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Gear Feature

Prized Possessions – K2 Cool Bean

How going short 'n' fat brought snowboarding into the realm of surfing

Prized Possessions is a space for riders – both pros and Joes – to wax lyrical about their favourite pieces of gear from over the years. We promise you these are genuine and in no way paid for by the brands behind them.

First up is Kieron Black, illustrator and author of the Bob Gnarley cartoons back in Whitelines’ print days.


‘Is that not a powder board?’ asks a heavily-accented voice from somewhere in the queue behind me. I turn to see a smirking, pimpled youth backed up by three sniggering overly-logo’d minions.

‘Well, kind of…’ I begin.

He cuts me off. ‘But there’s no powder today.’ The minions laugh into their mitts. I consider a retort; maybe a quick mitt-on-string slap round the bake, or just a world-weary sigh? I do neither.

‘Aye, you’re right’ I say with a smile as the chair sweeps round to scoop us up, ‘chose the wrong board for today eh?’

But it’s not the wrong board, not for this day, or any other. You see, I ride the K2 Cool Bean, from their ‘Enjoyer‘ series, and apart from being the best board I have ever had, it has utterly changed what snowboarding is to me – I can never now go back to a conventional double-ender snot-drop stick. Ever.

That tail: genius. Every time I see that crazy Cool Bean shape I smile, whether it’s humming under my boots as it sprays roosters through frosted trees, slicing down corduroy at Mach 9 leaving little more than a paper cut in its wake, or even just under my arm as I wander unsteadily back through town. One too many radlers, that cheeky fishtail sticking out from under my jacket.

A surfer for thirty years, I came relatively late to the world of shred. I remember a friend coaching me through my first turns on the hill, absolutely horrified at my technique.

‘What are you doing?’ he yelled, ‘what’s all that back foot rubbish? You’re washing everything out! Snowboarding is all front foot remember?’

“My muscle memory needed not so much a reprogramming as a balls-to-bones systematic reboot”

He was right of course, but I’ve been a surfer for a long time, and in the surf your back foot does all the work. Taking that to the mountain I quickly realized that my muscle memory needed not so much a reprogramming as a balls-to-bones systematic reboot.

So let’s talk surfing for a second. The design of the traditional ‘fish’ surfboard has not changed much in at last thirty years and there’s a reason for that. The concept is simple; it has a lot of volume, much more than a conventional thruster. This comes in real handy when you’re trying to hook into that onshore slop or mellow beachy for which they are designed. But all that volume can quickly become a problem if the wave then shapes itself into something with a little more energy – the inside section for example –  making it very difficult for you to hold your line.

But the fish has a fix for its own volume problem… and it’s all in the tail. That great, crazy split in the middle means that when the surfboard is on a rail, a bottom turn, only half of the tail is engaged in the wave and all that extra, suddenly-superfluous volume of the other half of the tail is in the air, gone. A beautiful and elegant solution making your ride tight, clean, and critical no matter what the wave is doing.

One of these boards is not like the others…

And for the six winters I was getting to grips with the traditional twin-tip snowboard shape, I kept wondering why had no-one applied this fish principle to snowboarding. But someone had. Enter the Cool Bean. Basically, it’s a fish. On a mountain.

And with it I had the tool to turn the entire hill into a wave, top to bottom, in a way my primitive surfer head could respond to. It just does everything; hard carves, powder leans, tight trees, and hardpack speed runs. I’ve no overhang with my giant size ten hooves either and it’s not even a wide board. In fact, it’s tiny (it even fits into those nasty old-school gondolas when the exterior ski rack is full) but you’d never notice that as the effective edge is huge. I can head out in the morning, ride the groomers ’til I see some trees, nip in to ride some tight little line, pop out the other side of that into a pillow field and bounce happily all the way down. Nip back onto the piste, cleanly slice over some bare-scalp ice on the way, then bash the low-level sugar-slush all the way back to the queue, all without once feeling that I’m on the wrong board. ‘Kin awesome.

“I can head out in the morning, ride the groomers ’til I see some trees, nip in to ride some tight little line, pop out the other side of that into a pillow field and bounce happily all the way down”

It looks sexy as hell too. So why am I getting abuse from people like Captain Acne in the lift-line? Why am I not seeing those distinctive Bean tails hanging off the footrests of the chair in front of me? WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE KNOW WHAT I KNOW? WHY K2, WHY?

And you know what? It’s good that it’s a secret. Nice to be one of the lucky few. But I do feel a little sorry for K2 that something so awesome as the Cool Bean can still be dissed as a one-trick powder board and a fish out of water (see what I did there?) anywhere else. But as the great, late Roald Dahl says ‘the greatest of secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places.’ Like the lift queue.

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