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The Lowdown on Reverse Camber and Rockered Skis and Snowboards
By Seth Lightcap
Rocker. Camber. Zero Camber. Reverse Camber. Shovel Rocker. Banana Tech. C2 Power Banana. V-Rocker. S-Rocker. P-Rocker … Whoa!
As if the camber vs. reverse camber debate in the ski and snowboard world wasn’t confusing enough a few years ago, you’re likely to find your head spinning like an out of balance washing machine looking at the racks of new boards this season.
Every ski and snowboard company on the market has a reverse camber board model to offer this winter. While traditional cambered boards are definitely not dead, the rocker revolution (rocker = reverse camber) is undoubtedly here to stay, and rightfully so. There is a time and snowy place when a little rocker underfoot would probably do your riding abilities some good.
Are you a beginner or intermediate rider who still catches your edges now and again? Do you lust to ski powder, powder, and only powder? Do you spend a majority of your day in the terrain park jibbing and bonking?
If you answered yes to any of these questions the soft, catch-free feel of rocker flex could be a serious advantage for you. Actually, rocker can offer a noticeable advantage to just about anyone, aside from serious all-mountain bulldogs and racers. In aggressive situations like racing or technical hard pack the edge grip of camber will still be unmatched; reverse camber boards aren’t tensioned to grab the snow and hold a railing edge.
To help you decipher the techno babble and decide if a reverse camber ski or snowboard might be suited to your riding style, I’ve broken down the common rocker flex patterns for both skis and boards into a handful of general categories. This framework won’t cover every technological nuance of the dozens of rocker designs out there, but should hopefully keep your head on straight when you roll into a shop and the sales sharks start circling.
Rocker Between the Feet:
Snowboards with rocker between the feet are characterized by a reverse camber flex point between the bindings from which the tip and tail shoot out dead flat. By making the board softer as you flex the tip or tail it keeps the tips from hanging up, improving turn initiation and providing for catch-free jibbing. These boards are perfect for pow and park riding, but handle pretty darn good on hardpack too as the tips make contact with the snow when riding flat. Snowboard models with rocker between the feet include Lib Tech’s Skate Banana, Gnu’s Park Pickle, and Burton’s Joystick.
Rocker Outside the Feet:
Snowboards with rocker outside the bindings have a dead flat base between the feet and a tip and tail that kick up. The lifted tip and tail decrease the contact length of the edges giving the boards a free spirit. These boards ride shorter than they look. With little edge to release, these rocker designs are the favorite of jibbers looking for an advantage when buttering boxes and rails. The turned up tip can improve powder performance as well, but the dead flat base and short length won’t do you any favors racing down hardpack. Snowboard models with rocker outside the feet include Burton’s Dominant and Ride’s DH2.
This is where it gets tricky. Hybrid rocker/camber boards have camber under each foot but rocker between the feet and at both tips. The theory is that the camber points underneath your bindings help bring back the snappy feel of a cambered board on hardpack while the lifted tips and rocker underfoot keep that easy flex alive when the snow gets deep or your launching onto a terrain park feature. If you’re not quite ready for the super soft feel of a totally rockered rig these hybrid designs offer a compromise between power and playfulness. Snowboard models with hybrid rocker/camber include Lib Tech’s TRice C2BTX, Burton’s Flying V, and Never Summer’s EVO-R.
Skis with rockered tips are the most common reverse camber ski designs on the market. Known as early rise or shovel rocker tips, the concept keeps your ski tips floating above the pow while the traditional camber underfoot and through the tail gives you the same snappy turn initiation you’ve come to expect. These designs excel as all-around skis as they can still handle the hard pack and crud but keep your tips from catching in deep snow. The differences in models will be how much the tip is lifted and how far in front of the binding the rocker begins. Ski models with rockered tips include Moment’s Comi and the K2 Coomback.
This design is where the rocker revolution originated (Thanks Shane!). Skis with full rocker have tips and tails that bow up from a flat spot under the binding. This design is perfect for the deep pow or the terrain park as the tips are always floating above the snow or the park features. Without much edge on the snow these skis may feel a bit squirrelly on hardpack and are not the best racers – unless maybe you’re racing your buddy down KT-22 on a knee-deep day. Ski models with full rocker include the K2 Pontoon and the Moment Rocker.
Camber Underfoot, Rockered Tips and Tails:
Here we go again with the hybrid designs. Skis with rockered tips and tails but camber underfoot are built to be the best of both worlds. The camber underfoot keeps you railing on the hardpack while the rocker tips keep you floating on those dream days. The amount of rocker in both the tip and tail will vary with most designs offering more lift in the tip than the tail. This concept seems to be winning over most professional freeskiers so look out for many, many more models with this hybrid design in the future. Ski models with camber underfoot and rockered tips include the K2 ObSETHed, the Rossignol S7, the Salomon Czar, and the 4FRNT CRJ.