Behold, the oddballs. The weirdos. The head-turners. In the 2015/16 season, we’ll be seeing more bizarre snowboard shapes than ever. There are a few familiar models that have already become classics, and some new designs that will most likely be the same in a few years.
Obviously they’re not actually mental; all have been made with purpose, with designs suited to their particular task. Typically that means freeriding, hence the dominance of directional shapes.
"It might seem like an extravagance to opt for a second, specialist board, but it’s not like you’ll be doing it every year"
There are some exceptions – the Burton Nug, to name just one – but that’s the rule of thumb. Some folk will pick up one of these to use as their only stick, but for the most part these are ‘quiver’ boards that offer a fun change of pace from your standard deck.
It might seem like an extravagance to opt for a second, specialist board, but it’s not like you’ll be doing it every year; if you save it for the good days – thereby turning them into great days – then it’ll last you for a fair few seasons. Besides, it’s now been proven beyond doubt that boards like these never go out of style!
Here’s a rundown of our favourites from this year’s crop, as well as our pick of the bunch:
All boards are in alphabetical order, other than the category winner which can be found at the end of the list.
All photographs by Sami Tuoriniemi
Production: Ed Blomfield / Mike Brindley / Andrew Duthie / Sami Tuoriniemi
Unlike most of these specialist boards, this piscine powerhouse has been around for years.
It’s at its best when you're picking your way through the trees. Quick steering is easy, and the loose feel lets you get spontaneous while you rest assured that the shape will keep you afloat.
This made quite a splash when it debuted in 2010, but these days looks positively tame.
Still, there aren’t many short-and-stubby models out there that are also true twins; if want something that will change the way you look at a slushy side hit, the Nug fits the bill.
CAPiTA Slush Slasher
CAPiTA’s latest collaboration with Corey Smith’s Spring Break outfit is a rad-looking carve machine that’s also the most affordable model on this list.
It’s designed for warmer conditions where the wide waist will allow you to keep carving, while the short length makes it great fun for launching off side hits. In midwinter powder that tail sinks down for seriously nimble turns.
With the Korua range, it’s a ‘screw the graphics and concentrate on the shapes’ approach.
The Puzzle is pretty big, but thanks to that tail it’s capable of making quick turns in the backcountry. Plus it’s got plenty of edge for when you want to carve up the hard-pack.
Not one for everyday use, but get it on a good day and it’ll deliver in spades.
Stephan Maurer’s shape experiment hits its zenith with the Stealth, an unashamed beast of a board that’s as stiff, long and wide as they come.
Don't expect to surf your way down the hill with this, but the shape and the setback camber make for a truly unique piste-melting experience.
Gnu Original Swallowtail Carver
There are a few ‘throwbacks’ this year, but this is the ultimate.
An updated version of the board Mike Olsen and Pete Saari unveiled back when everyone thought riding piste was just for skiers, this channels the spirit of the 80s.
Obviously, it's loaded with 21st-century tech, including the hybrid camber profile that performs both on and off the groomers.
Anyone really serious about carving simply has to try the Zoid; with specific regular and goofy versions, no other board is designed quite so religiously for turning.
Forget switch riding and park laps, and embrace this directional asym stick. What it lacks in versatility, the Zoid more than makes up for in sheer enjoyment.
The crescent tail on the Hovercraft makes it clear that it’s for hitting the deep stuff, and will stay afloat even on mellow gradients and at slower speeds.
Thanks to the wavy edge, though, this also grips the piste like almost nothing else.
If riding in one direction is all you like doing, this is brilliant on normal resort days and even better when it dumps.
Jones Storm Chaser
Surf tech meets snow tech, birthed by two experts in their respective fields.
This colab between Jeremy Jones and Chris Christenson will please anyone who likes to slow things down in the pow and really make the most of their slashes.
It can handle speed too – both on piste and off – so you don’t have to keep it locked away until dump o’clock.
K2 have really pushed the boat out with board design this year, and the CarveAir looks set to be an instant classic.
You don’t need to be a superstar to ride this, as the short length and wide waist make showoff carves easier than ever before. It’s also fun off side hits – hence the name!
K2 Cool Bean
This has the visual edge over the CarveAir, even if it’s not quite as good on the piste. Get in in the powder, however, and no earthly power will keep a smile from breaking across your face.
The massive spoon nose and swallow tail combine for an effortless ride in the deep stuff, and while it may not be an all-rounder, quiver boards don’t get any better than this.
Ride Alter Ego
A lot of the boards on this list are cracking when the conditions are right, but here’s one that you can adapt to suit the terrain.
The Alter Ego’s split tail can be locked tight for a responsive freeride experience, then unleashed to become a powder weapon that will allow for surfy turns in the freshies. A truly unique offering.
Short, fat, pointy and tapered, this clearly has a shape made for sinking into powder and turning on a ten pence piece through tricky trees.
However the Derby is also ripe for a good carve, holding an edge well when the terrain is firmer. Once you get used to the ride, it delivers fun for days – and at an affordable price too.
This is probably the closest to a conventional board on this list, but it’s still stubbier than your average board.
It boasts a surprising amount of pop considering the length of the tail (or lack thereof), and is a joy to turn on both hard and soft surfaces.
It may be called the Super8, but riding this feels more like 4K.
One of the higher-profile oddboards, the YES 420 has had a cracking few years.
While it’s best suited to seeking out the powder – and it really does excel in the deep stuff – its all-round credentials haven’t gone unnoticed.
Side hits, carving and even medium-sized park features are all great fun on this; it’s inspired a movement, and still measures up to any and all of its imitators.
WINNER - YES 20/20
Now that we’re a few years deep into the weird-shape renaissance, it’s easy to get a bit jaded about models that remain popular but don’t offer anything new from year to year.
Your first move should be to snap out of it and appreciate all the weird and wonderful stuff that’s right there in front of your face – seriously, did you learn nothing from Jurassic World? At the same time, in a crowded marketplace anyone who truly does shake things up deserves more kudos than ever.
Enter the YES 20/20.
On the surface this is a freestyle take on the 420, but the concave sections of the otherwise flat base look like they’d be more at home on a wakeboard than a snowboard. The result is a truly remarkable board that lived up to the considerable hype, and everyone agreed that this had the edge over its stablemates.