Snowboards have come a long way since the days of the Snurfer. The modern snowboard is a quality piece of equipment that will serve the boarder well. Because of its superior craftsmanship, it is not inexpensive. But people should not look to get off cheap anyway. It is a rule of thumb in any sport that even beginners should buy the best equipment they can possibly afford.
Although there are two different types of snowboards—the racing board and the freestyle board—both boards are constructed in the same basic way. The bottom is made from a material called Petex, the same substance used on quality skis. The edges are made from sharp stainless steel, which helps to reinforce the board as well as to dig into the snow.
The core of the board is generally made with vertical strips, or stringers, of lightweight balsa wood. Between the strips of wood is an ultralight foam. The combination of the balsa wood and foam makes the core of the board as light as can be. The top, or deck, of the board can be made from several different types of materials. Perhaps the most popular is polyure-thane, which is tough and durable. The board also has stainless steel inserts that hold the bindings in place.
There is a difference in shape and texture between the racing board and the freestyle board. All boards have a slight camber or rise in the middle. The camber gives them flexibility and movement when the rider weights and unweights during various maneuvers. But the racing boards are generally a bit stiffer and longer than the freestyle boards. They are also basically flat on the ends with more of a sidecut for sharp turns.
The sidecut actually refers to the shape of the side of the board. A board may, for instance, measure twelve inches wide at the nose and tail ends, but taper in so it’s only nine or ten inches wide across the middle or the waist, as it’s called. That taper is the sidecut. A longer sidecut allows for sharper turns. A giant-slalom racer constantly has to make sharp turns and needs the longer sidecut.
By contrast, the freestyle board is generally shorter and does not have /as much of a sidecut. Riders operating in the halfpipe, for instance, do not have the need to make sharp turns. But their freestyle boards have a rise, or kick, at each end. In other words, the last few inches of board turn upward. This is very similar to the construction of freestyle skateboards.
Unlike skateboards and surfboards, which the rider simply stands on, snowboards use bindings to hold the rider’s boots to the board. This is another reason to always buy a quality board. Some inexpensive and very lightweight boards have a core made completely from foam, without the wood strips. The danger with these boards is that the bolts used to hold the bindings in place can suddenly give way and pull out. If this happens during a fast run or in a sharp turn, the rider can easily suffer a knee or ankle injury, or the board can pop up and catch him anywhere, from the shin to the face.
Most boards are geared for the mature rider. Very young children beginning the sport might want to start with a small board. Rental shops usually carry one or two of these very small boards to every twenty regular boards.
After growing out of the real small boards, youngsters can find boards from 130 centimeters (51 inches) to 144 centimeters (56 inches). These are narrower than adult boards and the choice should be based on the youngster’s size and weight. There is also a board in the 150 centimeter (60 inches) range. Freestyle boards are generally in the 155—165 centimeter range (62—66 inches). Racing boards are a bit longer, usually about 180 centimeters (70 inches) in length. But no matter what the size, make sure you get a quality board.
Prices have gone up as the boards have become more sophisticated. There was a time when $ 150 would buy a moderately good board. Now a board in the $400 price range is considered low-end. Part of the reason has been the general increase in the prices of all sporting equipment. The other is the higher-quality construction of today’s boards.
So the low-end or even middle-range snowboard might suffice for a beginner. But the harder it is ridden, the quicker it will deteriorate. A less-than-the-best board will often crack after just half a season of rough riding. There are a number of other things that can happen, including the steel edges blowing out, something that can easily cause a fall and injury.
A quality board may cost $650 or more, but it is a board that will take a beginner a long way and even last several years for the expert. It’s a decision every snowboarder must make. Sometimes you might find you don’t have the money for a quality board. Then you have to make do and maybe buy yet another board the following year. But if you have the dollars, don’t hesitate to buy the best snowboard you can. It will pay off in more ways than one.