Riding different snowboards is kind of like driving different cars. You can have an easy riding, automatic, shock-absorbing ride like a Acura. Or you can have a raw power, unforgiving stick shift, feel every bump kind of ride like a Ferrari. And there is everything in between.
Since picking up my 2017 Gnu B-Pro, this analogy has come up a lot for me. It’s a pretty aggressive, fairly stiff, super responsive, lots of camber, board. You can’t really let your guard down when you ride it. It wants to go fast, and while the tiny bit of rocker between the feet makes it much more forgiving than it could be, it’s still a high performance tool. It may not quite be a Ferrari, but it’s more board than I need. It rails on turns and holds an edge like nothing else I have ever ridden. Thankfully this board is damp enough to spare me a lot of the chatter of a sports suspension. Riding this board will make my riding better. When you learn on something that doesn’t allow for mistakes without punishment, you tend to learn right.
On the other hand, a board like the 2015 Gnu Ladies Choice is more like the smooth riding, Acura. It’s still a fun board, but it’s much easier to ride, it’s more forgiving, you can cruise without thinking a whole lot, and it will certainly get you where you want to go. It has more rocker, and the flex is a little softer. You probably won’t find yourself redlining it around a corner, but you can push it, and yourself when you ride it, and you can go anywhere and try a little of anything with it.
Obviously to say this season in the east was underwhelming is an understatement. We definitely didn’t log as many days as we usually do, and many of the ones we did log were in less than stellar conditions. Whenever I strap into a different board, or head out into unknown and potentially sketchy conditions at the start of the day, I have the same feeling as when I get into a new car to drive it for the first time.
When I first get on a board, I like to test the edge to edge transition before I have too much speed, I like to determine how forgiving the board is before I am up to speed and too committed, I like to get a feel for how hard you have to dig in to stop. Once the basics are out of the way, I can start to check out some of the finer points. I can get a feel for a board that wants to pop off of anything, one that has a tendency to wash out on hardpack, one that will be forgiving if you land just a little “off”, or a board that will lock into a turn and not release without the jaws of life.
When I drive a different car I’m also unsure quite how everything is going to work at first. Not knowing where the clutch will catch means I don’t want to give it too much gas, but if it catches low I don’t want to stall it, I don’t want to take a corner too fast until I know how it handles, and I don’t want to wait too long to test the brakes not knowing how quickly (or not) the car will stop.
I am potentially looking for a new car. There is a list of “must haves”, “would be nice”, and “in a perfect world…” There are trade offs with everything in life. While I would basically love to recreate the car I had for 10.5 years before it got stolen, it’s a car that doesn’t exist anymore. So now it’s a search for a car that will fit me as well as my 2016 Gnu Beauty. That board is fun! It’s responsive enough that you have complete confidence that it will do just what you want without being twitchy at all. It’s aggressive, but not too aggressive, so you can ride it hard and it will respond accordingly. It’s comfortable. It’s forgiving enough that you are not tempted to be tense when you ride it because you have a quiet confidence in the relationship you have with the board…the melding of board and rider. You can go fast, but won’t get punished when you have to go slow. Transitions are quick and easy, and it’s really fun! (oh wait…I said that already). If you know the equivalent car, please let me know…it will move to the top of the short list.