So you’ve been riding for a season or two and you’re looking to start trying out some freestyle moves. Where do you begin? You may be scanning through any number of YouTube video tutorials, keyword searching the popular snowboard forums and blogs. You may even have a good idea of what you want to do. But the question is where to start? When you start getting into freestyle snowboarding you’re going to be building off of a small number of basic skills that will be the segue to everything else that you can possibly imagine doing in the future. Let’s have a look at some of those basic skill sets.
Learn to Turn
It may seem like a bit of a let down to hear that learning how to “turn” your snowboard is the foundation of all freestyle snowboarding- but it is! Getting your snowboard on edge and using your side cut is a must for doing most spin tricks from 180’s on up. It also allows you to have complete control over your speed and trajectory. And it preps you for counter rotational moves that you’ll be doing when jibbing onto features in and out of the park.
Carving demands total commitment using everything from your head, shoulders, torso, hips, and knees to change direction and drive through the arc of the turn. If you can master and control your side cut, you can begin to initiate all the spin tricks in the book.
There’s landing switch, and then there’s riding switch. Landing switch and riding away straight can be mastered fairly easily. But riding switch means being able to carve switch. Using your turning skills facing the other way can take a while so force yourself to do it all the time and the learning curve will be shortened exponentially every time you go out. Riding switch in powder is the ultimate challenge, so don’t pass up that opportunity if and when, it presents itself.
Obviously, being able to do backside switch and frontside switch (cab) tricks is one obvious benefit. But it also preps you for a bunch of board slide and lip slide tricks on rails and boxes (or anything for that matter!). Most of all, switch riding makes you a more solid rider because it to teaches you get past your comfort zone and commit to areas of your riding that you normally would avoid. Often freestyle riding presents the same challenges.
A great deal of freestyle snowboarding is about having control over the flex of your board. How and where your board flexes depends a little bit on the rocker and camber profile and stiffness areas of the snowboard. Some boards with camber will want to load up closer to the tip and tail. Rocker snowboards tend to want to load up closer to the binding areas. Ollieing is all about shifting your weight back towards the tail of the board while keeping your core centered over the middle of the board and not bent over your edge.
To get the feel for this, strap in, and standing still, move your hips toward the tail of your board. Your weight should automatically shift over your tail with all the pressure driving down from your back hip through your knee and foot, and into the board. Keep your back straight so you’re not hunched over the edge but centered over the top of the board. Now spring off your back foot while lifting your front at the same time. As soon as you are off the ground lift up the back foot so that the board is level in the air. Land with both feet and your weight centered in the middle of the board. Bend those knees to absorb the shock!
Once you have it down at a standstill, practice this move while riding across flat areas. It’s easier to get off the ground by timing the ollie going over small bumps. This allows you to get your weight back naturally and gives you a platform to comfortably launch off. Eventually, you will be using ollies and nollies (ollieing off your nose) for most every park trick from boardslides and 50/50’s to hitting kickers. So practice it a lot- every chance you get!
There are many ways to get into freestyle snowboarding but the fundamentals are always going to be part of what you’re doing. If you have good carving skills, can ride switch well, and can control and manipulate the flex of your board then you will have the foundation to get into more technical tricks and progress.