Since the invention of the first snurfer that kick-started the snowboarding revolution, riding powder without bindings is bigger than ever before
Noboarding, powsurfing, snurfing... however you want to call it, riding powder without bindings is bigger than ever before, even since the invention of the first snurfer that kick-started the snowboarding revolution. Nowadays, some of the bigger brands that produce backcountry boards - Burton, Jones - are also making bindingless options to further expand the potential for riding powder!
We were lucky enough to get our hands on three different noboards at three different price-points to try out: the Burton Throwback, the Burton Pile Driver and one of Wolle Nyvelt's hand-shaped and drool-worthy ÄSMO (AESMO) powsurfers, the SI V1 model to be precise. But first, how do you noboard?
How To Noboard
If you've never given noboarding a go, it's definitely something we at Whitelines would recommend to anyone with a reasonable skill level in powder. As well as a proper pow surfer, you'll also need a mellow and untracked face with fresh snow that's as soft as possible - you absolutely don't want to be riding any sort of crud or crust. A north-facing slope that sits in the shade, as free as possible from any trees or scrubs is perfect, ideally with a nice flat run out at the bottom.
"If you already skate or surf you'll be ripping slashes and turns in no time!"
Getting going is the hardest bit - after digging a small hole for the tail to sit in, it's easiest to start of by dropping in like you would on a skateboard. Stand on the board back foot first, then as you put your front foot on lean forwards and get charging! It's surprising how easily it will come and how natural it feels, just like snowboarding but suddenly you're able to subtly shift your weight around and adjust your feet. If you already skate or surf you'll be ripping slashes and turns in no time.
Burton Throwback Snurfer Review - £100
Super-limited but a ton of fun, the Burton Throwback is a replica of one of the first ever production model 'snowboards' - the 1981 Burton Backhill. It's back to basics riding - all it is is five plies of wood laminate, two rubber stomp pads, an extruded base and a rope handle - but God this thing is a ton of fun.
"The Whitelines test couldn't believe Burton are only charging £100 for one of these in the UK"
The rope handle is attached to the nose, so in true snurfer style keeping it above the snow is as easy as pie, meaning that even beginner snowboarders could probably make a couple of turns on this. Minimal tech for maximum rad, the WL test couldn't believe Burton are only charging £100 for one of these in the UK (if you can find one that is). It being that cheap means there's no holds barred on this, you could easily get one for messing around on down days on or re-discovering old lines that have long lost their pizazz.
There is one gripe: the handle is unvarnished so soaks up water from the snow and rope in minutes, meaning your leading hand will be wet through in no time. Still, it didn't phase Jake Burton back in the day, and it certainly didn't phase WL tester and Morzine Source Magazine deputy editor Rob Purver from having one of his best days of the season on it.
Burton Family Tree Pile Driver 2015 Review - £480
The Pile Driver sits nicely between a true noboard and a modern snowboard - you can ride it with bindings as usual, but rubber 'Filet-O-Flex' pads that sit under the feet to provide a nice surfy feeling also mean that with the bindings off it becomes a weaponised pow surfer.
"'Filet-O-Flex' pads that sit under the feet also mean that, with the bindings off ,it becomes a pow surfer"
And when we say weaponised, we mean it. The sintered base and steel edges mean that whilst the shape and stylings shout snurfer, it's really a snowboard dressed as one. As there's no rope to pull it towards you or edge-to-edge rocker, there's not a lot to grip on to whilst turning, meaning that whilst it's not impossible to get around, compared to other two boards on the day it was certainly the hardest to control. Whilst with bindings it would make for a joyful companion nipping through Japow tree runs, you'd want something wide open and totally feature free to make the most of this unstrapped, as this tester found out the hard way:
ÄSMO SI V1 Powsurfer Review - €890
Whilst the price does make your eyes water, it's actually a small sum to pay for what could be considered a piece of hand-crafted art - like a Stradivarius violin or Greg Noll surfboard, its beauty is only matched by its simplicity and functionality.
"Like a Stradivarius violin or Greg Noll surfboard, its beauty is only matched by its simplicity and functionality"
As well as a sintered base and nose to tail rocker shape, the AESMO comes with a 3D edge-to-edge shape that lets you rock from side to side in the middle before it digs down straight into the snow to provide grip in the turns. Quite simply though, it rips. Out of all three boards, this was by far the best to ride, allowing the rider to rip turns and slashes with a surfy, almost skate-style ease.
Issues? You try riding a nine hundred Euro board through bushes and branches, ever fearful of rocks and tree stumps. It's not the strongest looking snowboard ever-produced, but then again, how often do you have the chance to get on something like this? Grip it and rip it, this is powder snowboarding turned up to the next level.