Let’s be honest, when it comes to our snow sports we love to s*** talk. Bragging is a good portion of the fun and when your friends go big so do you. Lucky for us, the engineers of the world have taken bragging rights one-step farther in making your accomplishments stats. You can’t argue with facts and neither can your barefaced friends. So if your friend says he went bigger and you question, you can now consult the ShadowBox.
The ShadowBox is a small device that you can attach to your skis or board (or really any action sport toy including wakeboards, windsurfboards, kiteboards and even more to come that records your speed, location, acceleration, jump height, jump distance, hang time, g- forces, exact object angles, rotation degrees, spin rates, and (because I am out of breathe I will end this vaguely) much, much more. In a nutshell, the Shadow box takes your “session” and records ALL the data allowing you to later view on the device itself or to upload it onto your computer. And get this; once it is uploaded you are able to see every detail of your performance in 3D (known in Shadowbox terms as the Ridetracker).
Whether you are training for competition or just determined to beat your friends the ShadowBox has the technology to show you every little detail. There is even a link to see where you did it by clicking on Google Earth based on GPS and an exact magnetic sensor measuring latitude and longitude. On my investigative search to find out more on this amazing device I managed to contact brand manager, Dan Meyers. Dan gave me the complete lowdown of the product and some background on how he got involved with such a…well random…new product.
Dan is an Oregon native who loves to surf, ski and snowboard. And it is exactly this love that led him to the company. He has actually been on ‘board’ with the company alongside engineer, Joe Van Niekerk, from the very beginning with development starting over two years ago.
Dan recalls the original idea for the product quite simply; even though its beginnings were developed from a different product that they originally worked with. Dan and Joe originally developed the WakeKite (www.wakekite.com), which combines wakeboarding and kitesurfing using a boat. One day when Joe and Dan were out testing and jumping with the WakeKite, Joe looked intriguingly at the jumps and said, “Hey, I can build something that will measure that!” and soon there after the ShadowBox was born.
Joe Van Niekerk (the mighty engineer behind it) graduated from the masters program at Stanford in mechanical and electrical engineering with a specialization in robotics. Although, he never lost his love for the extreme and alternative and when it came to combining the two it was only natural. Dan describes the invention as the result of Joe’s “super brilliance.”
For the two boys, the invention of the Shadowbox was about using science to build something to help athletes excel in their arena as well as to create a more analytical understanding of the sports that reach outside the mainstream arena. They had never seen a product like it and through development they knew they could make it work. When asked to explain such a complex product to me Dan breaks it down (and this is literally the broken down version) saying “The product works through a form of “sensor fusion,” recording every aspect of a board’s movement through gyroscopes, magnetometers, accelerometers, a pressure sensor and GPS module, all fitting into a device about the size of a deck of cards and weighing less than a quarter pound.” Basically, “The ShadowBox paints a precise picture of any riders’ session.”
With this technology in the scope of skiing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, kiteboarding, and surfing, the accuracy of the activity and its motions become more clearly understood from a theoretical perspective. As Dan explains this notion, “It allows you to see the performance on your board at any given moment in time. And not only can you see the exact trick that is being pulled from any position, you can see the full science behind it. What was the speed, edge angle, spin rate and g-force approach that allowed you to pull that 720 tail grab? Hit “pause” and see exactly what’s going on at the critical moment of pop during the trick. Switch to a different ski or board and see how the stats change and why. Sure you went faster, but how come you couldn’t pull that backside flip with the same results as before? Which ski or board allowed you to accelerate out of the turn and sustain the most speed into the jump? The analysis tools in Ridetracker let you dissect your ride and your equipment like no other tool in history…and the future only gets richer.” The implication for training, competition, R&D and just adding plain fun to multiple sports is clear.
I agree, in that this possibility is a bit overwhelming at first. Why would I need to know this data? Well for many athletes this level of analysis may be insignificant but for the top athletes and their trainers the slightest insight into improvement can completely change their performance. Dan is right. What if you knew what little details could change your performance? What if you could see all the details to know why you continue to miss a trick or fall in a certain way?
For me, the Shadowbox not only screamed ‘cool nerdy gadget’ but also a tool in injury prevention. Having the knowledge to ride more efficiently and understand your motion could aid in knowing how to land when you know you aren’t going to, well, land correctly. And as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, think of the bragging rights? Dan mentioned that upcoming software upgrades will allow you to “compare your trick to a pro” or “overlay one of your own tricks to your friends and others for detecting deviation.” Making it scientifically proven that you are kicking a**! Virtual coaching software and the ability to create events using the ShadowBox are also rumored on the way.
When I first started to discuss the product with Dan about four months ago, I was intrigued by who the market would be. I knew it would be an excellent training tool but I was not sure how they planned to get the word out. Although, Dan explained that they have already worked with professional wakeboarders, kiteboarders and windsurfers, including Shaun Murray, Rusty Malinoski (wake), Shawn Richman, Jacob Buzianis, Julien Fillion, Oliver Palmers (kite) and Kai Lenny, Levi Silver, Andre Paskowski, and Dave White (windsurf), to name just a few. He also mentioned that The ShadowBox is currently being tested by the US Ski Team and US Snowboarding to evaluate performance. On the ShadowBox website there is a quote from Troy Flanagan, Director of Sport Science for the organization, USSA (US Ski Association and US Snowboarding) stating that “the US Ski Team and US Snowboarding are very excited about the potential impact of the Shadowbox technology on our performances. We are currently trialing the system for possible integration into our daily training. Athletes and coaches love feedback and this has the potential to be the ultimate performance analysis tool”. Meaning we can only sit tight to see how the use of the device will change the way athletes prepare for competition in their sport. It is clear that with such talent on board there must be more than just a spark of interest.
The ShadowBox may or may not be the future of athletic training, but for all us enthusiasts (and rightful braggers) it is an intriguing product to say the least. I look forward to hearing more about its usages in board and action sports as my personal interest still flourishes the more I discuss it. I first heard of the device about a year ago from my good friend and fellow kiteboarder Mike Haase (who sold me my 2009 kites) who won the Shadowbox in a kite competition in Hood River, Oregon. Since this inception I have seen the product move into skiing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, and who knows where it will go next? With a continually flowing out reach I may just have to buy the ShadowBox or just some stock when the company goes public!
For more information go to http://www.shadowboxlive.com/
Disclaimer words from Dan as well:
For those of you already convinced, at the time of this article, I do want to say that all ShadowBox products are presently sold out due to extraordinarily high demand. Yes, you can place your pre-order now, get in line, and be the first to receive a box when new inventory arrives. I also have it on good authority that by then a whole new software suite will be released specific to skiing and snowboarding! At the present time skiing and snowboarding are not official recording modes on the ShadowBox, although the box works well in recording your ride nonetheless. The company is hard at work on new software for skiing and snowboarding, getting test data and feedback from its contacts in the industry.