It’s unclear who the first person was to stand sideways on a piece of wood and ride it down a snow-covered slope, but the modern origins of snowboarding can be traced back to 1965 in Muskegon, Michigan, when Sherman Poppen invented “The Snurfer” for his kids. Sherman simply fixed two skis together and ran a rope through the nose to help steer. Once marketed, The Snurfer went on to sell over 1 million units. The success and popularity of The Snurfer inspired many entrepreneurs to develop their own board designs, which was the spark that started the industry. Tom Sims (Sims Snowboards) and Jake Burton (Burton Snowboards) were the big players in the early years of the sport and developed a healthy rivalry which lead to further innovation of their products.
Today, nearly 50 years after the inception of this sport, snowboards look very different than they did back in the early days. Innovative shapes and manufacturing techniques, combined with the use of superior building materials, have made snowboards easier to learn on as a beginner, as well as more enjoyable to ride as an expert.
Here’s a quick rundown of the different board profiles and shapes that are offered, how they affect performance, and what type of riding they are best suited for.
Camber: Camber is the traditional profile for snowboards. With the deck laying on a flat surface, the board will arch up in between the nose and tail. This allows for the board to be energized by the rider’s weight. As the rider lays into a carve, the camber is flexed down (loaded with energy) and as they alternate to the other side of the carve, the flexed camber is released before being loaded up again. Cambered boards are ideal for aggressive, high speed riders, half pipe, and people who are old school and/or have never ridden a board with rocker.
Reverse Camber (Rocker): Taking its name from the ever popular rocking chair, this board profile sits on the snow in a similar fashion. By lifting the nose and tail off the snow these boards are less likely to catch an edge, making them more forgiving for beginners. They are also a popular choice for jibbers and can be really fun in powder too!
Hybrid: The blending of technology. Camber and Rocker united at last! Most manufacturers make some kind of hybrid shape and some even have begun producing them exclusively (Lib Tech Snowboards, GNU Snowboards and Never Summer Snowboards). These boards give you “the best of both worlds” by placing camber sections under or around the binding inserts while still giving the board a rockered shape. The camber underfoot gives more power and stability than a deck with straight rocker, but these boards are still more playful than full camber boards and tend to float easier in powder too.
Flat Rocker: Another hybrid profile, these boards are great for all around riders who like a combination of stability and playfulness. A rockered nose and tail meets a zero camber (flat) mid-section (under and between the feet). Never before has there been so many board options for riders to choose from. Whether you’re looking to have your first day on the slopes or you’re planning a heli trip to Alaska, there’s sure to be a board that will fit your needs and help you progress your skills.