One thing that’s become more popular in snowboarding recently are asymmetrical snowboards.
What does this mean? And what are the advantages of an asymmetrical snowboard?
What are Asymmetrical Snowboards?
Asymmetrical boards, sometimes just referred to as asym, can be asymmetrical in a few different ways:
- Asymmetrical sidecut
- Asymmetrical contact points
- Asymmetrical flex
First let’s take a look at asymmetrical sidecut, which is the most common form of asymmetry in snowboards.
A board has an asymmetrical sidecut when the heel edge of the snowboard has a deeper sidecut – (i.e. smaller sidecut radius) compared to the toe edge. Technically it could be the other way around and you could still call it asymmetrical, but that wouldn’t give you the advantages, which we’ll take a look at further down the page.
For example, let’s take the YES Greats 156. The heel edge has a sidecut raduis of 6.3m and the toe edge has a sidecut radius of 6.8m. Note that a smaller number in sidecut radius means that the sidecut is deeper.
Asymmetrical Contact Points (shorter heelside sidecut)
This usually goes hand in hand with an asymmetrical sidecut. Basically what it means is that the contact point on the toe side is further along the sidecut than the heel side, which is closer to the center of the board, if that makes sense! The image might help. It’s usually only subtly, as is the case with the sidecut difference, to the naked eye.
Another way a board can be asymmetrical is by adopting an asymmetrical flex in the core. This essentially means a slightly softer flexing section towards the heel side of the board vs the toe side.
Why Asymmetry? What are the Benefits?
Humans are very symmetrical when you look at us from front on, but when you look at us from the side, that symmetry vanishes. And as snowboarding humans, we ride side on!
For most, it is more difficult to rail a tight quick turn on the heel side or to get as low into a carve on the heel side. Toe side is much physically easier to do this on. The goal of an asymmetrical snowboard is to actually try to realign that asymmetry in our bodies. In a way you could say it’s trying to regain symmetry between toe and heel side turns. There is an effort to make tight heel side turns as easy as their toe side counterparts.
How successful are these shapes at doing that? Pretty good I would say. They certainly bring heel side and toe side turns closer together, IMO. Maybe doesn’t make them completely even but, in my experience with most asyms, I have found improvement in response, carving and quick sharp turns on the heel side on asym boards.
Why Only Twins?
You might have noticed that asymmetry is only really found on true twin snowboards (there are exceptions to this rule, like the old GNU Zoid, and the current GNU Spasym). Why is this?
At a guess, I would say there are 2 main reasons for this.
Firstly, to have an asym that’s not a true twin, you need to have specific boards for goofy and regular footed riders. With a true twin, there is one specific heel edge and one specific toe edge, but since the shape is otherwise exactly the same apart from the asymmetry, you can ride it in both directions and it’s the same either way. So, as long as you have your heels set up on the heel edge it doesn’t matter if you’re goofy or regular.
With a directional board that’s designed to ride in one direction more optimally, you have to have separate goofy and regular models, if you have a different heel side vs toe side.
The other reason, might be the fact that if you are riding a directional board you are most likely riding a freeriding kind of style, which means you can use forward lean on your highbacks to achieve more heel response. Maybe not quite the same as using asymmetry but an option that’s available. Freestyle riders on the other hand (who are more likely to want a twin), tend to prefer less or no highback forward lean.
I would say the first reason is the biggest reason for this, but whichever is the most prominent reason, asyms are predominantly in the realm of twins, for the time being anyway.
To get the most out of an asym board, it’s recommended to ride with a mirror duck stance. e.g. +15/-15 binding angles. I’m not sure of the mechanics of why this is, but that’s what’s usually recommended. I have in the past ridden asyms with a non-mirror-duck stance, and didn’t feel weird (all be it, not far off a mirror-duck-stance) but generally speaking this is the way to go.
Again, not sure what it is mechanically, but riding switch on an asym is just that little bit more natural feeling than other true twin boards. Don’t get me wrong, any true twin is great for riding switch, but the asym just seems to make it that little bit better. Riding +15/-15 doesn’t hurt either, of course!
Tip and Tail Shapes
You may have also noticed that most asym boards have wonky looking tips and tails. What does this do? In short, not very much to nothing!
This is more of an aesthetic thing. There are asyms that don’t have this kind of look in the tip and tail, but more do than don’t.
So that’s the jist of asym boards, from my point of view.
Personally I’m a fan of them. I mean, who doesn’t want easier, more natural feeling heelside turns right?
Have you ridden an asym? What’s your thoughts – liked? Not so much? Be interested to hear what others think of asyms. Just leave a comment in the comments section below.