Understanding Rocker and Camber: A Digestible Guide to Snowboard Profiles
The first step to finding the right snowboard for you is understanding snowboard profiles. Snowboard expert Tess Kohler is here to help.
The profile of your snowboard will dramatically influence how it rides down the mountain. When purchasing a board, it is a good idea to have a basic understanding of the different snowboard profiles to make sure you’re getting one that’s appropriate for your skill level and where you like to ride.
When I say, “snowboard profile,” think about the profile of a human face. It dips in near the eyes and curves outward over the nose and chin. A snowboard’s profile follows the same concept – if you were to lay your board flat on the ground and get down to eye level, you would see dips and curves where it touches and lifts off from the snow. These profiles are broken down into three main categories – camber, rocker, and flat.
Let’s define some key vocabulary terms together so that we can more easily understand the benefits of each snowboard profile. Feel free to just use this glossary for reference as you read.
- Float: When cruising on powder or in soft snow, it is desirable to float on top, not sink in. A board with “float” allows this to happen.
- Pop: The amount of spring that a board has to propel you upward. The more pop, the more a board feels like a new rubber band, and the more air you can get.
- Switch: Riding with your non-dominant foot forward.
- Turn Initiation: The time it takes to get your board to turn from one edge to the other edge.
- Effective Edge: The area of the board between the tip and the tail that touches the snow when weighted (i.e. when you are strapped in).
- Tip & Tail: The ends of the board that are curved up off the snow. On a twin shaped board they will be identical, while on a directional shaped board they will look and perform differently. A directional twin board will be somewhere in between. The tip of a board is also referred to as the “nose.”
- Early Rise: Subtle rocker in the tip and tail beyond just the typical upward scoop.
To define rocker and camber, I like to think of them in terms of concave and convex. A concave lens curves downward from the edges toward the center, similar to a board with continuous rocker. The tip and the tail will gradually curve down toward the center of the board, which will touch the snow. A convex lens curves the opposite direction – upwards – and so does a traditional camber snowboard. The center of a camber board will be lifted off the snow, with contact points just before the tip and the tail touching the ground. A flat snowboard will have the entire area along the effective edge touching the ground.
Traditional Camber, Continuous Rocker, & Flat
These are the most cut and dry profiles out there, and comprehending the pros and cons of each type will help you digest the more complex, hybrid boards on the market.
The word traditional is not used lightly here – camber snowboards were the holy grail back in the early 2000s, and their benefits are still very much utilized today. The camber’s convex curve gives a springiness to the board that a rider can very much use to their advantage. You can get power, and thereby speed, utilizing this spring when turning edge to edge. When weighted, a camber board presses down evenly on the edges resulting in a long effective edge from tip to tail, giving great edge hold. Traditional camber boards, or fully cambered boards, are best suited for folks who want to ride fast and stay in control.
- Pros: excellent edge hold, power behind turns, pop, precise turn initiation, control at high speeds
- Rider Style: groomed runs, hard packed snow and ice, speed, racing
- Rider Ability: intermediate and up
- Example: Burton Feelgood (women’s), Burton Custom (men’s)
The continuously concave, rockered board (also known as reverse camber) was created by folks who wanted to float in powder. That float we defined above typically comes from a rockered nose that sits above the snow pack. Since the tip and the tail are turned up away from the snow, you have a shorter effective edge than with a camber board. This means you are less likely to catch an edge as you turn, making rockered boards appealing to beginner riders. A shorter effective edge also means faster turn initiation, which is appealing to folks who want to turn quickly in trees or chutes. Freestyle and park riders appreciate the ease of riding switch on a continuous rocker as well as the lower likelihood of catching an edge, and they often look for at least a baseline of rocker in the decks that they ride.
- Pros: catch-free feel, looser ride, nose floats in powder and deep snow, quick turn initiation, rides switch well
- Rider Style: groomed greens, powder, park
- Rider Ability: some boards will be suited to beginners, some suited to advanced park riders or powder hounds
- Example: suited for beginners, Arbor Ethos (women’s), Arbor Foundation (men’s)
Completely flat boards are not super common these days, but they do have their advantages. Flat profiles are very stable and have a long effective edge that grips easily into any snow condition. These characteristics, along with their maneuverability, make them an appealing choice for beginners. Park riders gravitate to flat boards as well, due to their ability to really lock onto a rail and have lots of pop loaded in the tip and tail for jumps and tricks.
- Pros: long effective edge, great edge grip, easy to generate pop, stable, maneuverable
- Rider Style: groomed runs, park laps, rails, jumps
- Rider Ability: beginners or park rats
- Example: Roxy Glow (women’s), Dinosaurs Will Die Bogart (men’s)
It is increasingly common for snowboards to have a profile that includes both camber and rocker (and sometimes flat sections) into their overall appearance. Combining these elements gives a rider greater versatility in where they can ride, and keeps them feeling engaged with their board as they progress in ability.
A camber-dominant hybrid will have camber between the feet to ensure extra pop and power. A basic hybrid camber profile would look like this: rocker/camber/rocker. Rocker sits beneath the feet and extends outward into early rise at the tip and tail. Camber dominates the section between the feet. You can get float with the rockered nose to take on powder without sacrificing the longer, grippier effective edge and speed of a camber board.
- Pros: versatility, power behind turns, pop, float in powder, good turn initiation and edge hold at higher speeds
- Rider Style: “all mountain” - groomed runs, off piste, powder
- Rider Ability: from intermediate riders looking to improve, to advanced/expert looking for the power of camber without sacrificing float
- Example: Yes. Emoticon (women’s), Yes. Typo (men’s)
A rocker-dominant hybrid, on the other hand, has rocker between the feet and camber underfoot. If you were to get eye level you would see, in order: camber/rocker/camber. Having camber underfoot means that the tip and the tail only make contact with the snow when weighted. This loaded contact creates smooth and effective turning and added power without giving you such a “locked on” feel that traditional camber boards often have. Instead, the rocker in the center creates a loose feel. Since the nose and tail are not rockered, a board with this profile may not have as much float in powder. Many manufacturers compensate for this by creating a more passive camber underfoot that turns into early rise rocker.
- Pros: versatility, looser feel on the snow, smooth turns, good edge hold, lots of pop in the tip and tail
- Rider Style: freestyle to “all mountain” - groomed runs, off piste
- Rider Ability: intermediate to advanced
- Example: Never Summer Prototype (women’s), Never Summer Funslinger (men’s), most Lib Tech and GNU boards have this profile
For folks who aren’t interested in riding switch, a directional board can be the ultimate combination of snowboard profiles for all-mountain ease. Directional camber boards will typically have a bigger, rockered nose to ensure float in powder. This will lead back into camber underfoot, starting around the front binding and leading all the way past the back foot into the tail. This combination gives a rider the power of camber in the back with the float of rocker in the nose. They tend to ride mostly like a camber board, but are perfect for speed and fun in any snow condition.
- Pros: pop, power, nose floats in powder, great turn initiation, excellent edge hold
- Rider Style: Free-ride, “all mountain” exploration, deep powder
- Rider Ability: advanced riders and up
- Example: Burton Story Board (women’s), Burton Flight Attendant (men’s)
There are many, many variations in snowboard profiles that include camber, rocker, and flat sections of board in various combinations. Certain board profiles will create specificity of riding style and ability, while others will give you greater versatility and allow riders to own one board and cover the whole mountain. Understanding what each shape offers will help you decode the many hybrid profiles on the market today, and decide what is best suited for you. If you need any help, please don't hesitate to reach out to me or one of my fellow Snowboard experts here at Curated for free advice and recommendations.