Anyone who has ever stepped on a Freebord knows there’s a learning curve. There are a lucky few who pick it up quickly, but for the rest of us there’s a period of uncertainty about how the board works that can be frustrating.
That’s why earlier this year we hooked up a snowboard instructor with a Freebord so he could document his experiences learning to ride. The following is the first in a series of blog posts designed to address the learning difficulties Freeborders face from a technical/teaching perspective. If you’re new to Freebording and have had difficulty learning to ride, read on and stay tune for the next installment of “Learning to Ride: Freebord First Impressions.”
Part II: Getting Comfortable
By Michael Harrington
AASI-Certified Snowboard Instructor
OK, let’s give this thing another shot. Maybe if I loosen the trucks and raise the center wheel a notch..yeah. Perfect. (Note to self, and to anyone who wants to fiddle with the center wheel–USE A WORKBENCH OR OTHER FLAT, CLEAN SURFACE. Do NOT sit in your front seat with the Freebord in your lap, trying to keep the washers in place). So, I’m back on the board; it seems to be more stable now, and I have this perfect spot at my kids’ school scoped out. Bonus– there’s a maintenance truck parked at the top of the lot–perfect to hold onto to get started. I decide today that I’m going to try a few traverses–a traverse simply runs from one side of the hill to the other, without changing “edges”. All I’m looking for here is to be able to stand on the Freebord while it rolls across the hill. When I run out of room, I just jump off, grab the board, and point it across the hill in the other direction. Toeside first, then heel, until I run out of hill, then walk back up to the truck to start another “run”
After a few of these, I decide to become a bit more daring–at the end of my heelside traverse, I gently roll from heel to toe, applying the new “edge” gently so I don’t catch it and get thrown. Once I feel like I won’t catch, I go from edge to edge like that. It’s more of a longboard-type truck turn at this point–I’m not quite ready to make those center wheels do their thing. During one of these runs, I’m finishing up a toeside turn, and I shift my weight to avoid a burly, man-eating crack in the pavement, and…whooooaa, what was that? The board smears across the pavement and comes to a stop. THAT is a really bizarre sensation, moving down and across the hill at the same time. I do it every day on snow, but your mind tries to tell you that pavement-based platforms don’t move like that, even though my feet tell me otherwise.
Now I run back up to my starting spot and try some J-turns again. J-turns are just that–you start by heading down the fall line, and turning the board across and back up the hill. When you’re done, it looks like a giant letter J–hence the name. While I’m j-turning, I play around with where my weight is, both over the board nose-to-tail, and finding the “sweet spot” between the center wheels and the uphill truck wheels. I want to see at what point the board wants to “skid”, and where I need to be to make that happen. I’m discovering more and more that everything I know about these movements from my snowboard experiences is carrying right over onto the FB. My buddy Carlos was right–these beginner snowboard tasks DO work on the Freebord. I really need to call him up and thank him for turning me onto this thing, because I am HOOKED.
Feeborders, try this J-turn drill the next time you go out. It works going in both directions, but at lower speeds, heelside is definitely the sketchier of the two turns, because you don’t have the security of the highbacks (those tall plastic things on the back of my snowboard bindings) to lever against and transfer that energy into the board. Of course, if you skate, then this should be a really familiar move for you. On toeside, flex your ankles progressively as you turn across the hill. Eventually you’ll reach a point where you’re on the uphill side of the center wheel but not quite on the truck wheels yet, and that skid will happen. I found it to be a good way to learn the feel for how the board wants to skid, one turn at a time, without having to sweat making my next turn.
I spend another 15-20 minutes out on Day 2, and I’m really beginning to see some progress. I’m going to e-mail Nick when I get home, run some of my thoughts & observations by him, & get some feedback for Day 3. More later, Freeborders.