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?