Why You Need More Boards

This may seem a little contradictory since my last post was a rant about why you really don’t need high end gear. But, that’s because this post is for people who could actually benefit from some better gear.

Why do you think there are so many different skateboards, longboards, surfboards, and snowboards for sale? Sure, every company is trying to get a piece of the cash flow, but in doing that some actually come up with unique ideas for shredding in specific conditions. Basically, that’s why you need more boards.

Surfing is a great example. There are boards for all wave conditions with all types of dimensions, rail profiles, and tail shapes. Each of these will dramatically affect the way a board performs, given that you have the ability to notice subtle differences in ride. Short, fat, thick boards are ideal for small waves. Longer, thinner, skinnier boards (called a step-up or “gun”) are better in larger waves. Some step-ups also have channeled bottoms, which give you more speed and drive in big, perfect surf. You’d get pretty frustrated trying to ride a step-up board in 2 foot shorebreak though. That’s a basic explanation, but you should get the idea.

Snowboarding is pretty much the same. To tear up a park, I prefer a really flexy, shorter board. These boards will be symmetrical for easy switch riding and are generally lighter than stiff boards, which makes them easier to press and spin. Powder boards are usually directional, meaning each has a dedicated nose and tail and is intended to be ridden in one direction. These boards are generally longer and stiffer, and many incorporate some type of unique swallow tail design for a really surfy feel in deep pow. Regardless of all of this, every snowboard also has a distinct camber profile. Cambered, rockered, and flat boards are the most common, but many companies combine these to create hybrids. That’s an explanation for another post though.

To sum it all up, more boards equals more fun. Riding the wrong board for the conditions is a pain in the ass, no matter your skill. As you improve, experiment with different boards from what you’re used to. You’ll probably find a new favorite setup.

Why Your Gear Doesn’t Matter

This is something that has continually pissed me off for a long time. Especially in snowboarding (because lots of fools do that one) I feel like it’s impossible to go ride without seeing someone who can barely stand, let alone ride, with a setup worth upwards of $700. That is the perfect illustration of why gear doesn’t matter, and I could stop there. But I won’t.

Gear does not make you better whatsoever. The reality is, if you don’t know anything about something like surfing and you buy a fancy step-up board with crazy design features, you are cheating yourself. Same goes for snowboarding. If you buy a stiff ripper of a board with some crazy camber/rocker combo and you’re a beginner, you might as well ride a plank. You won’t be able to tell the difference. Not only are you wasting money on stuff that you don’t need at a low ability level that won’t help you, you might actually be making it worse for yourself. Surfing is a good example because a thin, skinny step-up will be tougher to ride than a longboard in pretty much any scenario.

Gear can’t help you until you have the skill to notice the differences between the top-end shit and the basic shit. Personally, in longboarding I find that wheels and bushings have the biggest effect on how a board feels. Fact is though, I couldn’t notice differences in how wheels slide until recently. It takes time to get comfortable enough in a boardsport that you begin to notice the intricacies of your equipment. Then, when you change your equipment up, the differences are obvious.

Bottom line? It takes a bit of skill to even notice the fancy features of a board, or fins, or wheels, or bushings, or whatever. Once you have that skill, feel free to go crazy customizing your setups. But until then, do yourself a favor and buy something basic.

Burton Toe Strap Swap for Union & Ride Bindings

If the toe straps on your bindings are broken or just aren’t doing it for you, I would highly recommend that you swap on some Burton toe straps. It’s a quick and easy mod and it will make your bindings much better. The straps I’m talking about are called Burton Gettagrip Capstraps. You can get them for around $40. These bad boys hug the toes of your boots like nothing else. I’m talking total contact with less of that painful, uneven pressure you get from other toe straps (I mean you, Union). Check the video for a quick tutorial.

Why I Wear a Helmet

A while back, I had an accident riding my longboard. It was really dumb. I fell off it. I hit my head on a metal railing. I blacked out for ten minutes.

To this day, I still have a bump on the left side of my forehead. Needless to say, I had a really solid concussion. The effects of it really messed me up for a long time, and still mess with me today. For at least a year afterward, I was really irritable, forgetful, and my memory was generally fuzzy. I actually would have moments where I would completely lose my train of thought while talking. That was freaky. I would see spots, and actually still do sometimes. I still struggle with my memory, but it is slowly improving. I still have trouble keeping a train of thought sometimes though.

The bottom line for me is, none of that is worth not wearing a helmet. The way in which I fell was dumb because I was just pushing around, I was riding somewhere easy and mellow, and I could have avoided the whole thing. Wearing a helmet isn’t a good idea, its literally the best idea you could have, especially if you’re really going for it.

Just do it, it’s not uncool or whatever. Wear it on snow, and especially on pavement. Find one that’s comfortable and stylish. Put stickers on it and make it obnoxious. Just wear one and save yourself from my mistake!

First Impressions: Whiteface

Ok, so Whiteface… I’ve heard some call it “Iceface.” I’ve heard it’s got the most vertical in the east. Both have truth to them.

I had never been to Whiteface before this past weekend. Just the thought of going got me so stoked. I checked the maps and conditions before going, and that got me even more excited. I found out that Whiteface has “slides,” basically backcountry chutes that you need to hike to from the summit. Couple that with a forecast calling for snow day and night, and my stoke level was almost through the roof.

The first day we rode was Saturday. Saturdays are crowded, but that’s every ski mountain. Straight away it was obvious, Whiteface is huge. It makes Tremblant look small, but that’s because Whiteface is all about vertical. The mountain is tall, not really wide. Tremblant may be shorter in height, but it’s wider and longer. Whiteface is steeper. There’s hardly any flat sections (at least where I rode) and your legs constantly need to work hard to lay into fast turns. By the end of our second day, I really noticed this. Saturday was also pretty icy, living up to the  mountain’s reputation. By noon conditions started to deteriorate and winds started gusting over 50 miles per hour. We appreciated the ol’ gondola even more because of that. Still, somehow they were able to keep all the lifts open.

Snowy, cloudy view from the top of the gondola. Whiteface, Lake Placid, NY.
Snowy, cloudy view from the top of the gondola. Whiteface, Lake Placid, NY.

On Sunday, we woke up to four to six inches of powder. We got out there as early as possible, which is 8:30 a.m. It was empty! Every trail for the first few hours had untouched powder. The Cloudsplitter glade was definitely the trail of the day for me. I really dig tree riding (and mogul riding) and the amount of powder in those woods made it heavenly. Whiteface also had some cool park features. For the larger jumps, you had to be cooking. I knuckled one pretty bad the day before so I stuck to smaller jumps for working on 1s and 3s. The small stuff was sick too. They even had a mini half pipe which was super fun to rip. The ice started to show up this day also, but not until later in the day. Even then, there was less of it and plenty of powder to aim for.

All in all, I loved Whiteface. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to hit any of the slides since they were closed. I’d love to go back on a real powder day and see what’s up. I was able to get pretty comfortable with my switch riding and 180s though, so I left feeling pretty damn accomplished. I’d love to go back for a week or something. This season still has some good time left in it so hopefully I get to post some other “first impressions” before everything melts! Must go west..

How to Wax Your Stick – Hot Waxing for Snowboards

Ever hit the slopes a little too hard and ended up flat on your face? I have. Typically, a few things can contribute to this. You should ask yourself: is it slush season? are you even on snow? and, what’s your wax situation? I’m going to focus on wax, because the other two should be easy to correct if you have waxing down. The steps for doing a good hot wax are simple if you have everything you need and are in the right environment. You should find a table in a well lit area and cover it and the surrounding area in newspaper. Don’t do this in a place where pink wax might stick to and ruin something, because it will stick to everything. If you got that, then here’s what you’ll need:

  • Clothes iron or Waxing iron
  • Hot wax
  • Plastic scraper
  • Wire brush
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Paper Towels
  • Gummy Stone (optional/recommended – get one here)

The Steps

1: Prep/Gummy Stone

I like taking my bindings off before waxing because its easier to work with the board. If not, you should at least loosen the screws so the heat doesn’t mess with the mounting holes. You should make sure you have the right temperature wax. Hot wax can be all temperature (more versatile, good all around) or temperature specific (faster if the conditions are right). It’s a preference for you. I like temperature specific wax because I re-wax my board a few times a season anyway. Also, if you have a gummy stone, the first thing you want to do is rub that thing all up and down the rails of your board. This will remove any rust, dings, burrs, or rough patches in your rails…as long as it’s nothing serious. This will make some metal shavings so after that..

2: Clean Your Base

Take your rubbing alcohol, get it on some paper towels and rub it all over the base of your board. This will clean off any dirt that could get stuck in the fresh wax. Wait for this to dry for about 15 minutes. Once you’re sure its dry..

3: Drip the Wax

Heat your iron up. For an average clothes iron, the right setting is the lowest one. On my iron, it’s called “synthetics.” It could be called “wool” on others. For a fancy waxing iron, the temperature should be set to whatever it says on the wax you’re using. Between 250-270 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe bet if you don’t know what else to do. Drip the wax up and down the base until you have some pretty dense coverage. You’ll probably have to move the iron back and forth a bunch of times.

4: Spread the Wax

After you drip a good amount of wax, you need to spread it all out. Run your iron slowly across your base. Keep it moving though, or you risk burning your base! A good pace is around an inch per second. If your iron is a little hot you may have to move it faster, so keep an eye on it. A few slow passes with the iron and you should have a pretty smooth layer of wax. Leave this to dry and harden for 45 minutes to an hour.

5: Scrape the Wax

After the wax is cool and hard, you need to scrape it all off. Hot wax doesn’t work if it’s just on your base. The heat from the iron actually makes it go into the pores in the base, and any left on the base surface will make you go slower! So, take your plastic scraper and really put some effort into it. Your arms might get tired but you should try to scrape as much wax off as possible.

6: Brush It

After you do a bunch of scraping, take your wire brush and brush your base. You don’t need to be super aggressive with this, just enough to take off the last thin layer of wax. Brush until it seems like no more wax is coming off. A good way to check if there’s any wax still on the base is to run your fingernails down it. If you have any wax under your nails, brush a little more. It doesn’t need to be spotless though so no need to go nuts.

That’s it! Check out the video up top to see it happen.

 

Why Small Mountains are Your Best Friends

Let’s keep this brief.

I live on the east coast of good ‘ol USA in a crowded place called New Jersey. The east coast certainly isn’t known for monstrous peaks, deep powder, backcountry bowls, and the like. I dream of these things every day. That said, the east has its treasures. Vermont has some great riding if you know where to look. Tremblant in Quebec is pretty monstrous by east coast standards and it also has some secret, local spots. However…this past Sunday while riding at Camelback, a small resort in the Pocono Mountains of PA, I realized why all the small mountains local to Jersey are actually our best friends.

Small mountains are easy. Literally, they are easy to ride. That gives me the confidence to start trying stuff. There’s no pressure really because 1) everyone is generally pretty bad, and 2) the terrain is more suitable for people who are generally pretty bad. That means the park is probably going to have mostly easy jibs and jumps. That also probably means you’ll find the mountain’s only “double black diamond” is totally untouched and never has more than 3 people (give or take) on it at a time. That’s what I did almost all day at Camelback. The jumps in the park were fun and no bigger than 25 feet, and 85% of the jibs were boxes. The snow on the double black was great and the rollers near the bottom were sick for throwing 180s and trying 360s.

Sure, these mountains can get crowded on weekends and holidays, but if you stick to my theory and go to the “hardest” trails, no one will follow you. If anyone does, they’re either going to the bottom on their ass or they’ll fly past you. The bottom line is, use small, local mountains to help you get better. Then go kill it where it counts.