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Snowboarding Essay, Research Paper
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 easier slide.
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
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 those depend on what company you look at. Morrow?s boards have high-tech
spring rails along the inner edges that make the board ollie higher and absorb landings better. K2 and many other
companies have “Torsion Forks” in their tip and tail to help ollie and absorb landings. They actually move inside the board.
K2 is coming out with a board that has electronic sensors with “Smart” technology in them that turn vibrations into energy,
lighting up light emitting diodes in different areas of the board. New things are invented each year for snowboards. What
will be next? Nobody knows.
Structure is how the parts of the board is put together, this is also known as construction. There are 3 main ways to
construct a snowboard, but there are hundreds of different variations that differ from company to company.
Sandwich construction is the most common way to make boards, as well as skis. The core, side walls, and top sheet (as well
as other materials) are put in a press and sandwiched together with the epoxy. The process of putting the components
together in any board is called lamination. Sometimes boards are laminated vertically, which allows extra epoxy to be
drained from the board, and so that the epoxy doesn?t play too important a role in absorbing shock.
Many boards now use cap construction. In this method, the top sheet continues down the side of the board to cover the
side walls, and meet the edges. This makes the board look better, and it gives better protection to the side walls. It is also
easier to cut the materials to the cap construction shape than the sandwich method.
Monocoque is the third type of construction. The theory behind it is that it allows forces to be better transferred to the
edges than they would be in the sandwich structure. The Monocoque construction is kind of like cap construction, only there
are extra added materials, such as dampening, to try to direct shock to the edges of the board.
Various shapes and components are used for specific styles of riding. There are 4 main styles of riding, with specific families
of boards for each: Alpine/Carving/Race, Freestyle, Freeride, and Big Mountain/Longboard.
Racing, Carving, or Alpine boards (the three names are equally as common) are very distinguishable from other boards.
They are usually thick (between base and top sheet), skinny, and have very low tails, if they have a tail at all. They can also be
noticed by the hard, ski-style boots and the ski-style bindings that are used on this type of board. The board usually has a
low, short tip for good performance, without vibrations (chatter) at high speeds. The tail, as I stated is usually very low, flat,
or sometimes there is just an angled cut-off. The flex depends on what style of alpine riding one would choose to do,
Freeride-Carving or Racing. A Freeride-Carving model would have a semi-stiff core, and a large side cut, so that the board
can go at high speeds as well as make large sweeping carves. A race board would sport a little side cut, and it would be
very thin, so that it can switch quicker from edge to edge.
A Freeriding board would have good performance in all conditions, whether powder, jumps, ice, steeps, halfpipe, and any
other conditions that a mountain could have. This board mixes the characteristics of a freestyle board and an alpine board.
They are large, but with a moderate sidecut . They are not too stiff, and they don?t have very low or very high tips. The nose
would be long and at a moderate height so that it can float in powder, and go off jumps. All models are symmetrical, but
some have a distinct tip for powder. The purpose of Freeriding is to use all parts of the mountain to have fun, whether it is
in the pipe of off in the trees.
Freestyle boards are made for riding in the park and pipe. The boards are usually short and wide. The short length allows
for better maneuvers in the air, while the large width allows for lower stance angles so that riding forward and backward
can be easily done. The flex is important and together with the sidecut, makes the difference between a specific board for
the park or a specific board for the halfpipe. A board for the park would be stiff in the center, and soft at the tip and tail to
absorb landings. A halfpipe board would have an equally distributed flex, so that the board can contour to the curve of the
A Big Mountain or Long Board is ridden be experts who do a lot of hiking around in the backcountry of the very large
mountains. They are like long, wide, Freestyle boards, so that they can float in the always plentiful powder. They are usually
very long, about 170 to 185 centimeters, hence the name Longboard.
Bindings are the mechanisms that keep the rider?s feet on the board. There are three styles of bindings: strap-ins, step-ins,
and hard bindings. Strap-ins are the most popular, because they have been around the longest and can be used on all types
of boards except Alpine boards. Step-ins are the up and coming thing, they are more convenient and are beginning to be
just as high in performance as strap-ins. Only a few companies make them, and you need special boots to use them thought,
which is why they are in second place. Third popular are hard bindings, which require specific equipment to use; an alpine
board and hard boots.
At first there were no bindings on a snowboard. Shervin Popper’s Snurfer had only doweling on the top of it for foot traction.
Later, people began to add small straps that the foot could be slipped in and out of. Jeff Grell was the first ever to add a
back spoiler, or a heel cup to his board, along with an adjustable toe and heel strap.
Strap-ins include a back heel cup that attaches to the base (except for in baseless bindings that require a special set of
inserts in the board) and can be swiveled to give what is called forward lean. Forward lean is to what extent the rider?s leg is
bent at the knee. In other words, a lot of forward lean would cause the rider to fall over if the knee was fully extended.
Forward lean is adjusted depending on how the rider likes to ride. The base is made of hard plastic, as well as the heel cup.
The base also has a hole in it that a hard plastic disc sits in (this is not true for baseless bindings, which have screw holes
around the edges) and can swivel when the screws are loosened. This swivel action allows for many stance options. The
plastic disc can have 3 or 4 holes in it, depending on if it was made for a Burton board or not. Coming off of the base are
two straps that are fully adjustable. They have a ratchet system that tightens to the rider?s preference when they are put
on. These straps are made out of thin hard plastic and padding. Strap-in bindings can be used on any kind of board but
Alpine boards. The heel cup comes in three different heights, for whatever support the rider wants. Highback goes up to the
top or near the top of the boot. Midbacks go in between where your Achilles tendon meets you calf, and Highback height.
Lowbacks go to about half way up the boot. What binding is chosen is all a matter of experience and preference.
Step-ins are a new concept in which the rider can just “Click In” instead of having to sit down and strap in. There are around
10 different brands of step-in bindings, and each one is different, considering they are a relatively new addition to the sport.
Some you enter by sliding in your toe and then pushing down on your heel, some swing in side to side. Some look like a
regular binding, only there are no straps, or they look like just a base plate that is screwed down to the board without the
rest of the binding. Support comes from either a highback binding built into the boot between the liner and the outer layer,
or from a heel cup that is attached to the binding plate. In any model, if your foot stays in, and there is decent support,
there should be no downsides, except for the need of special boots. Step-ins can be used on any type of board but Alpine
boards, and they are becoming more and more popular each year.
Hard bindings are similar to ski bindings, and they are only used for Alpine boards only and they require special boots.
There is really nothing special about them but that when you step in, a special toe clamp needs to be pulled over the boot
from the toe to the bridge of the foot.
In snowboarding?s early days, specially made boots were not needed, but nowadays they are needed to give the proper
support to the rider, and to fit the binding, whether strap-in, step-in, or hard bindings. Because strap-in bindings are the
most popular, soft boot to go with them are the most popular type of boot. Soft boots are characterized by their
stubbed-toed, rugged look. They have rubber soles, heels, and toes. The top half off the boots almost look normal except for
the bulkiness. Inside the boot there is usually a removable liner that can be tightened as well as the outside laces for better
support. Soft boots are sometimes made by companies that make shoes as well, such as Vans, Airwalk, or Nice. That would
explain why they are so soft and can absorb some of the hardest landing impacts.
Step-in boots look the exact same way as soft boots do, except they have special shanks or clips on the bottom, so that they
can attach to the binding. They also commonly have an internal highback heelcup in it for the necessary support. Some
step-in boots can also be used in strap-in bindings. They are all basically the same, except the step-ins have extra
components. That is why some companies, such as Vans, make both strap and step-in boots.
Hard boots look just like ski boots from the outside, and they are basically the same on the inside. The only difference
between ski and hard boots is that the hard boots have a special clip across the top of the foot that keeps them in the
binding, otherwise, they are exactly the same.
I just briefly want to touch on the different types of activities that you can do on a snowboard, besides just going to a
mountain to ride all over in a recreational way. Competition is what a lot of new and up coming riders are heading for,
because that way they can do what they love for a living, which I think is the greatest thing in the world.
There are eight different events that are sanctioned by divisions such as ISF (International Snowboard Federation) which
has divisions to suit all different levels of riding, such as USASA (United States of America Snowboarding Association).
In a Halfpipe Competition, each rider takes two runs. The scores are combined to arrive at a total number of points.
Normally there is a large number of riders, so the field is reduced by eliminating all but the top 20 or so riders after the first
two runs. The qualifying riders fight it out in the finals where a further two runs are judged in order to produce the winner.
When scoring, the judges take into account the height of the trick, fluidity, style, difficulty, variety, and number of mistakes or
Slopestyle is judged using similar criteria to the halfpipe. Instead of using the halfpipe to perform tricks the riders run
through a course that is full of a number of hits, jumps, and other obstacles that could be found in a snowboard park. These
would include table tops, transfers, quarterpipes, rolls, or anything else the snowcat driver can think up.
Big Air is judged just like slopestyle and halfpipe, only the rider gets to hit one jump twice, getting a combined score from
his/her two hits. The winner is the rider with the highest score. The riders will perform their most technical tricks that they
have to try to crush the competition, whether they are flipping or spinning.
Bordercross makes slalom racing a fun event that appeals to freestylers as well as racers. Similar to moto-cross,
competitors race through a course which combines moguls, jumps, gaps, and banked turns as well as other park-type hits.
The first rider to get to the finish line wins. The competition runs in heats of four riders, eliminating a number from every
heat until the final four remain.
Slalom is very similar to the ski racer?s slalom course, although the gates in a snowboard slalom course are set slightly
farther apart to account for the snowboard?s different turning characteristics. The object is to complete the course quicker
than the rest of the riders. Slalom is the most technical of all competitive disciplines. Racers must be 100% focused on their
objective, because the slightest mistake will cost them time.
Dual slalom is an exciting version of the slalom race. Using two identical and parallel slalom courses, each rider races the
other through the course. Each rider races each course and the fastest combined time wins. In the case of a tie, a third run
is taken. But this time there will probably be two large jumps in the course, adding to the excitement. Again, focus is
extremely important in this style of competition.
Giant Slalom is a long version of the slalom course in which the gates are set at least 30 feet further apart. The rider with
the fastest time out of one run wins.
Extreme is perhaps the most breathtaking of all the competitive disciplines. The extreme world championships are held in
Alaska in terrain that can only be reached by helicopters. Judges view the rider?s runs through binoculars from a position
near the base of the allotted competition area. Basically, the helicopter drops off the rider at the top of the mountain and
then he/she must find their own path down to the bottom. The must jump huge cliffs and risk life-threatening crashes. Th
competition is split into three days, with Ballistic, Extreme, and Soul Style making up the judging categories.
Snowboarding has come so far in the last few years. It came from a toy to a high-tech piece of equipment, from a sport for
trouble makers to an Olympic event, from a small family owned business to a major business, forming the mainstay of the
winter sports industry. The passing of recent years has seen huge advances in equipment technology and performance,
clothing design and the evolution of progressive and smooth riding styles. This has provided the images necessary to make
snowboarding appealing to all kinds of people and to assure it?s growth well into the next millennium. As more and more
people young people take up snowboarding, together with the increasing adult cross-over from other sporting areas and
developing ties within music and fashion areas, we can be assured that this is no fad or craze that will soon die out.
Snowboarding is an individual, creative, and healthy pastime exercised in the natural environment, and is different things to
different people. Try riding and enjoy- who knows, it just might change your life.
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