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Gullwings, machetes, bananas…the marketing terms thrown around by different brands to describe their board profiles can get super confusing. Let’s cut through the hype.
A snowboard’s profile refers to how it looks from the side. There are four basic variations:
Each of these will feel different to ride, with their own pros and cons. So the first thing to realize is that there’s no clear winner when it comes to profile. Like flex, length and shape, it comes down to the style of riding you plan to do and your personal preference.
Need some help deciding? Read on.
A positive cambered snowboard touches the ground at two contact points near the nose and tail. In between these points it curves up and down in an arc, with the highest point in the middle.
The effect is that the flex is preloaded, like a springboard. This makes it turn more aggressively and hold an edge better. It’s also more stable at speed. If lightning response and precise control are your priorities, camber rules. The downside is that – since the edges are kinda pushed down into the snow at the contact points – you’re more likely to hook up, especially if you’re learning.
People often claim that camber boards offer more pop. This isn’t strictly true, since pop has a lot to do with the flex pattern and the materials used inside the core (see our deep dive into the features of a snowboard). In reality, it depends on the exact specs of the board and the ollie technique of the rider.
For a long time though, there wasn’t really a choice. Camber boards were where it was at. Period. These days there are tons of profile options, but it’s worth mentioning that the pros often stick to classic camber because it offers predictable edge control and plenty of power.
Surfers have known about rocker for as long as anyone can remember. In fact some of the pioneers of snowboarding – guys like Tom Sims and Dimitrije Milovich – borrowed the idea back in the 70s for their early pow-focused designs. But it fell out of favor as riders were allowed onto lifts and manufacturers adopted camber to improve performance on hardpack.
In the mid 2000s, when rocker (also known as reverse or negative camber) exploded back onto the market, it felt like a revolution. Conventional wisdom was literally being turned on its head. So how does it work?
On a fully rockered snowboard, the point of contact is no longer at the nose and tail, but in between the bindings. This creates a super loose, skatey riding experience. It’s really forgiving (you’re way less likely to catch an edge) but on the flipside it can be hard to hold your edge through a carve.
At Rome, we prefer to include a flat section in the middle of our rockered boards to increase stability and turning performance. We call it Contact Rocker. The extended curve through the nose provides way more lift in powder and slush, and it’s easier to do nose and tail presses if you’re hitting rails or buttering. It’s an all round more playful, surfy riding experience, with less risk of catching an edge.
As the name suggests, flat profiles deploy no camber at all, whether positive or negative. Looked at from the side, the board lies flat on the ground until the point at which the tips start rising.
Flat snowboards offer a balanced performance that’s less aggressive than regular camber boards and more stable and planted-feeling than pure rocker.
As we’ve already mentioned, our Contact Rocker combines reverse camber towards the tips with a flat section in the middle. This is one example of a hybrid profile, but there are many others.
For example, you can keep the rockered ends but dial up the board’s response by throwing some camber under the bindings. We call that Fusion Camber, and you’ll find it on models like the National and the Freaker. It’s a great option for all-mountain riders as it creates a predictable feel from camber, but also adds a bit more forgiveness for variable snow conditions.
Or you could prioritize freeriding by pushing the camber towards the rear foot, while the front end is flat-to-rockered. Our Free-The-Ride Camber does just this. We use it on our directional boards like the Ravine and the Service Dog to boost the float.
Every brand goes its own way with these combos, but after years of extensive testing alongside our team riders, we’re convinced that rocker between the bindings just doesn’t provide enough control. For this reason, we only ever place rocker at the tips.
As we said at the start, it all comes down to your riding style. Snowboarders with a playful approach to natural terrain and the park will most likely appreciate the advantages of a hybrid profile that combines flat and rockered sections.
If pure carving performance and lively response are your jam then look towards a classic camber, either between the bindings or full length.