11/03/2014 | by Nina Zietman
Wolle Nyvelt talking about and riding some of his ASMO bindingless boards
There’s a very good reason why every model on every shop rack has roughly the same shape; it’s because it works. In the early days of Snurfers, Wintersticks, Skiboards and the like, there wasn’t a rulebook to follow and each company produced drastically different products. Tails ranged from swallow to straight-cut, and some models were barely as wide as a standard ski. As the sport evolved it became clear what the people wanted ,and once the radial sidecut made its first appearance, that was pretty much that. From slalom gates and piste charging to park and powder, it’s the only thing that can do it all. That’s not to say there aren’t differences to be found, as the growing market has led to more variations than ever – including progressive flex, bi-radial sidecuts and of course the many different types of camber profile. Add the various brands’ unique tech, from Head’s KERS to Ride’s Slimewalls and Lib Tech’s Magne-Traction, and it’s clear that even these seemingly narrow brackets have a lot to offer within. All of these, however, are still only variations on a theme, and the mainstream snowboarding world remains very much married to the classic ‘all mountain’ shape. For high-end freestyle especially, it’s the only real option, for while you can tinker with the core, camber, sidewalls and whatever else, imagine negotiating an icy halfpipe wall or 60-foot booter with anything other than a classic sidecut; the guys and girls boasting X-Games or Olympic medals aren’t likely to ever use anything else, and even those at more offbeat comps like Red Bull Supernatural don’t line up with Snurfers at the top of the run. If it’s new ideas in shape that we’re after, we’ll not find them here.
After so many years of the same thing, isn’t it about time for some fresh ideas?
Unquestionably, the most high-profile rider to look to for answers is Austria’s Wolle Nyvelt. A celebrated backcountry freestyler for years, Wolle has been taking a different tack of late, building and riding his Ӓsthetiker Shape Movement (‘Ӓsmo’) range of surf-esque sticks. In Wolle’s world, you don’t need the classic shape. In fact, you don’t even need bindings. In every Absinthe movie from 2006’s More to this year’s Resonance, you can watch in awe as he blasts about on his unique creations. Laybacks, kickflips, one-footers and some of the most impressive riding in any of that year’s films, are all pretty much a given when Wolle drops. While he’s still world-class on his everyday Salomon, that’s not what people tend to talk about when he’s mentioned. “[Wolle] frickin’ kills it on that!” said one Travis Rice recently. “I remember being up in Alaska with him, and I watched him ride a couple of big lines on these little snowskates. I was pretty blown away with that.”
He’s not alone, either. While Wolle’s been doing his thing in Europe, Jeremy Jensen has been on a similar mission in the States. He may not have the Austrian’s profile but he’s been just as prolific, hand-crafting a formidable range of ‘powsurfers’. “I became a manufacturer because there wasn’t a product that existed that allowed a rider to do the things that I wanted to do,” he explains. “I had tried numerous snowboards with the bindings removed, vintage shapes, and I chopped up old snowboards to create shapes that would work better, but it was clear to me that this wasn’t the answer. I abandoned snowboard construction and decided to do my own thing.” What started out as a hobby led to the creation of the Grassroots Powdersurfing brand, and Jeremy continues to make and sell his unique designs that owe a lot to both surfing and skateboarding. Like the Ӓsmos, they are a strictly binding-free zone that has proved a hit with experienced riders (Bryan Iguchi, JJ Thomas and Scotty Arnold are among his boards’ fans). According to Jeremy, what attracts is that “powsurfing requires more of the rider. More skill, focus, knowledge and effort are needed to put yourself in the proper conditions. Good waves exist in a few places scattered around the world and people accept that if they want to surf they have to do what it takes to get to those places, and when they get to those places they are not magically surfing… they have to put in the time and effort to make that happen. Powsurfing is very similar in that respect.”
Jeremy Jensen, Craig Stevenson and Chris Dunker surfing and snurfing