While surfers have long treated board shaping as an essential and sacred craft, snowboarders have been slow to adopt such a perspective. For many riders, the last time they talked about shapes was in their high school geometry class. Nonetheless, conversations about board shapes are increasingly common in the shred industry. Quietly, crews of designers, athletes, and engineers have been crafting the next generation of decks, which includes everything from blunt-nosed park boards to swallowtail pow surfers.
"The interest in creative board shapes has always been there--it's a grassroots undercurrent that has been present all along," explains Venture Cofounder Klem Branner. "Pushing boundaries and trying new things is just built into the DNA of snowboarding." Yet recent evolutions in board design have thrust shaping into the limelight. "The world of rocker, camber, and hybrids has opened the door for designers and engineers to be more creative and push the boundaries of what a snowboard looks and is shaped like," notes Capita U.S. Marketing and Product Development Manager Sean Tedore.
Here are a few examples from next year’s lines:
Discerning riders are also helping drive this innovation. "Conditions, terrain, and rider styles will continue to evolve, and with that, the shapes that best suit those variables will also need to evolve," offers Chris Cunningham, Burton's senior business unit director of boards and bindings. "As riders become more sophisticated in their taste of terrain and conditions, so will their appetite for having the right tools in their toolbox."
Creating these discipline-driven designs requires carefully considering a range of variables. "Each and every part of a board's design--from sidecut to camber line to flex to shape--is [essential] to make the best riding board available for its intended customer," explains Tedore. "I design every single board to have a specific purpose. The combination of performance and aesthetics is what makes the whole package."
To help bring new designs to life, brands are tapping riders and developing ongoing collaborations. Venture recently launched its Shape Shack, an experimental division of the company tasked with creating new designs through collaborations with guest shapers. The resulting boards are made available to the public through small, limited edition production runs. According to Branner, the Shape Shack reflects a logical evolution for the company. "We make the vast majority of our own tooling and machinery and have been building boards from scratch since day one, so we have always had the ability to create whatever we wanted," he notes. "What's different now is how we are inviting other perspectives from passionate riders into the mix." Recent guest shapers include legendary big mountain rider Johan Olofsson, Silverton Mountain Cofounder Aaron Brill, and Silverton Mountain Guide Skylar Holgate. The resulting boards are as unique as their designers. Olofsson's Powder Pig, for example, is designed specifically for pow surfing and only features inserts at the tip and tail for attaching a rope.
Burton continues to expand the role Craig's--its Burlington-based prototyping facility--plays in dreaming up new designs. "We can experiment with anything so the speed of innovation is fast and intense. In addition to focusing on new shapes and technologies, we also spend a lot of time perfecting the board construction process," explains Cunningham. Craig's served as the birthplace of Burton's Family Tree series of freeride boards. For next year, the series includes additional designs developed with a host of team riders like Terje, Kimmy Fasani, and John Jackson. Notable boards include the Cloudsplitter, a hard-charging swallowtail developed for the deepest days, and the Fishcuit, a pow surfer that comes with a surf-inspired traction pad that aids in riding the deck without bindings.
For next year, Salomon is debuting its Dirksen Collection, a portfolio of discipline-specific decks created with Josh Dirksen. The collection includes Salomon's legendary Sick Stick, the pow-driven Derby, the all mountain Rancho, and an aptly-named splitboard, known as the Split. "There is always a way to customize a specific board to a specific type of terrain or riding style," explains Dirksen. "The collection of boards that we designed with Salomon represents this concept." Salomon Board and Bindings Product Line Manager Franck Juvin notes, "As Josh is always available for designing and testing (when he's not enjoying the best places on earth for boarding), the process was really easy."
Whether pressing rails or floating pow, these new decks are sure to make riders smile. And although their shapes will dominate stories on the sales floor, the stories they create on the snow will be even better. After all, Dirksen notes, "The best snowboards make the best days even better."