What to Look for in a Snowboard if You're a SurferPublished on 04/06/2023 · 8 min readIf you're a surfer looking to get into snowboarding, the right board can help you pick up the sport faster and easier! Read below for our guide on what to look for.
Surfer braving the cold winter conditions before winter arrives for surfing the ski resorts. Photo by Mary A.
If you're a surfer, you know that nothing beats the feeling of carving your way through waves and gliding effortlessly over the water. But when winter rolls in, and the waves become too cold to handle, you might find yourself craving that same rush of excitement on the slopes. Luckily, snowboarding can offer a similar experience to surfing, with its own unique challenges and rewards. However, choosing the right snowboard can be overwhelming—especially if you're used to surfing on the waves rather than carving through the snow.
For that reason, we've put together this guide to help you navigate the world of snowboards, and find the perfect one for your surfing style. Whether you're a seasoned snowboarder or a beginner looking to try something new, we'll cover everything you need to know about snowboard length, width, flex, shape, and camber, as well as how to choose the right bindings to go with your board.
The Benefits of Snowboarding
Snowboarding in the offseason offers a wide range of benefits to surfers. First, it provides an excellent way to stay active and maintain physical fitness during the winter months. A true full-body workout, snowboarding can help you build strength, endurance, and flexibility.
While the sensation of riding a snowboard may be different from surfing, many of the skills and techniques required for both sports go hand in hand—such as balance, weight distribution, and fluid motion. By practicing these skills on the slopes, you can develop your overall athleticism and transfer these skills back to the water when the surf season starts again.
Snowboarding can also be a great way to connect with others who share your love for adventure and the outdoors. Many snowboarding destinations offer a vibrant and welcoming community of riders who are passionate about their sport and love to share their experiences with others. By joining a snowboarding club or group, you can meet new people, make new friends, and expand your social crew.
Understanding the Basics
Unlike surfing, snowboarding involves navigating through snow and ice rather than water. You'll be strapping both of your feet onto a single board and riding down the mountain in a sideways stance. Therefore, snowboarding requires a different set of skills and techniques compared to surfing, but there are still some similarities between the two sports.
Finding the Right Board Length
One of the most important aspects of choosing a snowboard is finding the right length. As a surfer, you are likely comfortable with longer boards—but that doesn't necessarily mean you should opt for a longer snowboard. In fact, the length of a snowboard is determined by your weight, height, and riding style. A general rule of thumb is to choose a board that reaches somewhere between your chin and nose when standing on end.
Selecting the Appropriate Width
The width of your snowboard should correspond to the size of your boots. Ideally, the boots should hang slightly over the edges of the board, without dragging or causing heel or toe drag during turns. This allows for maintaining proper balance and control over the board.
As a surfer, you may have a wider stance, which means you'll need a wider snowboard to accommodate your feet. A board that is too narrow may cause your toes or heels to drag, which can be dangerous and impede your performance. On the other hand, a board that is too wide may make it difficult to make turns or transfer your weight.
To determine the appropriate snowboard width for you, measure the width of your boots and compare that number to the waist width of the board (the narrowest point of the board between the bindings). A good rule of thumb is to ensure a waist width that falls within 1–2cm of the width of your boots.
Choosing the Right Flex
The flex of a snowboard is the measure of how stiff or soft it is, and provides varying degrees of maneuverability and stability. This factor is mainly influenced by the type of riding you plan to do, as well as your skill level. If you are a surfer, you may prefer a board that is more flexible—allowing for a smoother and more fluid ride. However, if you plan to try more challenging riding, such as hitting jumps or traveling at high speeds, a stiffer board may be necessary to provide the necessary stability and control.
Here is a general overview of snowboard stiffness categories, and what abilities they offer riders:
These snowboards are more forgiving and easier to maneuver—making them ideal for beginners or riders who prefer a more playful experience. They are also a solid option for park riding, as their increased flexibility can better handle jibbing and tricks.
Providing a balance of stability and maneuverability, medium-flex snowboards are suitable for riders who want to progress in their skills and ride a variety of terrain. They are also versatile enough to handle different riding styles—from freestyle to all-mountain.
Offering the most stability and control, stiff-flex snowboards are ideal for aggressive riders who like to charge down the mountain and carve at high speeds. They are also suited for riding in deep powder, as they provide the necessary float and control for these conditions.
Snowboard stiffness may also vary within each of these categories. As such, it's important to choose a snowboard stiffness that matches your riding style and skill level. Beginner riders are advised to start with a softer flex, while more experienced riders may prefer a stiffer flex for their desired terrain and riding style. For a more detailed guide on snowboard flex, check out this guide.
Identifying the Best Shape
The shape of a snowboard also plays a significant role in how it performs on the mountain. There are various shapes to choose from, including directional, twin, and directional-twin. As a surfer, you may be more familiar with a directional shape, which is designed to move in one direction and is better for carving. However, a twin shape, which is symmetrical, may be more suitable for park riding and freestyle tricks.
Deciding on the Correct Camber
Camber is the shape of the base of the snowboard, which can affect how it rides. There are three main types of camber: traditional, rocker, and flat. Traditional camber is the classic snowboard shape—slightly raised in the middle and lowered near the nose and tail. Rocker camber, also known as reverse camber, is the opposite of traditional camber—the middle lowered and the nose and tail raised. Flat camber is a hybrid between the two.
As a surfer, you may be more comfortable with traditional camber, which mimics the feeling of a surfboard flexing under your feet. However, a rocker camber may be more suitable for powder riding, as it helps keep the nose of the board up and prevents it from sinking into the snow.
Choosing Appropriate Bindings
Once you've found the perfect snowboard, it's essential to select the right bindings to go with it. Bindings are what attach your feet to the board, and they come in various styles and sizes. As a surfer, you may prefer a more relaxed stance—which means you'll want to choose bindings that allow for wider stance width. Additionally, you may want to opt for bindings that have a more flexible baseplate, as this will give you more control over the board, and a more surf-like feel.
5 Expert-Recommended Snowboards for Surfers
With all that information in mind, let’s take a look at a handful of boards I would recommend for surfers looking to make the transition.
Designed by legendary big-wave surfer Jeremy Jones, the Mind Expander features a surf-inspired shape that provides a smooth ride in deep powder.
Designed in collaboration with pro snowboarder Eric Jackson, the Ejack Knife employs a directional shape and a medium-stiff flex that allows for quick turns and powerful carves.
3. Burton Fish
The aptly named Fish’s fish-shaped tail provides a surfy feel on the mountain. The board also features a directional shape that allows for effortless turns in deep powder.
The Spring Break Slush Slasher was certainly designed with the park in mind, but it also floats well in powder. It features a short, wide shape that provides a surfy feel and allows for quick turns.
5. Rome Powder Division MT
Designed specifically for riding in deep powder, the Powder Division MT features a directional shape and a tapered tail that allows for effortless turns and a surfy feel.
How a Real Expert Can Help
Keep in mind, finding the right snowboard may take some time and experimentation, so don't be afraid to try out different models. But, if you’d like to skip all the trial and error, our dedicated team of Snowboarding Experts are more than happy to offer free, customized gear recommendations to suit your specific needs.
With the right equipment and a bit of practice, you'll soon be shredding down the mountain like a pro and experiencing the same rush of adrenaline that you feel when surfing. So get out there and enjoy the snow!