Our resident Shop Guy, Jim O’leary is in, and this week he’s got some actual information for you. He’s full of this kid of stuff, so if you have a stupid, or not so stupid question you’d like answered, feel free to leave it under an anonymous name and perhaps he’ll answer it in a future column.
Everyone knows the trick for picking board size. You hold the board straight up, tail at your feet, and the nose should fall somewhere between your Adam’s apple and your nose. Right? WRONG. Every time I see someone do this, I think, “if I asked them to name three riders, they would name Shaun White every time.” Weight, and shoe size, play the most important part in selecting board size, height is a distant distant third.
Why? Because weight is what makes everything on a snowboard work. It is what makes the difference between camber and rocker, it is how you turn, hell it is what actually pulls you down the mountain. And the length as height malarkey isn’t even a myth perpetrated by the great snowboarding-industrial complex. If you look on the back of every single board sold today, there is this cute little chart on the back. See what it lists there? Rider weight, in pounds and kilos, suggested binding size, and NOT rider height. The only explanation I can come up with is that while the manufacturers were trying to explain this to us, we were busy arguing about baggy pants vs. tight pants, or making horrible music videos. Because we are morons.
Presumably, this habit dates back to an era when snowboards were simple. The men were men, everything was camber, and everyone wore fanny packs. Since then things have become a bit more complicated and, truth be told, there is no hard and fast rule. Speaking generally, if you’re around 150 lbs you’ll be at home on a 155. Scrawny stick human? Try and find something in the neighborhood of 148-152. Terrifying hambeast? Head north of 158 my gargantuan friend. But really, it isn’t that simple. Boards like the Burton Nug and LibTech Box Scratcher are designed to be ridden much shorter (up to 10 cms) below your “normal” length. So just take thirty seconds and look at the chart. Every board will be a little different, and every rider will be looking for something different.
And if you’re thinking of buying the “wrong” size because you like the color better, just save us all some trouble and buy some Dual Snowboards already.
In the end though, there is a fair amount of wiggle room in sizing. For most boards, you will be in the weight range for two, possibly three sizes. In general, a shorter board is going to be more nimble, more flexible, and lighter; think more of a park and jib board. A longer board is going to be more stable at speed, stiffer, and provide more float in powder; great for going fast on groomers or staying on top when it gets deep.
So please, next time you’re in a shop looking for a board, take a minute to realize that the board you’re thinking about buying is a bit more advanced than your caveman sizing technique. Respect the people who built the thing and check their recommendations for proper length, rather than a stupid technique you read on some website.
Here’s a really awesome info graphic on the physics of snowboarding from our new favorite site Snowboard-coach.com