Freestyle Snowboarding – What Does It Take to Master It
During the mid 60s, a surfer by the name of Sherman Poppen made a surfboard that he then called the “Snurfer”. This new type of board was sold to more than a million people between 1965 and 1975. In 1970 this initial design was improved upon by Dimitrije Milovich, a coast surfer which based his new type of snowboard on the newest style of surfboards. His board had steel edges, gravel for traction, nylon straps and laminated fibreglass. In the late 70s, the tinkering of a young student named Jake Burton Carpenter led to a more flexible wood planked board and at about the same time a fellow “snurfer” Tom Sims started to make his own mens freestyle snowboards.
Snowboarding competitions started to spread and develop in the early 80s and the “snurfer” board became less popular. By the end of the 80s and the start of the 90s, new materials were introduced which allowed for easier gliding and for the first high-back bindings. The sport saw a major increase in popularity during the mid 90s which led to a lot of ski resorts accepting it. The trend continued in the 2000s. Today, there are different types of snowboarding styles with freestyle snowboarding being the most popular.
What is Freestyle Snowboarding?
The main goal of this type of snowboarding is for the snowboarder to do different types of tricks and jumps, perform rail slides, half-pipe rides and switch riding. Be it a women’s or a mens freestyle snowboard you’ll find that these boards are easier to manuever which makes them better for beginners.
Starting Out with a Freestyle Board
Once you get your board and other pieces of snowboarding equipment, it’s time to learn how to balance and stand up. Standing up can be quite difficult when your feet are attached to something. It may take some time but you need to do it multiple times to get used to bending your knees and altering your posture. For the balancing part, try to shift your board whilst on a flat surface, from your toe edge to heel edge and then from the right foot to the left.
Skating & Stopping
Once you get comfortable standing up and keeping your balance whilst on your freestyle snowboard, try skating and learning how to stop. While you are still on a flat surface, get one foot out of the binding and start pushing the snowboard with the other one still in your binding. Once you do this with your leading foot on the board, try doing it with the other until you get the hang of it.
Learn how to stop by using either your heel or toe edge but as a beginner I’d recommend using your heel edge as it is easier. Start by walking up to a nursery slope and try side slipping down using your heel edge. Practise using your ankles to control how much edge you put into the slope to slow down and eventually stop. When you do that, release the heel edge to start sliding down the slope again. When you feel like you have good control and can vary the speed increase the distance.
Speed Control & Falling Leaf
The falling leaf is basically learning how to glide down the slope. With your board pointing slightly down the hill, bring your back around to your heel edge to slow down. Do this until you are sliding down the hill just like a falling leaf. While you’re at it, try increasing and decreasing the speed and as long as you know how to stop you’ll be fine.
This is the first trick you’ll want to learn as it is a foundation not only when mastering freestyle snowboarding but also when doing so with skateboarding. The Ollie is done by leaning forward and then you throw your wight backwards with the front end of the snowboard come off the ground with and the back end bend. When this happens you need to bring your weight gently forward and tuck your knees once airborne.
This trick is also know as a wheelie or a press. This is an even simpler trick than the Ollie as it only requires you to balance on one end of the board. Because of this, you can do either tail or nose presses (manuals). For this you need to move your hips over the tail or nose, then bend your back leg while straightening the other leg.
Once you get comfortable doing the manual, you can start doing the butter. This involves winding your body up first while rotating with one foot in the air and pressing with the other on the board. To keep the butter going, look around and once you are comfortable on a flat surface you can then go on the slopes.
This is a very straightforward and simple trick as it only involves grabbing a certain part of your board whilst doing another trick.