The stiffness of a snowboard has a huge effect on its riding characteristics, and as such all brands will give a flex rating, usually between one and ten.
For the most part, manufacturers refer to the ‘longitudinal’ flex, which means the way it bends from nose to tail:
Stiffer boards, like the one pictured below, offer increased edge grip and response, particularly at high speeds, and so are favoured by riders looking to charge groomers or big powder lines. They’re also able to absorb the heaviest of landings without buckling. The downside is that if you’re learning to turn, or looking to do low-speed tricks, stiff boards can feel twitchy and ‘plank-like’.
Carbon rods are commonly used to add stiffness and pop without significantly increasing weight.
Softer boards, like most jib specific models, make it easy to press rails or load the tail for an ollie, and are easier to manoeuvre at slower speeds. They are also more forgiving of mistakes since rider input is not transferred into the edge quite so rapidly.
A board’s flex can vary along its length, often stiffer in the tail for better edge hold and snap, but softer towards the nose making it easier to float in powder. This is known as ‘directional flex’. On the contrary, boards designed to ride backwards just as well as forwards will boast ‘twin flex’, which is exactly the same in the nose and tail.
‘Torsional flex’ is less commonly discussed, and refers to the stiffness of a board from one side to the other (if you were to twist it). However, it does play a role – torsionally stiffer boards will be quicker to transition from edge-to-edge and are better at holding carves, while softer boards are better suited to everyday riding and freestyle.