The All-Star Snowboard Gear of the 2023 Natural Selection TourPublished on 04/05/2023 · 10 min readSnowboard Expert Shane H. shows you the gear that the top boarders rode to glory in this year's Natural Selection Tour.
Photo courtesy of Academy Snowboards with added logo
The Natural Selection Tour wrapped for the season on Saturday, April 1st, with the final contest taking place in Valdez, Alaska. Unlike the previous stop in Revelstoke, BC, the AK portion of the event was not streamed live. Contest directors will be doing their best to keep the results under wraps until the event is broadcast in mid-April. In the meantime, while we all anxiously await the action from Alaska, let’s geek out on the gear that Natural Selection riders used to conquer the course.
Travis Rice’s Gear
Travis is undoubtedly the most exciting rider to watch in the backcountry. His run at Revelstoke nearly broke the internet after he dropped through a pillow line from a 100+ foot cliff.
Travis chooses routes that other professionals don’t consider rideable. It’s no surprise that he has the most extensive line of pro models on the planet. From multiple iterations of the award-winning Orca to splitboards and a resort-friendly freestyle model—there is a T. Rice board that will suit any riding style. Here’s the gear Travis used to secure the bag at the 2023 Natural Selection Revelstoke stop:
The Lib Tech Orca is the most popular freeride powder board on the market for good reason. Since its inception four years ago, the Orca has redefined what a volume-shifted board can do on the mountain. Gone are the days of needing exceedingly long snowboards for deep powder. With a volume-shifted board like the Orca, riders don’t have to sacrifice maneuverability on those deep days. By packing additional width underfoot, along with a refined outline and sidecut, the Orca creates surface areas so riders can take advantage of a shorter board. This board combines the benefits of a traditional pow board with the nimbleness and quick response of an all-mountain freeride board.
- The whale tail retains the free-floating feel of a powder fish but with added power and responsiveness
- The shovel nose provides enhanced float and reinforced carbon bands keep it from folding at high speeds
- The C2X camber profile blends rocker between the feet with mild camber towards the nose and aggressive camber at the tail. This keeps the board light and flowy when needed, and aggressive and precise when things get demanding
The thing that makes the Orca stand out among pow boards is its adaptability. Far from a specialty quiver board, the Orca is fun in poor conditions or on epic snow days.
- The tight radial sidecut gives riders the ability to lay down trenching carves, and the added width means toe drag is never a concern
- Magne-Traction edges keep this board grippy on ice and hardpack, so riders don’t have to worry about losing their edge when riding less-than-perfect snow
With so much fun technology packed in, it could easily become your daily driver. Just be sure to grab one 3-6 cm shorter than your normal board. Check out our Orca review here.
The Apex is the Orca on steroids. It has all the amazing characteristics that make the Orca a fan favorite, plus the added power and pop of an all-carbon layup. The Apex Orca is fine-tuned for the rider that seeks elite performance.
- The refined core profile sheds weight, making this one noticeably lighter than the original Orca
- Strategically placed pockets of foam made from recycled plastic, combined with lightweight paulownia, aspen, and balsa wood keep the Apex Orca ultra light while adding additional pop and snap
- Tri-ax spread toe carbon and carbon mesh from tip to tail enhances liveliness and speed
The Apex Orca is the pinnacle of snowboarding technology and is uncompromising in all components. Ride this board when the conditions are perfect or when setting out on a dream trip. The original Orca will better suit most riders due to its price and versatility, but if you’re planning some world-class riding days, the Apex Orca performs like no other.
Built to Travis Rice’s demanding specs, the Union Falcor is the epitome of high-end freeride bindings. Made to take a beating while reducing the abuse on a rider’s body, these bindings hit the sweet spot between durability and protection.
- The Duraflex CB baseplate combined with a cushy EVA footbed provide instant response and enhanced shock absorption
- Exoframe ankle straps seamlessly blend boot to binding interface that’s easily adjustable and comfortable all day long
- The rigid highback design combines Duraflex Nylon and Forged Carbon to create a flex profile that compliments an aggressive riding style
Riders who demand precision control and want to hit everything the mountain has to offer will appreciate the years of R&D it took to produce the perfect freeride binding.
Although Travis seems to have parted ways with DC this season, he was likely wearing the newest version of his former pro model with DC. The Transcend is a backcountry-focused boot with new features at a lower price than previously offered while having Travis’s name on them. Double BOA lacing zones with a stiff chassis give the Transcend unlimited adjustability and ultra responsiveness. The Vibram outsole is light and durable while providing the ultimate traction, whether hiking steep slopes or navigating icy parking lots. A zippered Stormproof flap covers the laces, keeping snow out and feet dry. Riders who spend their days hiking kickers or plowing through pow will enjoy the comfort these boots provide day in and out.
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott’s Gear
Zoi is the new tour-de-force in women’s snowboarding. Not only can she win traditional contests like the X Games and Olympics, but she also proved that her backcountry prowess is second to none. Gone are the days of specialty snowboarding. Zoi’s win on the Natural Selection tour this year proved that she’s just as accomplished at dropping huge cliff lines as she is hucking airs on a slopestyle course.
The Hometown Hero is a freestyle powerhouse enmeshed in a freeride package that’s just as comfortable in the air as it is tracking steep lines. A tapered outline keeps the nose riding high in powder while the directional camber and flex keep it lively and responsive in all conditions. The Hometown Hero is quick and nimble in the trees but feels reliable underfoot. While Zoi prefers the freestyle characteristics of the Burton Blossom when riding park, the Hometown Hero is her weapon of choice when dodging trees and dropping cliffs in deep powder.
- The true unisex board is built to suit a wide array of riding styles in a multitude of terrain
- The 12 mm taper ensures effortless turning for a versatile ride
- The symmetrical twin flex with camber underfoot and a lightly rockered nose is predictable for easy riding—regular or switch
With the Hometown Hero, riders never have to waste time deciding which board will best suit the conditions or what terrain they’re going to hit. Whatever mood strikes you, strap in with the confidence of knowing this board can handle it.
Burton Lexa X
A rider favorite, the Lexa X is the choice binding for the entire Burton women’s team. Also available in the equivalent men’s version, the Cartel X, these bindings are tried and true season after season. Pro-caliber performance comes in an easy-to-manage package for those of us who won’t be dropping into any Natural Selection courses.
- A heel hammock in the highback coupled with Burton’s asymmetrical ankle strap keeps riders locked in with outstanding response
- The Fullbed cushioning system includes a gel pad in the footbed and maximizes comfort while limiting fatigue
- The freestyle-minded Zero forward lean is micro-adjustable for the ideal stance
Riders who prefer to have a Burton Snowboard under their feet will want to choose the EST version of these bindings, which pairs perfectly with Burton’s Channel System. Anyone preferring to integrate Burton bindings with another choice of board will want to pick the Re:Flex version.
The Burton [ak] Embark Jacket mixes the storm-proofing of Gore-Tex fabric with the function and fit demanded by riders in the backcountry. Ultra lightweight with oodles of pockets and vents, this jacket keeps Zoi comfortable and warm during long days off trail.
- PrimaLoft Silver insulation provides the right amount of warmth without sacrificing breathability
- Stormproof Gore-Tex stays dry, no matter how wet it gets outside
- Environmentally friendly Bluesign-approved materials reduce impact on the planet
Other Riders and Their Top Performing Boards
Dustin Craven: YES Standard UnInc
The Standard UnInc combines a floaty, tapered nose with a wide platform underfoot that will shatter any preconceived notions of what a mid-width board can do. The Standard UnInc stands out because while being a directional board, it is also a twin. YES added equal taper to the tail, creating what they call a “directional volume twin.” There is slightly less volume in the tail, making it directional, but the flex, stance, and wide points are symmetrical. MidBite between the inserts interrupts the sidecut radius, allowing for a narrower point in the middle that provides a quicker edge-to-edge response. These features combine to create a high-performing directional twin that rides just as well switch as it does regular. Riders who are freestyle focused but like to take their tricks out of bounds will dig this board.
Blake Paul: GNU Hyper
Freestyle performance in an all-mountain package, the GNU Hyper is Blake Paul’s pick when throwing down gnarly tricks off-piste.
- A tapered, floaty nose provides lift when the snow is deep, and a refined sidecut paired with Magne-Traction edges make this board an effortless carver on hardpack
- Carbon power bands ensure long-lasting pop and enhanced durability
The Hyper is a one-board quiver for riders who spend most of their time seeking side hits and deep carves throughout the resort and want a board that can also handle the deep stuff.
Elena Hight: Jones Flagship
Available in women’s or men’s, the Jones Flagship redefines what a freeride board can do. Elena Height made this her board of choice during the Natural Selection tour, drawing big lines and smashing through pillow sections. 3D base shaping at the tips coupled with Traction Tech 3.0 along the rails, the Flagship is just as at home in soft powder as it is on icy slopes.
- The tapered shape sinks the tail in pow for better float and quicker turns
- Float Pack inserts allow for a super setback stance on the deepest days
- The V Core profiling is softer between the feet for easy turn initiation and stiffer in the nose and tail for stability
The Jones Flagship is ideal for freeriding and fall-line freestyle. It excels in technical terrain and is one of the most confidence-inspiring freeride boards on the planet. Any rider who wants to drop big lines or carve the resort until their legs give out will appreciate the years of work put into perfecting this board. Check out our review of the men’s board here.
Even though the Natural Selection riders may be throwing down tricks that us mere mortals can only dream of, their gear is designed to give normal riders a leg up. Whether you’re looking forward to next season or are among the lucky ones who received record snowfall this year, now is a great time to scoop some new gear. Nearly everything from this season is currently on sale (up to 70% off)! If you’ve been riding so much that you need new equipment or it’s time to upgrade that old setup, come chat with a Snowboarding Expert on Curated to score a killer deal on the perfect gear!