Expert Review: Never Summer HarpoonPublished on 03/10/2023 · 14 min readThis review is my own honest opinion of the snowboard, which I bought with my own money in November 2020.
About this review This review is my own honest opinion of the snowboard, which I bought with my own money in November 2020.
The Never Summer Harpoon snowboard is one of the best-performing snowboards I have ever ridden, and it is one of the most versatile all-mountain directional boards. Based in Denver, Colorado, Never Summer pumps out fantastic boards and this one is no different. It’s perfect for the freestyle-inspired free-rider, who loves riding off-piste, in the glades, slashing deep pow, and making surfy carves. It’s also great for those who also want a fun, playful directional board for turning the entire resort into a natural terrain park. The Never Summer Harpoon could be ridden by a novice rider, but for the price tag and more advanced technology features, this beast is ideal for the intermediate to advanced rider.
About the gear
- Model: 2020/2021 Never Summer Harpoon
- Size: 152cm
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 185 lbs
- Experience: 10 years
- When I bought these: November 2020
- Days tested: 20
- Mount position: +12/ 0 or -3
- Boots: K2 Insano
- Boot Size: 10
- Where I’ve used it: Kirkwood, Heavenly, and Mt. Rose.
- Terrain: Hardpack groomers, icy runs, powder, packed powder, chunder, moguls, springtime slush.
How it performs
What I was looking for
I was in the market for a higher-end directional volume-shifted board (wider than a regular width board, the surface area is shifted into the width, and the board can be ridden 3-6 cm shorter) and wanted a board with a surfy feel, quick turn initiation, medium flexing, maximum power transfer and ideal for tree/glade riding….my favorite! I also wanted something with a setback stance, but not too stiff and playful enough to compliment my love for freestyle, without jeopardizing freeride performance.
I wanted this board to be versatile enough to be a daily driver. I tend to favor twin-shaped boards as my daily driver, but love a directional board for pow of course. I wanted a board that could hit untracked morning pow conditions and has fun all over the resort once everything is tracked out, finding side hits and buttering around.
Many directional volume shifted freeride boards are pretty stiff and not playful enough for my liking. I also love Never Summer’s Fusion Rocker Camber profile and anything in the Shaper Series, so I had my eye on the Harpoon as it was getting released.
Why I chose this gear
The Harpoon had a lot of hype as a new board in the Never Summer lineup. It was being called the “Orca killer,” in reference to the Lib Tech Orca. (Side Note: two very different boards in my opinion and one is not better than the other).
The Harpoon has all the key features and checked all the boxes for what I was looking for, with its freestyle-inspired freeride shape and flex patterns and its overall 5/10 flex rating. I also love the NS Shaper Series, which includes the Swift, and Shaper Twin. The shape was really appealing to me, with a wide, rounded, and slightly uplifted nose. I was also really stoked about the tail shape, and flex for long floaty butters in the pow. The advanced top sheet materials also made me interested in checking this board out. Carbon max laminate technology gives the mounting area around the bindings extra grip, similar to a stomp pad that is built into the topsheet materials. The graphics also appealed to me, so the stars aligned for me to pull the trigger.
I was looking at other comparable high-performance boards—Ride Warpig, Lib Tech Orca, and the Bataleon Party Wave—as comparable volume boards (all offer their own unique pros and cons). I went with the Harpoon because I thought it offered the most versatility, and I knew it would be fun in just about every condition, especially groomer side hit days and slow days with my kids around the resort. It offered the perfect balance of freeride stability, flex, and fluidity. I didn’t want a board that was too stiff because I love buttering, jibbing, and playing around, but I also did not want a noodle that compromises stability and hard-charging. For example, the Orca would be a little too stiff with too short of a tail, and the Bataleon Party Wave would have been too soft flexing and would not hold as good of an edge on a hardpack, in my opinion.
What I love about it
- Speed: I went with a 152, and I am right on the cusp of a 152 or 156 board size usually is calculated based on rider weight and rider height among other factors, and personal preference). I knew I could get more speed out of a regular size (156 in my case), but I wasn’t looking for a board to ride at extreme speed – I wanted something super playful. However, I am able to ride fast on this board in most conditions and it is capable of high-speed stability despite being 3-6cm shorter than my normal size. Never Summer boards have great dampening systems including custom wood cores and the right amount of graphite. Additionally, this board also has stabilizers underfoot for optimum vibration absorption and minimal chatter at high speed. That being said, this board is not a speed demon and gets a little shaky on me when I go above 35 mph. The 156cm version would certainly give me a bit more stability at speed, but I do not typically ride fast so this was not much of a concern for me.
- Edge hold: This board has an amazing edge hold for a rocker/camber hybrid snowboard profile (known as the Fusion RC profile). Edge hold is one of the more well-known strength characteristics of Never Summer boards. I was really impressed at how I could lay down a nice tight trenching carve and am a big fan of Neversummer’s Vario Power Grip Sidecut technology, exclusive to NS, which adds extra contact points. Full wrap metal edges provide a broad contact point for riders and extend the length of the effective edge. With the Harpoon, when I find the sweet spots, I can really make fast, strong carves on this board. Someone who is a beginner or intermediate might wash out a bit on their heel edge, but that just means they have to work on their turning! For advanced riders who like to ride extremely fast on a lot of ice and hardpack, a traditional camber profile may be a better choice because I find the edge hold is a bit shaky at times on ice.
- Turns: This board has a somewhat deep radii sidecut, so it is great at making tight, fast, super precise carves that boards with shallow radii could not handle, and I could get tons of snap out of turns. The long front camber creates a smooth transition area in and out of turns, and the energy transfer from edge to edge is very quick. In colder temperatures, the torsional rigidity can be a bit stiffer resulting in a slightly less nimble board but that will happen with almost any board out there.
- Groomers: The Never Summer Harpoon is lots of fun on the groomers with carving and buttering around. You can easily take this mountain board all over the slopes and feel the product quality on any type of terrain. Other high-performance boards pale in comparison to this one. The Harpoon easily beats all its competitors and you can feel it on the corduroy as well as you can feel it on the ice or powder.
- Powder: Hands down one of the best boards I have ever ridden in pow! The powder flotation in fresh snow is incredible, and the surfy feel to this board really shines in the pow. With an early rise nose, 13 mm taper, and rocker area between the feet this board floats easily. I was extra stoked about the stability on landings. Camber and elastomeric underfoot stabilizers provide the final contact points necessary for gripping and sticking landings. I felt like a true snow surfer out there with this one!
- Trees: This board is a dream in the trees, especially on pow days and when the snow is still soft and tracked out. It is very surfy and nimble and can make fast turns and maneuver super quickly. For those who like to surf, there is nothing better than surfing around the trees. Several layers including a premium topsheet, individual glass laminates, a custom blend of wood species, and an ultralight glass fiber matrix maximum the snappiness of this ripper.
- Moguls: Because the board is so nimble with fast turn initiation and is not too soft, it is great for moguls. I even found myself pumping over them like a pump track on this board! The tailored flex and conventional abs sidewalls help this board navigate all humps and bumps easily.
- Park: At first glance, a directional board with the Harpoon shape would not appear to be the kind of board I would take into the park, but do not be fooled. This board has the playfulness and jibbing ability to hit rails, get steezy, and it's super fun in the jump line. It’s not my top choice for the park, but I was really impressed with how it held tail presses on the boxes.
- Backcountry: I love to take hikes or traverse into the side county of my local resort, Kirkwood, and this board made it that much better. Since it is very stable, nimble, and floats well in pow, it handles all types of snow conditions that get thrown at me in backcountry/side-country terrain. If I need to unstrap and hike, it is shorter than most boards and not too heavy so it is easy to carry around, and it is also good if I am strapping it to a backpack. I would not recommend this as the best board for big mountain backcountry riding that we see Travis Rice or Jeremy Jones doing in Alaska.
- Durability: All Never Summer boards are some of the most durable on the market and this board does not disappoint. It would be tough to crack this one. The polymer topsheet is textured and scratch-chip resistant so it practically has a built-in stomp pad which is pretty nice once snowboarders get used to it. It's also relatively damp with a dampness rating (5) to reduce shock, durable core, p-tex sidewalls, and p-tex tip and tail, which are tough as nails and provide great tail protection. The powerful configuration base is also known as their Durasurf XT sintered base, which is very durable, and super fast. Crown plastics with a stronger bond than most other thermoplastic materials crush everything in the way. This board certainly has unmatched strength and integrity.
- Weight: This board is crafted with NS Superlight Wood Core construction and bi-lite fiberglass—a truly incredible lightweight system and durable. It doesn’t feel super light, but definitely not heavy by any means, and is easy to maneuver or tweak grabs in the air. Being able to ditch the extra weight found in many other boards is also great for reducing foot fatigue. It isn't the lightest weight board for riders who are looking for that ultra-lightweight board but it was still easy on the knees when headed up on the lifts.
- Stability: The Harpoon has insane stability for a mid-flexing board. It is a wide, volume-shifted board, after all, which is going to give me good stability on landings and at speed. The dampening ability is excellent, and I barely felt chatter underfoot even in the worst conditions.
- Pop: The pop off this board is exceptional for a hybrid profile with rocker in between the feet. The back foot camber zone, known as the NS’s ripsaw camber is longer and more aggressive and allows me to really preload off my ollies. The tail has a v-shaped carbon stringer which I could really get the most of getting extra spring and snap off the pop. It also features NS superlight weight core. This board has incredible freestyle capabilities even if that's not your jam.
- Buttering: I am still blown away at how this board butters, both on the nose and tail. The nose and tail feel very different from each other so anyone riding the board would have to get used to it if they’re 360 buttering. If you are good at buttering you will be able to tail butter/manual forever down the slope.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Speed: Because of the hybrid profile and mid-flex stiffness, this board is not one of the best-performing at making fast carves on hardpack, but it is super fun to carve with. Fortunately, this is not the fastest Never Summer board I've tried. It’s a little slow on the flats considering it’s ridden shorter than a regular board. I’d also say when I start getting above 35 mph, things get a little shaky. But that being said, I really dialed in the camber zones and was able to still rip pretty hard and fast on this board. If I’m going out on a hard-pack groomer day looking for high-speed carving, I would favor a more traditional camber profile for edge hold.
- Switch riding: Because of the long nose, set back stance, and directional shape, it is not a board for riding switch for very long. Surprisingly though, I was able to ride in my switch stance (goofy) for much longer than I expected. It transitions really nicely in and out of switch, and if I’m landing or taking off in switch.
Favorite moment with this gear
I love launching off of rock drops on pow days (10ft or under—I am not that crazy), and had an amazing day this year at Kirkwood, California. I found myself holding onto the landings in deep pow better than I ever have in my life because of the Harpoon’s freakish stability and float. It truly had unequaled performance in this area. Another break-out moment with this board was hitting some pillow lines in the North Bowl at Heavenly! This board is so light and poppy off the tail that I was able to glide and pop right through pillow lines, and with it being shorter, I could even pump over smaller boulders and maneuver around with cat-like reflexes when things got hairy. My selfie picture (under My take) is of me getting ready to drop into the trees in the North Bowl ready to hit some classic boulder fields! I also have a tendency to lean slightly too far forward when I get tired and the tail of this board was very easy to stomp down for that additional lift in the nose to keep me floating.
Value for the money vs. other options
Never Summer boards come with a hefty price tag and there is good reason for it. If you want a quality board, then NS is the first snowboard company that comes to mind for me. And, all boards come with a three-year manufacturer warranty just in case the quality doesn't meet your standards for some reason. In my opinion, the construction, performance, and durability rival some of the best higher-end boards on the market. For me, it is well worth the money and I know this board will last me a long time and give me the riding experience I am looking for. Most comparable high-performance volume shifted boards come with a good price tag, such as the Lib Tech Orca ($650), Ride Warpig ($500), Bataleon Party Wave ($560), K2 Party Platter ($490), Nitro Squash ($530) to name a few, and they all have their unique qualities and attributes. It's also always a good idea to ask your Curated Snowboarding Expert about any special offers, discounts, and price-matching opportunities to help you get the best deal for the Never Summer Harpoon.
Never Summer, as a board manufacturer, has been around for three decades and offers some of the best customer services. The Harpoon is one of the most unique and versatile freeride boards with a freestyle liveliness on the market that is not a true twin-shaped board. For those who like treating the entire mountain or resort as a freestyle playground, but also like freeriding, and are searching for a powder board, this board is a great choice for you. Pair this one with some mid-flex all-mountain bindings and you'll be able to go anywhere on the mountain at a moment's notice. Testing this board seals it for me: this is a MUST-BUY BOARD that should be added to your arsenal!
If you want to see this board in action, check out the video below by our Curated Experts for more information.