What with all the snakeskin, bling, and neon, choosing your board based on technical features seems so 2005. However, certain things such as board flex should still be considered when buying a snowboard.
To start off, there are a couple different kinds of flex. There’s tip-to-tail flex, and then there’s torsional flex. Tip-to-tail flex can be gauged by putting the tail of the board on the ground and holding the nose with one hand, while pressing on the middle with your free hand. If you do this with a few different boards, you’ll be able to feel a difference in their respective flexes. Another way to test tip-to-tail flex is to strap in and stand on your board, leaning either toward your nose or tail. You will be able to tell how stiff or soft your board is based on how much you have to lean to get your hand to touch the end of your board.
Torsional flex is best tested when you’re strapped into your snowboard. Sitting down, point your toes toward the ground on one foot, and pull them up toward your knee on your other foot. Your board should twist a little bit in the middle. This twisting is described as torsional flex.
Most snowboards that have a stiff tip-to-tail flex are also going to be stiffer torsionally. However, some companies, such as Salomon, have begun to break the boundaries of flex. Salomon’s ERA construction allows a board to be stiffer tip-to-tail, while maintaining a softer torsional flex.
A rider should consider his or her weight when determining an optimal board flex. A heavier person will probably want a stiffer board, while a lighter person will want a softer board. Obviously, a person who weighs more will be able to use his or her weight to flex a board with less effort than a person who weighs less.
After factoring your weight into the equation, remember that board flex is largely a personal-preference issue. You either like riding a stiff board, or you like riding a softer board—although generally, more advanced riders prefer a stiffer board for pipe and big jumps, and a softer board for rails. If you’re just starting out, a medium to soft board will probably suit you best, as it will be more forgiving and easier to turn than a stiff board.
Now, use this newfound knowledge to go pick yourself out a board with a flex that suits your body type and riding style. Or just get the one that matches the lime-green polka dots on your mittens. It’s really up to you.