flex at the tail.
- Twin boards – On Twins the nose and tail are the same length. Meant for those that ride regular or goofy, but don’t mind switching things up and riding the other way from time to tim.
- Flex in both tail and nose are the same.
- Excellent choice for park and freestyle riders.
- Meant for those that want to ride switch (or different from their normal stance)
- Directional Twin – This is a combination of the two shapes described above.
- Very common in all mountain and free riding.
- Slightly differing lengths of nose vs. tail. Nose being a bit longer, but switch riding is still a possibility.
- Typically a softer nose flex and stiffer tail, but not as stiff as the straight directional board.
Ready to buy, Ready to ride!
There you have it! Shapes, styles, and sizes of boards determine which is best for you. You may find that as you start snowboarding you prefer one style or another and as you progress that might change. And that’s totally OK!
That’s how I started. I didn’t realize the difference between the shapes or the cambers or even understand what size board I needed. But through my time riding I have learned what type of riding I enjoy doing and what board fits with that style. And you will be the same once you get going.
As I have said before, and I’m sure you will hear this same thing from most snowboard shop sales guys…the best way to know what feels good to you is to get out there and ride some different options. You should be able to pick up real quick what feels good to you and what does not.
Please feel free to leave any questions, comments or concerns below. Otherwise, I’ll see you out on the mountain!
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Illustrations of camber boards credited to Transworld Snowboarding