Snowboard construction has steadily improved over the last forty plus years, and those improvements have ushered in many changes in technological design, materials and shapes. Ironically, a number of snowboards that are being produced today are either copies of the snowboard shapes of the seventies and eighties or very similar. So what’s the point of making retro style snowboard shapes nowadays?
When we say retro snowboard shapes we are mainly talking about snowboards produced in the first twenty or so years of the sport. The shape of the board is the outline of it that you see when looking straight at the top or bottom. As opposed to the profile, which is what you see when looking at the side. These early snowboards were made in a time when snowboarding was not allowed at ski resorts. Snowboarders climbed hills and mountains to ride down. They also infiltrated parks, golf courses, back yards- anywhere they could build a quarter pipe, or fly off a jump, or post up on a handrail. The mountains and hills were ungroomed and often had deep snow so the shape of the boards reflected that type of terrain. They also reflected the board shapes of the sport that snowboarding grew out- surfing. One of the original snowboard companies, SIMS Snowboards, was founded by surfers who were looking to surf in the snow!
Many of these early snowboards had short, swallowtail tails and long pointy noses. This allowed the rider to more easily sink the tail and float the nose in deep snow. As snowboarding transitioned to the ski areas you started to see boards with deeper side cuts, twin shaped nose and tails, and more centered stance options. These changes reflected the growing interest in lift service groomed runs and park riding. The side cut allowed for more precise turning and edge hold, while the twin shape and centered stance opened up more options for switch tricks and pressing.
For a long time the dominant snowboard shape has been any variation of twin- true twin, directional twin, or full directional. But in recent years companies such as Arbor and Jones have been playing around with noses and tails of their snowboards. The Arbor Zygote and Jones Hovercraft are two such examples. The Zygote is a center stance, softer flexing, freestyle board that is very comfortable in the park. Whereas the Hovercraft is a very set back board with a short tail and long nose that is pure joy to ride in powder. Both the boards borrow heavily from the days of yore with squared off tails, camber profiles, and blunted noses.
Another snowboard with retro style shaping is the Gnu Space Out. The Space Out is set back powder board that also holds its own on hard pack. The tail works seamlessly with the rest of the board so slashing, blasting in and out of side hits, whipping around the glades, and getting massive pop was unbelievably fun and easy. It rides switch great, butters off the tail, and rides good on groomers.
Many retro shaped snowboards give us an aesthetic of the past but with the advantages of the technological advancements we’ve all come to know and enjoy. Features like multiple contact points on the edges, rocker/camber profiles, and a host of exotic materials that make the boards snappier, or damper, or be able to flex differently in different areas add modern upgrades to the final product. So while retro style snowboard shapes may look really awesome, they also bring along the awesome ride that has been evolving since those first glory days.