Snowboarding is the world's fastest growing winter sport and is set to
become even more popular than skiing. It is still a young sport and there
are many people eager to learn more about the enjoyment the sport has to
offer. Without going to a mountain and taking a few lessons it is hard to
fully appreciate what the sport really is, and the sensation that riding a
snowboard gives. Hopefully, my report will tell everything a person would
need to know about equipment, so that they can go try the sport out for
themselves. I also plan to give a bit of background information on
competition, so that people can realize where the sport can lead to.
The first snowboard ever marketed was produced by Shervin Popper, in 1964.
It was a crude model put together in his garage, after he saw his daughter
trying to go down a hill on a sled standing up. It consisted of two of
children skis strapped together, with some doweling on the top for foot
attraction. His daughter took it to the local sledding hill, and soon
enough all the kids wanted one.
He and his wife in the next ten years sold one hundred thousand of these
contraptions for 15 dollars a piece. with new improvements such as a string
at the tip for balance and a more stable base, it was dubbed the "Snurfer",
a mix with snow and surfer, because of its no-binding surf style of riding.
Another pioneer was Dimitrije Milovich, a surfer from the east coast. He
made his invention because of the lack of warm water in the winter. This
board also had no bindings, to stick with the surf philosophy, but it
included iron edges. In the early seventies Milovich began limited
production of these custom boards. Also in 1972, Bob Webber received a
patent for his "SkiBoard," another board directly from the surf idea.
In 1975, Dimitrije Milovich developed the Winterstick, a historic brand
famous for the first videos of snowboards being ridden in powder. He
started production of the "Swallowtail" design for riding in deep powder,
often using iron edges on his earlier boards. During the following two
years Dimitrije also reached an important agreement with Petit Morey and
Kendall, the two main insurance companies of American ski resorts, to
cover liability for snowboarding. In 1977 the main snowboard company for
today started production; Jake Burton made and sold his prototypes with
handmade bindings. These included some elements similar to modern design.
Tom Sims also started production of some boards based on the Snurfer. In
1979 Tom Sims and Chuck Barfoot created the first board made of fiberglass.
At the end of the seventies the beginning of the eighties, the snowboard
begin to appear in some sports magazines (especially skateboard
magazines,) and on American and Canadian TV. A beer commercial showed Paul
Graves riding a snowboard. This introduced the snowboard to the public,
although it was still considered a strange sport.
Now that snowboards were allowed on some mountains, the board needed to be
redesigned so that it would work on packed snow. Shaped wood can slide
along on a hill deep powder, and it could turn pretty good, but it still
was slow and hard to turn on packed snow.
In 1980 to 1981 the three main snowboard companies, Burton, Sims, and
Winterstick begin to produce fiberglass boards with P-tex bases, as well as
metal edges. The same year the Struck Brothers produced a board with two
small skis on the bottom. Called the Swingbo, it was easier to carve and
turn on packed snow.
Now that problems with steering and friction were solved, real bindings
needed to be built for better control. Jeff Grell built the first bindings
with a back spoiler to hold the legs on back-side turns. This allowed the
snowboard to take off in public.
This was the beginning of the standard snowboard. Now snowboard
manufacturers are taking ideas from the past and using them to create fine
tuned boards that work specifically for the rider. There are a few
materials and technologies that every manufacturer uses. Among these are
camber, P-tex, flex, Poly MDI and others.
Flex is the ability of the board to bend; a stiff flex is for a race board
because it allows for better performance at high speeds; a smooth flex is
for a beginner board because it is easier to drive the board when it
contours to the land. How the flex is distributed along the board is also
important; a board with varying levels of flex along the board doesn't
allow the board to make round turns, unless it is on a specialized board,
for example, a real extreme park board would have softer flex at the tips
to absorb landings. Camber is the bridge of the board. You can see this if
the board is put on a flat surface: the distance between the ground and
the center of the board defines the camber. A board isn't usually flat,
and a high camber means a better responsiveness, which can also make the
board nervous. Often, race alpine boards have a high camber for quick edge
to edge turns, while a freestyle board would have a low camber for an
Sidecut is what makes a snowboard a snowboard, instead of one big ski. The
side cut is the imaginary radius of a circle that you can draw on the side
of the board. It measures the difference of the length between the tip,
center, and tail. A deep sidecut allows for short turns and better arced
carving. This is why skiers are now beginning to carve long arcs, it was
made possible by the snowboard-induced sidecut.
When snowboard companies found out about the importance of flex, sidecut,
and camber, nine basic materials began being used. They could be
manipulated or have substitutions, depending on what the board was
supposed to do. These parts were wood or foam, fiberglass, poly MDI, epoxy
matrix, polietilene (a.k.a. P-tex or PE), flacee or ABS, Fenolo-reinforced
poly MDI or P-tex, steel inserts, and steel with rubber dampening.
Wood or foam makes up the core of the board. Usually the core is made of
different types of wood, stiff and light to make the board flexible and
durable. Wood needs to be laminated vertically so that the glue doesn't
play too important a role in the board's performance, and so the board
will keep it's characteristics over time. This process is more expensive
than the process to make a board with a foam core.
A foam core is cheaper than wood. It can also be produced an a larger scale
easier. The only problem is that it isn't as durable as a wood core, and it
often needs to be reinforced with materials such as Kevlar.
There are many variations of the size, shape, and placement of the core
within the board. For example, a board with most of the core in the center
of the board would spin easier, because there would be no counterweight to
slow the spin. Fiberglass is used in all boards over and under the core to
increase stiffness and to keep the board from deforming. The process of
putting all the layers together is called lamination. Fiberglass is a
woven structure which is usually "Biaxle," meaning there are two
directions in the weave, but even better is "Triaxle," which has three.
Poly MDI is a polymeric matrix that gives the board good flexibility over
time. The epoxy matrix is the glue used to stick parts of the board
together in the laminating process. It has a good shock resistance, is
lightweight, and has a long life of rigidity.
Polietilene, PE, or P-tex is used as the base. This porous structure is for
retaining wax. Wax is an important part of the board that is supplied and
maintained by the owner. The purpose of wax is not to cover up the base but
to get absorbed into it. Hot wax works the best out of that, spray on or
rub on waxes. The base can be made with extruded P-tex or sintered P-tex.
The extruded is made of a sort of paper P-tex, and is the quicker and
cheaper method of making a base, but a sintered base absorbs wax better. A
sintered base is made by powdering extruded base material, and re-
compacting it into the base. The sintered base goes faster because of
better wax absorption and it handles shock better. Another characteristic
of the base is the molecular weight or the UHMW. A higher molecular weight
means better absorption of the wax, and an overall better performance. The
fastest base is usually used on race boards, and it is made of graphite,
giving it a black color. It isn't really common, because only top-notch
race boards use it. If there are graphics on the bottom they are
"Tattooed" into the fiberglass so they can be seen through the P-tex.
Steel inserts are the holes that you see on the top of a board that has no
bindings on it. They are the holes that bindings screw into. They are
imbedded into the fiberglass and are very strongly rooted into the board.
They come in three basic patterns. The basic 4 by 4 patterns is 8 aligned
inserts on each half of the board. Almost every board uses this pattern.
Next is Burton's 3-d insert pattern. It only requires that three screws go
into the board per binding. The up side to this is the thousands of stance
possibilities that can come out of this pattern, the down side is that a
lot of binding plates don't fit this pattern. The third is not very
popular, it has a weird set of holes that are meant only to be filled by
baseless bindings, which only have screw holes on weird parts of the edges.
It is not extremely common. Maybe 1 out of 20 boards have it, if not less.
The shiny layer that you can see on the top of a board is called the top
sheet. Usually it's made of flacee or ABS, two extremely hard materials
that are very difficult to cut. Underneath it there are usually graphics
that can be put under the top sheet by printing them out on a special
sheet of plastic that goes between the fiberglass and the top sheet.
Side walls are the narrow sides between the top sheet and the base on the
edges. The strength of this component is very important because if they
are punctured, water can enter the core and rot it out.
Around the edges is a metal strip of metal, usually steel, that allow the
board a good hold on ice and protection for the board. These strips are
called the edges. Between the edge and the bottom of the side wall there
is a layer of dampening, often made of rubber, to absorb the shocks and
vibrations coming from the edge. The edges can wrap all the way around the
board, or they can stop just before the tip and tail. Edges that are not
fully wrapped are just becoming popular. It used to be believed that metal
on the tip or tail would help protect the board against hitting something,
like say, a rock. But really the edges would bend into the board causing
even mare damage. Now with exposed, dampened, and reinforced tips and
tails, the board can pop back into place after a crash. There are many
things that can be added, but ...