Buyer’s Guide Blog: Sizing Snowboards & More

The internet is a great place to research gear…I could read specs and reviews on different boards and bindings for hours, just building endless setup combinations in my head.  But for some reason, despite having endless amounts of information, the internet has always failed to devote the proper amount of data to board-sizing.  It’s always the same old size chart…weight, height, blah blah blah.  I guess it makes sense though, a website/e-tailer can’t possibly have a different size chart for every board, let alone a somewhat accurate one.

Back in the good ole days, when boards were all cambered and pretty much all had a radial sidecut and standard rounded nose and tail, a more standardized approach to sizing made a little more sense.  At least there were fewer variables in the equation.  Now, with the millions of combinations of rocker profiles, nose and tail shapes, and sidecut variations, board sizing is totally relative to the board itself.

So, how does one navigate the tricky world of board-fitting?  First, you’ve got to establish a range of sizes that are acceptable to your body-type.  Remember, there is no right or wrong answer here; the absolutely worst thing you can do is convince yourself that you need an exact size before you decide on a particular board.  To figure out what your estimated size range is, try a few different methods…consider what you’ve ridden before, talk to a couple buddies, talk to a couple shop kids, check out what that particular manufacturer recommends for the type of board you might want, then take the average of all of those conflicting options and there you go.  Now that you have some idea of where to start, let’s get into the fun stuff and start narrowing it down.

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  1. Tip & Tail Shape/Rocker Profile: Board shapes are about as original as graphics nowadays…there are endless possibilities.  Heck, you can even grab a jig saw and shape your own board.  While most shapes are fairly versatile and will ride well on a variety of terrain and conditions, they should still be taken into consideration when sizing.  For example, rocker lifts more of the board off the ground, which means that it’s effective edge and contact patch is reduced.  Pointed tips and tails work the same way; when more of the board’s measured surface area is lifted upwards, it’s contact area is decreased relative to the board’s overall size.  This means the board will feel shorter and turn easier that you think.  Don’t be afraid to size up if a board has a pointy shape or has a lot of rocker.  You might occasionally be annoyed with the extra bulk strapped to your feet, but I promise you the good will outweigh the bad in the end.  On the flip-side, a board that is full camber and blunt-nosed will put the maximum amount of edge on the ground relative to the board’s size.  In this case, unless you’re looking for more float or even more stability at speed, it’s okay to size down.  This is will decrease the board’s swing-weight, increase your leverage over the tip and tail, and make a normally grippy cambered board feel extremely fun, poppy, and playful.
  2. Terrain: Maybe not the first but arguably the most important category, terrain will affect your size the most dramatically.  Why do you think pros ride their pro-models in every size?  They’ve got their big boards for AK, pow days, massive kickers in the backcountry, etc, their medium-sized boards for everyday park and resort days, and maybe a shorter board for urban and street spots.   Actual board selection is important in this category as well.  Choose a board that does what you want it to do well in a particular terrain, then size the board the way that board is supposed to be sized.
  3. Riding Style: Sometimes its not what you’re riding but how you ride it.  My buddy and I might ride together all day (#friendsonapowday), but we might ride totally different and prefer different sizes and styles of boards.  Personal preference plays a big part in this category, and that’s totally cool.  What expectations you have for your board and what past experiences you’ve had can make a big difference, which is why it’s super important to have conversations with people who know each board’s personality and subtleties.  Generally speaking, if you like to go fast and make bigger turns in more spacious terrain, a bigger board with more effective edge will help.  And vice versa, if you like to spin faster, make shorter radius turns, or ride in tight spaces like bumps and tight trees, then you’ll most likely feel more confident on a smaller board.

Remember, there are (almost) no bad boards or bad board-sizes, but you can size a board or buy a shape improperly if you don’t take into account the three categories above.  So enjoy doing your online research this fall, but remember to visit your local shop and pick up some additional insight from your favorite shop rats.  Thanks for reading!  We’ll see you on the next episode of the Buyer’s Guide Blog.