Written by Whit Arnold
It’s always a good thing to have options when choosing your snowboard. However, this process can be confusing, and sometimes overwhelming. On top of that, depending on the brand you’re looking into, terminology will vary. At the end of the day, what’s truly important isn’t the ability to recite any one company’s lingo in particular, but rather a conceptual understanding of what different snowboard profiles offer.
You must be realistic about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to do. That is imperative to consider before purchasing a new board. If you’re seeking a better understanding of the available options, what they offer and how you’ll benefit, this will help clarify what you can expect given the different available designs. Without getting fixated on the range of layering materials throughout the various boards from differing manufacturers, let’s concentrate around snowboard profiles — which more or less fall into one of following five categories:
1. First is traditional camber. In this image, you see what was originally utilized when designing skis — capitalizing on loaded pressure. In bending, it provides precision contact and edge control. Camber is stable at high speeds and springs in regards to sharper turning, as well as an emphasized pop for your ollies. This relates back to the bottom contour of the board in one way or another. On the flip side, camber is not as forgiving as some of the other available options. At the same time, it is suggested to set your stance further back on camber should you find fresh powder. This achieves better float and lift under the nose when riding in deeper snow. While camber was considered the norm for years in board design, it is not necessarily what’s suggested for beginners who seek the easiest learning process.
2. This illustrates what you get with rocker. Typically, a board with rocker is the more user-friendly approach when first learning to ride, but that’s not to say that these are strictly for beginners. One of the main benefits of having a board with rocker is less vulnerability in catching an edge since it’s loaded opposite to camber, which raises the contact points off the snow. While they provide great float in powder, they tend to get chattery at high speed, which is why riders tend to benefit most with rocker on park obstacles. Part of this relates back to forgiveness catching an edge, and also a more natural and attainable flex or bend with presses on boxes and rails. Keep in mind that while a lot of these board characteristics have proven beneficial in certain areas, it’s not to say you can’t make them perform well all over the mountain. Just like a person’s individual stance, a lot of this comes down to personal preference.
3. Depending on the company you’re researching, there are a number of different phrases and designs which refer to the combination of both rocker and camber. For the sake of keeping it conceptual and universal in regards to different manufacturer’s board selections, we will refer to this profile as a hybrid. In a lot of ways, this design provides the benefits of both rocker and camber without sacrificing. The result is an all-mountain board with more forgiveness than traditional camber — a combination of the float offered with rocker, and the turning power and all-around edge response to go with it. Different companies spin their own variations on this hybrid concept. Most incorporate rocker between the feet then camber between your binding inserts and the nose and tail of the board. On top of everything else, hybrid designs tend to offer stronger bite in icy conditions due to the range of angles throughout the edge of the board from tip to tail. If you’re on the fence, go with a hybrid and try harnessing those characteristics that work best with your individual style. From there, you can better pinpoint yourself as a rocker or camber kind of rider, or perhaps you’ll find a balance between the two.
4. Next, we get to the directional profile, which a lot of people refer to as S-rocker. Typically, these fall into the deep-powder category, since they offer the most lift and float under the nose when compared to other designs. Directional shapes offer camber primarily, but it’s set further back toward the tail of the board. With this, you get a surfy responsive carving performance designed to handle the freshest shredable snow. Luckily, they rip in every condition, but are not necessarily the easiest board to practice riding switch. Keep in mind that if you don’t ride switch very often, and you know your stance and tend to stick with it, one of these shapes could be the option you’re looking for.
5. And finally, you have the flat profile. Here, you have a flat edge throughout most of the board with rocker in the nose and tail. This design engages the entire edge from nose to tail providing better control at high speeds. Some often compare the sensations of flat boards to that of a broken-in camber board. Make no mistake — these boards can also be a versatile all-mountain snowboard.
To conclude, make it personal and choose whatever works best for you. Keep in mind that different companies put their own spin on these concepts, so try not to get too stuck on one brand’s fancy terminology. Instead, try to obtain a general understanding of the board’s response and why. Hopefully, this better illustrates what’s offered considering the different profiles in snowboard designs this season. And even though each brand tends to put their own unique twist on these concepts, all the boards should in one way or another fall under one of the five genres discussed. They all works, the hard part is just figuring out what works best for you.
About the author: Whit Arnold ia a professional contemporary writer with a passion for snow, surf, and skate. Based in Southern California, Whit’s enthusiasm for board sports is beautifully portrayed through both his fine art and literature. To view a sample of his work and illustrations, visit his website at: whitarnold.com.