A game-changing development in snowboard technology came a few years ago, when Lib Tech released it’s now uber-popular Skate Banana. The Gnu Park Pickle followed shortly thereafter, as did a flood of other “rocker” and “reverse-camber” boards.
Let’s take it back a step and talk about what camber is. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you’ll find that camber “may refer to a variety of curvatures and angles” as well as to a legendary king of Wales and an emo band from New York. For skis and snowboards, camber is the curvature of the base of the ski/board.
Traditionally, skis and snowboards have a raised camber. That is, the curve of the base reaches its high point in the middle of the ski or board, thereby making the tip and the tail the contact points. When the skier flexes the camber, potential energy is stored in the flexed curve. Once released, that energy helps the rider to hold edges and to pop into the air. Good things!
What are the drawbacks of having the energy provided by traditional camber? For one, when riding powder, it takes a lot of human energy to flex your nose up and out of the pow. Also, having two contact points makes it difficult to pivot and easier to catch your edge and get sent on a crash course straight to the ground.
A “rocker” or reverse-camber board or ski is the opposite of traditional camber. Rather than curving up, the board or ski curves down, so the middle is the low point of the curve. The center of the board is the only contact point, which makes it easier to pivot and makes you less likely to catch an edge. It makes the board easier to bend and therefore it is easier to really style out all your presses on jibs. And above all, the rocker shape causes the tips of the skis/board to be higher off the ground, making it easier to float through powder. Of course, these benefits require sacrifices of pop, edge stability, and turning power.
OR DO THEY?!
Why can’t we have the best of both worlds? Since Lib Tech set the market on fire with its Banana boards, every other ski and snowboard company has jumped into the mix, and a myriad of complicated combinations of rocker and camber have become available. A Camber-Rocker-Camber board like Never Summer’s R.C. Tech has the shape of a rocker, with the contact point in the center of the board, but also has camber sections underneath the rider’s feet for added pop and power. The inverse also exists, Rocker-Camber-Rocker. This gives plenty of power to the center of the board while keeping the tips high to float over powder. There are about 13 million other combinations, which are all probably incredibly similar in terms of performance. So, something for everybody!
Perhaps more interesting than the actual technology is the fierce passion with which fans of either technology defend their preference and demonize the opposite. Camber fans bash rockers as a tool for skidding and poor technique. Rocker fans call detractors technology fearing snow-Amish. A few choice quotes from the message boards:
- “Skidding is not the NEW carving.”
- “Sadly, with this new evolution is ski design and its marketing to the masses, it is evident we are going to see more of it.”
- “Perhaps you’ll even take it to the ultimate extreme and bring back riding garage made snowboards made out of vertically laminated wood and rubber straps for bindings. No, you wouldn’t do that would you?“
WHY CAN’T WE ALL GET ALONG? When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of preference and style. Or even more simply: fun. So let’s have fun and stop the debate!