Gear Feature

Full Thrust | Nidecker Snowboards

How an iconic surf shape inspired Nidecker’s ultimate new quiver killer

In 1981, Australian Simon Anderson changed the sport of surfing forever when he entered the Bell’s Beach tour event on a new style of board. Shaped himself, it featured a short, pointed outline (similar to the templates that had gained in popularity during the 70s) but with a squared-off tail and three small fins. 

The ‘thruster’, as he christened this radical craft, was an instant hit with the spectators at Bells. It allowed him to execute harder, more powerful turns on small faces and to maintain speed when carving lines in bigger surf. Within two short years, the tr-fin concept had been adopted by wave riders across the world, and a new era of aggressive high-performance manoeuvres had begun.

Simon Anderson on the original Thruster (Photo: Jeff Divine)

Fast forward to today, and with snowboarding rediscovering its roots as a surf-crossover sport, it’s no surprise to see the release of a new shape inspired by Anderson’s original game-changing design. 

The Nidecker Thruster is the brainchild of Antoine Floquet, Product Manager at the legendary Swiss manufacturer. Speaking to him via Zoom, he looks exactly as you might imagine a snowboard designer to look: 30-something, wide spectacles, even wider smile. His enthusiasm for the job is obvious; by his own admission, it was always the dream gig.

“With snowboarding rediscovering its roots as a surf-crossover sport, it’s no surprise to see the release of a new shape inspired by Anderson’s original game-changing design”

“It’s in my DNA,” he says, in a French accent born of a lifetime in the Alps. “Since I was a kid I was always building stuff, trying to make products. I got hooked on snowboarding and skating very young, and when I was a teenager I’d get all the catalogues. I was the guy who went straight to the spec sheet – checking the radius, the waist width, all of this – rather than just checking out the graphics. Then I got an engineering degree, and that was my main purpose when I entered uni: I just wanted to build snowboards. It was clear to me.” 

Alongside Thierry ‘TK’ Kunz, Antoine is responsible for many of Nidecker’s recent shapes, which add modern surf-style lines to the brand’s proven carving technology developed over decades. So where does a concept like the Thruster begin?

“The goal would be to create nothing less than the ultimate all-mountain board”

“It always starts on the chairlift, when you’re riding,” he explains. “When you feel the elements, when you feel the glide, and the snow conditions and everything. This is where all the ideas come from.” During one such ‘research’ trip, Antoine proposed combining the best elements of their super technical carving deck, the Rave, with their all-terrain workhorse, the Platinum – whose classic round silhouette was starting to look long in the tooth. The goal would be to create nothing less than “the ultimate all-mountain board.”

Antoine’s initial sketch of the Thruster

Back off the hill, he duly set to work sketching ideas, beginning with the eye-catching nose and tail. “I like to start on paper, “ he says. “We discuss the concept, and develop it over a few weeks. When we feel we have something that might work the way we want, then we jump on the CAD software and begin really fine-tuning the curves, the radius, the values, and see if the whole thing works together or if we missed something.”

Crunching the numbers. Putting the Thruster into the CAD software.
Blueprints of the original Thruster surfboard (Credit:

In the case of this particular board, “we wanted something that expressed the kind of riding surfing thrusters are known for. It needed to feel surfy at the nose and more aggressive when riding off the tail. That’s why we pushed an aggressive shape; it’s super sharp, with narrow angles at the tip and tail. We wanted the outline to reflect that energy and way of riding.” 

A few years ago, such a directional-looking snowboard would be the preserve of pow-hunting freeriders, but the Thruster is one of a new wave of set-back designs that are capable of getting way more airtime than the occasional cliff drop. “The magic of this board is it’s an absolute all-mountain killer,” says Antoine. “If you watch the footage of our team rider Sebi K, he’s sending it in the park, doing double corks and so on. It’s a real [all round] beast hidden in a directional shape.”

The secret to this versatility lies partly in its short length. Like many current snowboards, the Thruster features wide, blunt tips that are bang on trend but, as Antoine explains, “it’s a trend that started for a good reason. You have two ways of creating more float: either you get a taller board, which makes it heavier and less manoeuvrable, or you widen the shape. This is what we did. If you widen the tips you can gain 10 to 15 percent more surface area at the nose, which will help you a lot in powder. So basically a 159 it has the feel and float of a 162.”

“A few years ago, such a directional-looking snowboard would be the preserve of pow-hunting freeriders”

Another element that sets this shape apart is the fact it’s a unisex design. Many riders these days prefer not to be pigeon-holed when it comes to their equipment choice. As Kennedi Deck put it in her interview for the new WL print edition, “high end snowboarders want to ride high end gear – regardless of gender.” The Thruster certainly heeds that message, with sizes going as low as 147 and subtle tweaks to the width and flex at each length ensuring it can be ridden by almost anyone. All of which begs the question: are unisex boards the future? Why do we even still have men’s and women’s lines?

Beth Wakeling going full thrust (Photo: Angus Donald)

“I wouldn’t say it’s the future. It’s one way,” replies Antoine. “When we design a new board, the very first question is: who is going to ride it? Once we’ve defined this, then we start to shape. If we say that this board is for big guys that go freeriding in Alaska or Chile, and need a super stiff board, then we can go with wide mid sections. Likewise there are still women’s specific models for riders that really need them – for instance they could have [particularly] small feet, so even a short men’s board would be too wide. But if we take the decision to shape something unisex, then we try to have specs that can fit women and guys within an average range.”

“The Thruster’s universal approach feels like a significant moment for Nidecker, and perhaps even the wider industry”

Nonetheless, the Thruster’s universal approach feels like a significant moment for Nidecker, and perhaps even the wider industry. “We haven’t done this before,” admits Antoine. “For years we had a women’s collection, a men’s collection and a kids’ collection, but we [have proved] we can make unisex boards that work for real.”

As well as the lightest core – and the fastest base – in the line, the Thruster features one more ace up its sleeve: SideKicks. These 3D flicks at the edge of the nose were pioneered by Bataleon and initially adopted by Nidecker for their park-focused Sensor model, since they reduce edge catches if your landing is less than perfect. But there are true all-mountain benefits, too. SideKicks mellow out turn initiation and help the board glide through powder, so on the feedback of the team – who loved how floaty the Sensor felt in deep snow compared to regular freestyle decks – Antoine added them to the Thruster. “​​It helps create that surfy feeling,” he says. “That smooth roll from edge to edge.” 



With all this talk of surf-style turns, I wonder how it is that the snowboard market has progressed so far, and so quickly, from the ubiquitous twin tips of yesteryear? Are riders just getting old? Antoine has his own theory.  

“20 years ago, everyone thought they could do a 3, a 5 or a 7. Maybe a flip in the pipe. It’s not that complicated. Nowadays, if you’re starting out in 2021 and you watch a contest, you’ll see quad corks and be like, ‘I’m never gonna do this.’ It’s just too scary. So some riders have expressed their creativity differently and brought freestyle tricks into carving and made it cool again. Like the Yawgoons a few years ago. People got hooked back on the carve style. It’s not the same feeling as pow, but it’s a feeling of grip, of speed, of g’s. Anyone can appreciate it.”

“First and foremost it’s a board that goes super fast and turns like it’s on rails”

The Thruster taps into this mindset perfectly. Sure, you can ride switch on it. And sure, it will sail easily over the biggest of kickers – should you have the chops. But first and foremost it’s a board that goes super fast and turns like it’s on rails, whatever the conditions. And in that respect, it truly captures the essence of Simon Anderson’s all-conquering tri-fin.“I’m not a marketing guy, so I don’t say this about any board,” says Antoine. “Normally my purpose is to make a board that works perfectly for certain riders in certain conditions. But the Thruster is just amazing for anyone in any terrain. I’m super proud of this one.”

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.