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Snowboard Jargon Explained

All you need to know about a snowboard's flex, shape and profile

Brandon Hammid, getting the most out of his flex. Photo: Daniel Tengs

Flex

Flex can be a tricky one; each brand works it out differently, and expresses it differently too. However, don’t be concerned by this. One brand’s 8/10 isn’t going to be like 3/10 from another company, so the rating they give you (which we’ve included in each of our board reviews) will give you a good idea of how flexible the board is. Big numbers handle high speeds better, while lower ones are easier to butter and mess about with.

Don’t make the mistake of always equating soft with fun and stiff with serious, though. If you like going fast, you won’t find a bendy noodle of a board to be a laugh riot. Also, some of the new breed of short-and-stubby boards are very stiff, but that’s because the shape requires them to be.

Women’s boards tend to be a little softer on the whole; brands factor that in, so a men’s board will probably be stiffer than a women’s board with the equivalent rating.

Horses for courses: like Japanese pow shredder Hayato Doi here, always buy the right shape for your needs. Photo: Matt Georges

Shape

Most snowboards still tend to resemble the classic ‘twin’ shape that got its teeth into the industry in the 90s and never let go. Of course that includes True Twin boards that are designed with freestyle in mind, particularly park riding.

However it also includes Directional Twins, which usually have either a slight tweak in either the outline or the flex profile (or both). These are best suited to high-end and backcountry freestyle, as they offer more stability at speed but are easy to spin and land switch. If you’re after an all-mountain board this year, chances are it’ll be one of these.

Also, don’t forget Asymmetric Twins, which are identical in nose and tail but not in the heel and toe edges. This is designed to compensate for the fact that your body applies different forces to each sidecut, so they shouldn’t be the same. Usually the heel edge has been made tighter and deeper.

Other than that you’ve got the Directional boards that you can spot a country mile away. Designed to go in only one direction, they’ll often feature pointy noses, a tapered shape and swallow tails to really drive their purpose home. Some are built for speed while others are for navigating through powdery tree runs, but whatever you’re into there’s bound to be a shape out there for you.

Taking a closer look at the profile of the K2 Turbo Dream. Photo: Sam McMahon

Profile

Here’s another thing that brands do differently – only more so! Gone are the days where camber reigned supreme, or even when rockers and flat boards brought in a manageable amount of variety. Today, the technology gives board builders terrific capability for variation, and they’re constantly experimenting with new twists on nose-to-tail layout. However, to steer you in the direction of the board that’s right for you, we’ve boiled them all down to these six key groupings:

Camber  – Try as some might to change things up, the classic camber profile will outlive us all. Each edge features two contact points near the nose and tail, with an upward bend in the middle. No profile is perfect – if you’ve ever caught an edge on a camber board, you’ll know what we mean – but this one delivers more pop and stability at speed than any other.

It’s the #1 choice for carving fans who love getting their edge set and their elbow down. Different models vary in how pronounced the camber bend is, so that’s worth checking before you buy. There are also a couple of popular variations, namely:

Setback Camber – A lot of boards that we reviewed this season have the camber bend closer to the tail than the nose. Meanwhile a rocker section fills the void nearer the front, creating a subtle ‘S’ shape. It’s great news for freeriders who have setback stances anyway, as this profile lets you hammer down the hill and easily negotiate any natural features that cross your path.

You can still ride them switch if you want, but save it for riding out of your cliffdrop 180 rather than clocking any serious miles in your opposite stance.

Hybrid Camber – Several brands have attempted to improve on classic camber without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The most popular choice has been to keep the bend but introduce rocker sections at or near the contact points, keeping the pop and carveability but making butters and powder easier.

There are some other versions too, so be sure to check the brand’s website if you’re still not sure about a certain configuration.

Rocker – In theory this is the opposite of camber, where the board bends the opposite way. However, most modern rockers have a little bit of flat base at the waist, making for a slightly more stable ride without losing the benefits of the reverse camber bend. If you want something that won’t hang up on rails, is incredibly easy to press and requires you to do less work in powder, rocker is worth a look.

Some models may call themselves rocker, but if the flat section in the middle extends past the feet then to us it’s…

Flat – An extremely versatile choice, you can turn a flat-based board to pretty much anything. There’s less pop than camber, or even most combo profiles, but you’re also less likely to hit the deck after a nasty edge catch. While the nose don’t come up as effortlessly in powder as it would with a rocker, it’s still more than fit for purpose.

Some of the more powder-centric models have an early rise rocker section at the nose to improve float, while those designed for freestyle tend to be identical at each end. Flat bases may be good for doing a bit of everything, but there are still variations within this theme.

Combo – Rocker between the feet, and camber under the bindings; that’s basically what we mean when we talk about combo. You’ll find versions of this used by Lib Tech, Gnu, Never Summer and Burton (in their ‘Flying V’ models) among others.

Boards with this profile are easy to ride in powder due to the middle bend, but if you want to engage your edge there’s still plenty of grip at your disposal. Again, check with the brand that makes the model you’re interested in; they’re usually very good at showing their workings.

Check out the best snowboards for 2015-2016 here

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