Back when snowboarding was strictly verboten from ski resorts, and the main influence came from surfing, it was all about the powder. Then some boards appeared that were built to charge on piste alongside the two-plankers. The Gnu Swallowtail appeared for just that purpose in 1983, and has been given a modern makeover for 2015/16 – perfect timing for today’s carving revival.
Even from a distance that deep, pronounced sidecut is immediately noticeable, as of course are the swallow tail and the pointy nose. There’s no mistaking this board’s purpose, and that lovely retro graphic completes the look. Well, unless you want to take it further with lycra and a porn ‘tache…
Look closer and you’ll find that it’s got a rocker section at the waist and camber under each foot. The latter will help with this board’s raison d’etre by digging into carves – assisted by the wavy Magne-Traction edges – while the former will help you keep the nose up in powder.
All Mervin boards have a version of this, but the Gnu Original Swallowtail Carver has a shorter rocker section which allows for longer, more effective camber at either end. And if you hadn’t already guessed, the shape will work wonders in the deep stuff as the tail sinks in to give you an effortless ride.
It might not have an 80’s pricetag, but expect to get plenty of amazing days both on the groomers and in the backcountry. Plus it’s hand-built in the USA by a lot of the same team that designed the original!
“There are a lot of very “interesting" (read: beautiful, nostalgic but essentially novelty) surf-inspired shapes on the market this year, and I thought this might be one of them. Shame on me. As always, you can never judge a Mervin Board by its topsheet alone.
Deep sidecut combined with long contact edges, mellow Magne-Traction and the combo profile mean that this board draws lines beautifully both on piste and off. Obviously this thing is a magic carpet in deep snow, but I also had it out in thick slush and it still handled immaculately.
What surprised me though was that it wasn’t bad in the park. While I feared the worst it handled switch take offs and landings, and I even got a front board out of it!
I’m not saying this is a single board quiver, but for a swallowtail – which are traditionally glorious powder steeds but notoriously wank for anything else – this is a very versatile, fun board."
"Obviously this thing is a magic carpet in deep snow, but I also had it out in thick slush and it still handled immaculately"