In just three years,
our Gear Guide has gone from having zero to now 170 different boards that feature some sort of alternative camber design. The reason? Different bottom contours and board shapes react differently to riding styles and terrain—they’re something new and different. But really, their sweeping popularity can be attributed to one thing: it can make snowboarding easier. Powder float, butters, and jib mobility are achieved with less effort while the chances of catching your edge is minimized. However, precision, snap, and reactivity may feel compromised in the wake of some designs and their overall forgiveness. So before you jump on the bandwagon, ask yourself what you want from your new ride—consult this brief breakdown of current camber options—and remember, the best way to cut through the chaos is to demo the boards you like (or rely on the proven Good Wood results). All this rhetoric can be explained in just a few runs.
To better clarify the camber distinctions of today’s boards, it’s crucial to first understand traditional camber. Before reverse camber mania struck, boards only had traditional camber—a mellow convex rise from the contact points of the tip and tail inward with an apex at the midpoint. A rider’s edge hold and pop derive from the pressure exerted and expelled when camber is flexed under a rider’s weight. This downward pressure—the flattening of camber-initiates lively turns and provides continuous edge contact with the snow. Alternative cambered boards produce differing amounts of edge contact and pressure on the snow depending on the model/technology, which changes how a board turns, snaps, and feels underfoot. Now that you know what’s up when it comes to camber, read on.
Rocker And Reverse Camber
Rocker is a subtle concave or arcing profile that curves upward. Essentially it’s the opposite of camber. Many boards contain multiple arcs rather than a single, smooth arc—every model is a bit different—rocker is built into multiple zones and in varying degrees and all placed in critical areas of the board for an enhanced ride. Picture a mildly kinked U or V shape when the board is laid on a flat surface. Keep in mind, each brand is trying to make their technology distinct, hence the camber party. Boards featuring rocker from the bindings outward to the tips are also labeled as having flat-kick or skate-style kicks (tips)—the nose and tail being more elongated and elevated (e.g., Salomon’s RLNK—Ridiculously Long Nose Kick), allowing more float and a looser ride. Rocker and reverse camber boards are sick for powder float, presses, and a forgiving ride. The design essentially reduces pressure at the contact points by bringing it inward and closer to your feet. Forum’s Chilly Dog, Mervin’s Banana, and Ride’s Low Rize all represent examples of reverse camber technologies.
Like the name says, this design is devoid of camber. A board with flat or zero camber will lay flush atop a level surface and distribute pressure on snow in a neutral fashion. Some brands claim this creates a “loose” and “catch-free” ride similar to reverse camber while remaining relatively more stable and predictable. These boards can also feel more broken in, requiring less ollie force to get it in the air compared to a traditional board. Flat camber exhibits traits from both sides of the camber spectrum with an overall balanced feel. K2’s Flatline Technology in the Slayblade board and Capita’s Flat Kick Technology in the Horrorscope FK board (both 2010 Good Wood winners!) are examples of this design.
This is the catchall category where the majority of reverse camber design is situated. A whole slew of boards employ some combination of camber, reverse camber/rocker, zero/flat camber throughout the length of the board. Such blends utilize the best qualities of each design and implement them to create a more encompassing and versatile ride or to excel in a specific style of riding. Lib Tech’s C2 Banana Technology, Burton’s Flying V-Rocker, and Rome’s S-Camber are all prime examples of what happens when the camber array is melded. A powder-specific reverse camber may have a boat hull shape, while a jib rocker design might have a super soft reverse camber for accentuating presses, or a mix of all the above might make for a board that excels in all conditions.
Illustrations by John Antoski