Behind the Reviews

27 Sep, 2010


In 2008 I saw a report from SIA that mentioned product reviews being a valuable asset for consumers and it’s been no doubt that since then product reviews continue to be a popular choice for consumers before buying products.  For shayboarder.com, reviews are hands down the most popular content I produce.  The reviews page is the second highest page for traffic after the homepage and consistently brings back hits on google when people look up direct reviews for products.  I’m not one to say I started anything but it’s rad to see that a snowboard blogger could start producing reviews and see other blogs follow in the example I first set.  Now you can find reviews from many other snowboarders around the world, giving you the chance to encounter multiple reviews from multiple sources.

For a while I’ve wanted to do a post on the reviews that I publish so that people have a better understanding of what goes into each review, how boards get chosen and any grey areas that people might think…can now be addressed.  Here’s some questions I’ve seen over the years about my reviews that I’m going to compile and answer for everyone.

How do you select the snowboards that get reviewed each year?

Well I listen to my readers to find out what boards they would like to read about and see a review on.  I ask in my “Hey Reader, your 10-11 Review Feedback” post every fall for a list of gear.  Once the snow starts falling, I take each of those boards/bindings and put it into a list in my small field notes notebook that I carry in my cargo pocket all season so that on demo days I know which boards are at the top of the list for reviewing.  Occasionally I’ll add my own list into the mix, boards that I personally am interested in.

Why do you review both men’s and women’s gear?

That’s an easy question, I ride both men’s and women’s gear myself.  When I started snowboarding in 1994 there was only men’s products, there wasn’t a women’s snowboard gear focus yet and to be honest there weren’t that many females riding at the time.  So as I’ve seen female gear progress into the level where it is on par with men’s gear, I’m riding it more often but I also like riding both sets of gear.  I always ride in women’s boots but I love riding a mix of men’s and women’s bindings/boards.

Do companies have any say in your reviews?  Do you accept paid reviews?

No I have never and will never accept money for any review I publish on shayboarder.com.  Companies can send me gear as they wish but they do not have a say in the outcome of the gear.  In each review you’ll see a disclaimer that explains how I was given the board and by what means.

What’s up with that Disclaimer on each of your reviews?

Last year the FTC wanted to regulate bloggers on reviews so that consumers would know whether a review was paid for or a genuine review.  I opted to make a disclaimer on each review that states how the review was done; whether the board was given to me, I bought it or I borrowed/demo’d it.

How do you get to try out so many boards & bindings?

I first started out attending as many demo days as I possibly could which was easy in Colorado since there are so many.  By establishing relationships with the local reps, I was able to take out plenty of gear each season and try out gear beyond the demo days in some instances.  As shayboarder.com has grown over the years, I’ve been able to ask for demos directly from companies and receive boards that I’m able to demo/keep.  The majority of my demos are done through demo days where I can borrow the gear for a couple number of runs/hours before returning it.

Do you really think your riding is good enough to review gear?

I actually love this comment because according to some people to review boards you must be pro and lets be honest…not many pros are reviewing boards out there.  The majority of the snowboard population is not pro and never will be pro.  In the snowboarding pyramid, the top is pros, the second level is core riders, the third level is industry and the last biggest level is the majority of snowboarders.  I’ve been snowboarding a long time and I love it, I don’t think about skating or getting on the chairlift because it comes natural to me.  I enjoy making short and long turns, I ride switch comfortable, I’m learning park.  I’m not pro, I’m not core, I guess I’m industry but I just enjoy riding because it makes me happy.  My reviews are focused on how a board rides, the basics of flex, turning, switch and playfulness.  I do not test boards on 50 foot cliffs, in the Alaskan backcountry or in some urban jib section that could be in a snowboard film.  I address and review for the common snowboarder.  Surprisingly to me, I’ve met plenty of riders way better than me who enjoy the reviews and that’s always great to see that people appreciate them.  It’s up to each person to decipher and decide if the review helps their decision in that product.

photo:  Vancity Allie

What’s a review day like for you?

Well a typical demo day means trying out a variety of boards in one day.  It means doing the same 3 runs all day long.  For the most part the first run is always a cruiser get to know the board, the second run is more charging feel comfortable with it and the third run is more playful with it (usually park/pipe if that’s an option).  The less change between boards, the easier to adjust and notice differences.  It means always using my same boots and trying to use my own bindings.  If I completely switch up board and bindings, it means taking it longer and slower to make sure I identify each of the differences.  I carry a notebook with me that fits in my cargo pocket so that I can write notes in it on the chairlift and I always snap a photo of the setup between my feet so that there’s no question I rode that board/binding.

How can you be a product tester and still review gear from other companies?

I started out testing boards for Never Summer when they asked for feedback on their women’s boards.  I have never been paid as a tester and only been flowed boards for my testing purposes.  Most of the testing is done on prototype boards during downtime between reviews (typically December/January).  In order to keep testing separate from reviews, I do not put out reviews on testing prototypes because those boards will never be in production.  If I get the green light that the board I am riding will be production, then I can put out the review on.

How did you become a tester?

I had become active on snowboard.com giving feedback for years on products I rode at demo days.  During the SIA Tradeshow, Tracey one of the owners at Never Summer Snowboards was talking to me and he recognized me from my snowboard.com comments.  He asked if I was interested in becoming a tester for Never Summer Snowboards.  A couple years ago I was given snowboard bindings by Rome to test and give feedback on which I later did.  I might be testing boots for Vans this winter after showing them my wear/tear post on the boots that received 150 days on.  In each case it’s understanding and being able to give feedback on a product whether they are looking for how to improve it, how it holds up or just a general what do you think about it.

Do you think your reviews are honest and unbiased?

I try to be as honest as I possibly can in my reviews.  I can dislike a board without saying it’s piece of garbage but also explain why I dislike it.  As for bias and affiliations, I try my best to ride a range of products versus sticking to one or two companies.  If I was completely biased, you wouldn’t see over 40 different companies being reviewed in the past.  It’s a balance of trying out gear from various companies and listening to my readers (versus listening to companies).  Can I review all the gear out there?  Nope I’m only one person doing the best I can.  At the end of the day I leave it up to my readers to decide for themselves and I try to do my best, address any concerns and be true to myself.

If you have any questions about the reviews on shayboarder.com, please leave them in the comments and I’ll get an answer to you!

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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4 Comments

  1. Yessi
    September 27, 2010

    You are so great and so many of us appreciate all the work you do to keep this site fresh and informative. I can’t say thanks enough. I’ve only been reading shayboarder for about a year now, but it’s definitely one of my all-time-favourite blogs. Keep it up!!!

  2. September 27, 2010

    Great post – I love the transparency you demonstrate! I’ve thought a few of these questions myself, its nice to hear your answers.

    Congrats on the testing position – free boards for riding and speaking your mind? what could be better!

  3. JT
    September 27, 2010

    Yeah Shay! Great write-up, definitely explains the “behind the scenes’ thoughts and such on your site!