A rocker start or a rocky start?

31 Aug, 2009


Every snowboarder starts out at the beginning, learning the basics and getting through those rough first days when it seems like you and the snow have become close friends.  With the re-introduction of reverse camber, it’s been brought up in comments and questions whether reverse camber is suitable for the beginners from day 1.

The vast assortment of reverse cambers out there focus on a board that has contact points lifted up allowing for initiating turns easier and less catching of the edges when riding regardless of the rocker/reverse camber it features. Having lifted up contact points is ideal for beginners to learn on, in fact the Burton Learn to Ride Boards feature a beveled base and beveled edges so riders learn to control their boards without worrying about catching the edge.  However before reverse camber came along millions of snowboarders learned on camber just fine, but at the same time how many of those took a couple years and maybe some first day injuries before catching onto snowboarding?

Some companies (Lib, GNU, Never Summer) have fully dived into the rocker technology while others (K2) have taken a rounded approach and some have even taken the dip 1 foot in approach this year. With such a mix from companies it’s no wonder why the jury is out on reverse camber. Will the riders who learn on reverse camber become pros, will they ride in the Olympics or be become GS slalom carvers? Or are we creating a broader range of snowboarders that can ride park to powder without ever changing a snowboard? Even Burton who is on the fence with rocker vs camber in their line up features a selection of debate videos that focus on the benefits of both, with Jeremy Jones even stating that camber will make the rider more complete. Mark Sollors who plays the Rocker side when asked if reverse camber is cheating, says “in snowboarding there is no cheating, just having fun.”

With all the shred buyers guides out for the 09-10 season, I checked what their thoughts were on reverse camber.   Snowboard Mag says reverse camber is better for beginners, TWS says it can make snowboarding easier, Snowboarder Mag says it’s easier for the lazy or less experienced.  The concensus was that reverse camber makes it easier but does it make it so down the road you have a harder time when it comes to carving?

Learning to carve

I’ve had a couple comments and questions come into the blog asking about whether beginners should learn on reverse camber and so I set out see both sides of the debate.

Ali from Ontario wrote in to discuss the reverse camber option that beginners are likely to face this season, saying “There is one trend that is starting to worry me in the past year and that is more and more beginner snowboarders are buying reverse camber as their first board. This bothers me for one simple reason: I have always considered reverse chamber as a shortcut to learning how to ride. When first learning to ride a lot of board feel comes from the flex that is caused by pressing down on the board and the proper flex causes the camber to reverse and the result feels like exploding into a carve. That is one of the best feelings of riding in my opinion and it is not the same when the board is already on a reverse camber. So for beginners that feeling is never experienced on a reverse chamber and to me that is a loss and causes a weaker overall rider further down the road.”

After Ali’s email came in, I emailed a couple people for some insight on their opinions. Another instructor from Ontario, Marc who runs Vociferous Void rides rocker boards offered his take on beginners riding reverse camber, “I don’t think it makes a difference either way. Reverse Camber or standard camber only makes a difference when you become a more advanced rider. Beginners rarely know what kind of board works for them anyway.”

Philip who lives here in Steamboat and teaches many beginners at SOS and at Steamboat, says “When people come out with fun rocker/banana/flat kick boards, they learn super fast and easy and then they want to come back day after day to keep progressing at it. It certainly feels like cheating in most situations but I believe there are so many benefits to this concept. Powder for example is just effortless, no more submarine, the boards ride longer yet edge so quickly. To me the whole mountain is a park. When teaching, I tend to butter all over the place & my clients (of all ages) always want to do/learn what I’m doin. The best time to start teaching freestyle is right in the beginning. However, most of the time they are on these lame miss-sized or stiff boards & when they can’t mimic my movements then they are bummed.

One of the main problems we are having in the growth of our sport is new people. We need new & younger people to come in from the bottom in oreder for our sport to grow. Snowboarding isn’t easy for a lot of people, the more pads & slam free an expierience can be the more likely they are to come back and eventualy buy there own gear from a local Shop. From my shop perspective at “The Click”, after tough economic times & drops in board sales, rocker/reverse camber/etc has increased board sales a bunch. It’s at least something new to experiment with to say the least. As for me, after years of shredding camber, I feel re-stoked on everything I do with a rocker board. Camber is great and certainly has it’s place. However, I’m personally bored of it at this point and have no intentions riding it anytime soon. I am 100% sold on the new rocker,reverse camber technology and that’s all I will be riding for a long time!”

A rider’s first tail press on a flat kick capita horrorscope

When I first thought about Ali’s email and beginners on reverse camber boards, I thought that if a product makes the learning curve easier for a rider and they are having fun, then I think that is the more important than being a strong rider who can carve properly.  The importance of board flex plays a part, some of the rocker boards are stiffer flexing boards and still meant for aggressive riders but softer flexing rocker boards are really easy to ride and I think would help making someone actually have fun snowboarding versus falling so much that they stop snowboarding.   I have no problem putting a beginner onto a reverse camber board making that first day more about loving it, than hating it.

If reverse camber is considered cheating, making it easier for the rider will that come back to haunt the rider when they progress their riding to advanced? Will it make the riders learning how to snowboard this year weaker riders in the long run because they won’t work as hard to initiate turns? What do you think, should beginners learn on reverse camber snowboards?

About the author

Shay

From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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18 Comments

  1. Pat!
    August 31, 2009

    Reverse camber i think would be far easier to learn on, even more with the btx. i feel like you dont have to comit as much to get your turns to initiate. Also the nose and tail of boards w/ reverse camber release easier.

    Also i think its a more natural feeling having the board turn from under your feet as opposed to at the nose and tail, making the learning curve faster

  2. August 31, 2009

    Hi! When I was a little boy I used to ride in ski competitions, my skis were 207cm long Rossi’s and there were almost no sidecut on them!:) One day someone invented carving skis and everything has changed, you could learn riding in one month time. Maybe the same happens now in snowboarding? Why do not start with rockered boards if them just make riding easier? Having a rocker as you first board you can still become a complete rider in future, you can always jump on a camber gs board, an advanced pipe board etc.

    And there’s one very important reason for rockers – most of snowboarders are recreative riders, sunday warriors:) I think its cool if someone can do his or her first tail or nose press thanks to rocker, what could nevr happen on traditional deck. Is it a shortcut? ok, experienced rider can alway comment such evolutions – “can you do that on camber, ha?” – and everyone’s happy;)

    And personaly.. I stay with cambers – love good carving and have enough weight for jibbing on traditional decks;)

    Sorry for my terrible english;)

  3. Gem Swensen
    August 31, 2009

    Hi Shay! Just wanted to chime in and say that I am a beginner. Last season was my first and I am, of course, addicted! Anyway, my board is not reverse camber and I love it. I started out on a couple pf different rentals before purchasing my own. None of them were reverse camber either. I fell a ton but was not discouraged at all. However, I had already made up my mind that snowboarding was what I wanted to do and psyched myself up for the falls. Someone a little less headstrong might have walked away after a first day like I had and what a shame that would be. This sport is amazing and freeing. No one who has the desire to learn it should end up walking away on their first day just because they couldn’t stay up. So I guess I’m saying…to each their own. Whatever works to make a person willing to stick it out and become a boarder is probably a good thing. But I wouldn’t trade my Nidecker Angel for anything. Anyway…just an opinion from someone who probably doesn’t have enough experience to have one. LOL. Thanks for the great articles and website. I follow you on twitter and I think you’re great. You can follow me too if you want. Although, I’m just a boring housewife without a ton of interesting stuff to say. Take care and thanks again. Fembots Rule! twitter.com/gemmaries

  4. Ali
    August 31, 2009

    Great post Shay. I really like Philip’s comments on getting riders started on park stuff early, we tried that this past season and had some positive result (then again when riding in Ontario your pretty much default to the park after a few runs!) Your right in the end you want people to have fun and come back for more. I am interested to see the trend for new riders this year. I just hope all first time riders actually rent or demo a snowboard a few times before showing up the first day decked out on a brand new board.

  5. burritosandsnow
    August 31, 2009

    Saying R/C is cheating is just silly.. progression of equipment to make the on hill experience better is just natural. I mean by that line of thinking should we all learn in Sorell boots.. because having boots made specifically for snowboarding to give you more comfort and better control is just cheating! Sounds silly huh? People who are first day/weekend whatever are still going to fall. Perhaps the R/C will help lesson that to some extent but 9 times out of 10 new folks fall just because they are unable to control their board. Saying that R/C will make people not learn correctly or whatever starts to get towards that idea of ” the board does it all”. Meaning im good cause I bought a good board. We all know that isnt the truth and neither are the anti R/C excuses.

  6. minimal
    August 31, 2009

    All this “reverse camber is cheating” talk reeks of so much garbage. What it actually translates to is “I learned on a traditional camber board. I struggled with catching edges and driving my ass into the hardpack. I didn’t get off easy so nobody else should either.” Waaaahhhh. Cry to mommy. She might just care.

    Yes, it’s easier to learn on a reverse camber board. They’re very forgiving when it comes to proper edge control, turn initiation, etc. So what? If it gets new people into the sport quicker and helps keep them there that’s a good thing right? Look at craigslist at the end of the season. How many entry/mid level boards do you see on there? Ever notice how few of them are being sold because of people upgrading? Ever notice how many of them are people who specifically say they have only gone up a couple times and are done? I wonder why? I wonder if they had a more forgiving learning experience if they would have stayed with riding?

  7. Matty A
    August 31, 2009

    As an instructor this is a very interesting read. I have decided to buy a RC board this winter to compliment my regular cambered quiver and see what the hype is about. Whether I ride it more remains to be seen. I doubt it will change the way I teach however. I imagine that complete beginners might benefit a little from RC and bevelled technology but I expect few would notice the difference. Having ridden a 2010 burton blunt Rc and last years skate banana, as well as two different salomon models, two ride models and two capita boards last season, I didnt find a great deal of difference when riding at teaching pace, so why would my students? The Stepchild ChiBorg sounds like exactly what im after though- an all mountain freestyle jib machine which floats too!

  8. Jarred
    September 01, 2009

    My brother just got his first board. It is a GNU Carbon Credit board with magnatraction and banana tech. I was really tryign to get him to get a regular camber board just for the fact that when he is trying to progress in the park it my either be eisier or harder for him on a reverse camber. if he lands on hs backside. flop on his butt. but his rails will be much easier. thats just my opinion

  9. September 01, 2009

    Last year when I first learned about the reintroduction of rocker technology to snowboarding I was a little bit skeptical. It seemed like it shouldn’t/wouldn’t make a huge amount of difference. I demoed one of these boards “just to see” and ended up purchasing a NS infinity because it seemed like a good compromise between what I was used to and what I wanted to work towards being comfortable with. My riding progressed so much on the NS infinity and I’m stocked to have the NS circuit for the upcoming winter to play on as well as hopefully aquiring a skate banana at some point. I think rocker doesn’t make it easier to ride, per se, it just makes it more “fun”. The boards are softer and for me, that makes a huge difference. I agree withe the comment that if camber is so important it can always be learned later once a love for the sport has been firmly established.

  10. Shay
    September 01, 2009

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on the reverse camber for beginners post, from beginners replying to people who have been snowboarding a while.

    It’ll be interesting to see where reverse camber goes, how people pick it up and how it changes snowboarding.

    Someone mentioned recently the Black Death being a rocker board in the future in an email to me and I think I was taken aback because when I think of that board (a board I still own) I would never want it to be rocker, I love it as camber exactly how it is…whether it’s my old BSOD (now with no camber) or the next years black death inc. Interesting to see how people think when it comes to specific boards and rocker.

    Minimal you have some great points on people buying boards to early and buying boards that aren’t easy to learn on. Rentals play a role and it’ll be interesting to see how reverse camber boards play into rentals. Burton’s LTR’s definitely make sense so it’ll be cool if other companies that do rental programs pick up on that or not, and why.

    Personally for me when I started snowboarding, it took a couple years of being a beginner…because I didn’t go up enough and started over the next year. Gear plays a role but there are other factors. It would be nice to have the gear factor just be easier for people.

    Qubek, good point on the tail or nose press for a beginner. I taught snowboarding years ago and I would always teach beginners something fun like ollie’ing or a press…because through all the falls and rough parts of getting down the hill, being on flat ground and having everyone try something they could get ended the day on a high note…like something they could show their friends and a sense of accomplishment. Sure they needed to get their turns down but look it’s something basic and fun. Loved that part of it and reverse helps a lot with that.

    Keep the thoughts coming, looking forward to what everyone thinks.

  11. Brek Leines
    September 02, 2009

    About the whole “is reverse camber cheating” thing. I dont think that is a good comment or idea to even have I mean if rocker is cheating than so is sidecut, or riding a soft 152 for park, or riding a 174 in pow. Even camber would be cheating. They all make certain aspects of snowboarding easier. I love rocker, great for jibbing and great for pow! People should quite hating on rocker, mainly the park vets. More people have more fun because of it.

  12. paul
    September 06, 2009

    read and read and read about reverse camber/v-rocker/etc/etc…

    contemplated for a while… and then just went for it.

    just got my burton hero (private stock) in… can’t wait!

  13. David (aka Kimchi)
    September 06, 2009

    While I agree that the whole “rocker is cheating” thing is extreme, I personally have reservations about starting beginners on rockered boards. Yes, it makes riding much easier and more accessible, but at the same time, that ease of use can develop a lot of bad habits. For example, on a cambered board, when you catch a bit of air at speed, you instinctively adjust to stay on the line and avoid catching an edge. With the lifted contact points, you don’t need need that sort of subtle edge control, you can just slide out of it and keep hauling. If you start out on rockers, you might never learn those hard lessons and were you to shift to cambered boards, you’d be a less competent rider for it.

    In the end, I think both technologies have a place in snowboarding and it really depends on the rider. If it’s someone who’s only going to be a casual rider anyway or someone who is content with riding only reverse camber boards, then what’s the harm on starting them out with easier tech? But if it’s someone thinks they might get pretty involved in the sport, I feel camber’s the better choice at the start. Learning on a cambered provides a lot of lessons that carry over to riding reverse camber boards; I’m not so sure that the opposite is true.

  14. Carl Hungus
    September 07, 2009

    Thanks Shay. Even though I ride an NS rocker, Jeremy Jones cracked me the f— up with his comments. “As rollerbladey as it is…”, lol….

  15. Carl Hungus
    September 07, 2009

    Oh, and I suppose I should add my two cents, even though they are similar to what’s been mentioned. I learned on a camber and it probably hurt more than a rocker would have, esp. on ice. But my first day riding was a religious epiphany and there was no way I was going to stop. I now ride a NS rocker and it has unquestionably took my riding up to the next level as far as more subtle control, particularly on hard pack and ice. Its more playful, which is what I want now, and I dare say it even makes me carve better. Although I’d still love to try a Titan, now that I’m progressing.
    That said, my wife, new to the sport, is having a much harder time learning and falls all the time. For her, snowboarding is less important. She is riding a camber, and frankly I’m considering renting her a rocker for a day to see if it helps. If it does, then the people who cry “cheater!” can bite me. I’m not trying to make GS snowboarder out of her, just someone who understands why snowboarding is fun before she throws down her cambered board and quits.
    As people said, some people are weekend warriors/one-week-a-year-ers. They should have as much fun as possible in the short time they give themselves.

    But Jeremy still cracked me up….

  16. Nich
    February 21, 2010

    I agree with all the rocker haters….isn’t every body paying more $$$ and buying boards and equipment that will make it easier and more comfortable for them? Why would any idiot spend a crapload of money on something that’s going to make it more difficult? ~especially a beginner??