Snowboard flex rating is essentially as it sounds - it describes how flexible a snowboard is.
There is a large variance in that flexibility depending on the snowboard and what it’s designed for.
The first part of this post will go into more details on the different types of flex and the different flex ratings that are typically used by manufacturers.
The second part will take a look at what level of flex you should be going for - this will depend on your style and ability level.
Flex Rating Explained
There are broadly two different types of flex in a snowboard - longitudinal and torsional.
Longitudinal and Torsional Flex
Longitudinal flex is the flexibility of the snowboard length ways (from nose to tail). This is what is typically referred to when talking about the flex of a board. The flex rating given by manufacturers refers to the longitudinal flex and so will be the focus of this post.
Longitudinal flex can be progressive or continuous. Progressive flex means that the flex in the center of the board, the nose and the tail could all have different levels of flex.
The following are common, but this isn't exhaustive:
- Stiffer flex between the bindings with softer flex tip and tail
- Softer flex between the bindings with stiffer flex tip and tail
- Stiffer flex in the tail, and softer flex in the nose (usually not the other way around though)
- Consistent flex between the bindings and in the tip and tail
This all depends on what the snowboard is designed to do and I’ll get more into that in the “what flex is best” section below.
Torsional flex is the flex width ways (from edge to edge). This is generally not considered by people when deciding on their snowboard purchase and typically there isn't a rating given out by manufacturers for this. Whether or not it should be considered is a debate for another post (but feel free to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this).
There may be the argument that Torsional flex deserves more attention as a softer torsional flex will help with sharper turns and getting spins around a stiffer torsional flex will increase edge-hold (so it does have an effect).
The Flex Ratings
There isn’t a generalized standard across snowboarding manufacturers so there will be some difference in what one manufacturer considers “medium” compared to another. This is partly because there isn't any efforts to create a generalized system and partly because it's difficult to do so, given differing torsional flex and different flex in different areas of the snowboard (tip, tail, between the bindings etc).
Usually flex is described in one of two ways (or both) - on a scale of 1 to 10 or on a scale of soft to stiff.
If rated out of 10 then:
- 1-2 translates to soft flex
- 3-4 means medium-to-soft flex
- 5-6 means medium flex
- 7-8 means medium-to-stiff flex; and
- 9-10 means stiff flex
I have seen other scales that translate more like this:
- 1-2 is soft
- 3-5 is medium
- 6-8 is stiff; and
- 9-10 is very stiff
Essentially they are saying the same thing but with different terms (and different number ranges) so it pays to double check the scale that the retailer or manufacturer is using before deciding.
For example one retailer may use the second scale above and rate the board as medium and in reality it has a flex of 3 out of 10 - that same board would be rated as medium-to-soft on the other rating - so make sure you know the scales being used.
All the reviews and discussions surrounding flex on this website use the first scale above, unless otherwise mentioned. And I try to give both a word flex rating and a number rating so it is more clear as to the actual flex of the board.
What Flex is Best?
O.k. that’s all well and good but which flex is better? This, of course, depends on a number of factors including style, ability and bodyweight.
Every rating of flex all the way from 1 to 10 has it’s uses and is the “best” in any given situation.
Certain styles are more conducive to either a softer or stiffer flex.
If you are a freestyle rider who likes to ride in the park or on the streets, then you usually want a softer flexing board. This increases maneuverability for spins, allows for easier butters/presses, other ground tricks, and easier/better on jibs
Flex is typically the same in the nose as it is in the tail. This is so that the board feels the same or similar riding in either direction so that you can ride, land, takeoff, press etc in either direction with ease.
Street (aka Urban/Jib/Noodles) boards tend to be very soft, 1-2 out of 10 and will perform very well with butters - but they won’t take you very far from the park and may not be suitable for bigger features.
For a more rounded freestyle board that you can take on bigger jumps, and you can still ride around the resort, then a flex more like 3-6 out of 10 is more appropriate - the softer side for those who are looking to do more buttering, jibbing and small jumps, and for those who are new to freestyle/park riding. And the stiffer side for those looking to get bigger air, are more experienced park riders, who favor the jump line over the jib line - and for those who also want to ride the pipe.
If you are a free-rider who loves to ride the backcountry, bomb steeps at speed and generally ride aggressively and love to carve, then a stiffer flex will serve you much better than a soft flex.
A stiffer flex will give you greater stability and edge-hold, particularly at high speeds.
The flex in the nose is often softer than it is in the tail. The softer nose helps to keep it afloat in powder and the stiffer tail helps with edge-hold and really ripping carves.
Freeride boards will typically have anything from a 7 to 10 flex (depending on personal preference bodyweight etc). You can get some that are a little softer, but the majority are in that flex range.
All Mountain riders who like to do a bit of everything will naturally look for something in between.
A majority of all mountain boards will be between 4 and 7 out of 10. Though beginner all-mountain and all-mountain-freestyle boards can be a lot softer too.
All-mountain boards are often either leaning towards freeride or freestyle and can be more or less aggressive, depending on a number of factors. Stiffer all-mountain boards tend to be more aggressive - though other factors of the snowboard (e.g. camber profile, sidecut etc) also contribute to how aggressive a snowboard feels.
As well as style, ability affects your flex decision too.
A softer flexing board is easier to control and to maneuver, particularly at slow speeds and is more forgiving of mistakes. It makes turn initiations physically easier too. Therefore a softer flex is typically better for beginners.
Depending on whether you're a high end beginner, a beginner-beginner, your body weight and how soon you are willing to upgrade will depend on if you go more for a really soft flex or more of a medium-soft (3 or 4 out of 10) flex.
Check out the post below for more on what makes the best beginner snowboard:
>>How to choose the best snowboard for beginners
Also check out:
Finally, what flex is right for you also very much depends on your weight.
If you are on the lighter side, then a board that is too stiff is going to be very difficult to control - the board will likely be taking you for a ride down the mountain rather than you riding it! And if you're on the heavier side a board might feel too soft and noodly for your tastes.
But if you get a board in the right length, then the flex should feel right for you - and thankfully most (but not all) manufacturers have a suggested weight range for each length of a particular snowboard. The length of the board also affects the board’s flex.
Check out my post on finding the right length snowboard for more info about choosing the best length.
Finding the right length for your weight should give you the right flex-feel for your style/ability as per above. But if you're:
- particularly strong/big/athletic, then going for the higher end of the flex range for your style/ability is a good way to go.
And if you're:
- particularly light/not-so-strong, then going for the lower end of the flex range for your style/ability is a good call.
And that’s about the gist of it
O.k. so hopefully you’ve learned something about snowboard flex today and hopefully this will help with figuring out which flex is best for you, when you're searching for your next snowboard.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Image Credits From Top
Photo by How I See Life [CC BY 2.0], via Flikr
Photo by Snowticias.com [CC BY 2.0], via Flikr
Photo by Ripley119 at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL]
Brig Lambert says
Nate – excellent website! With your research would you happen to know how much a board flexes? I’m interested to know how much a board flexes when riding a rail and also how much it flexes when carving hard, sharp turns. Not sure how this would be measured, but assuming an even flex throughout the board and assuming the tip and tail (when the board is lying flat), would be at 0 what would you estimate the flex of an standard board would be? When riding a rail, would the tip and tail be -2 or -3cm (below the neutral position of 0)? When carving a hard turn would the tip and tail be at a + 3 or +4cm above the neutral position of 0? Does that makes sense? I appreciate any help you might be able to offer.
Thanks for your message.
I think I get what you’re asking – a really interesting question! But I’m really not sure of the answer – it’s not something I’ve really thought about – and I think you’d need to film the board on a rail and film the board during a big carve and then maybe freeze frame it and there might be some kind of software to measure the bend, but it’s not something I’ve done or even though about. But it would certainly differ depending on how soft or stiff the board is. A softer board, I would imagine, would quite a bit more than -3cm below the neutral position of 0 when board sliding a rail – and I also think it depends on how high you landed on the rail from. I feel like even a stiffer board would probably bend to -2cm below neutral, but that would just be a guess.
Really interesting question – what made you think of it?
Brig Lambert says
Thanks for the quick reply, Nate. I’ve been kicking around ideas for bindings and one of the designs could potentially be influenced by the flex of the board. I’m sure no one has really given it much thought and I think you’re right. If I want to get specifics on the amount of flex I’ll need to record it and measure that way, which I can do with some of the 3D apps I have. Thanks again!
You’re very welcome Lambert. Would be super interested in the results, if you do end up doing it.
Louise Clauson-Kaas says
I was wondering if the flex of the board changes over time? I was practicing some butters off snow earlier, and someone pointed out to me that I should be careful not to loose my boards flex. I’ve been a little scared to get on the board since😅
Thanks for your message.
All boards soften up a little over time for sure. And yeah the more you do on them, the quicker they will soften up. But I wouldn’t be scared to practice butters at all. The board is made for riding and if you like to butter, then it’s a great idea to practice them! Riding your board will soften it up over time, but it takes time – and the boards there to be ridden. I wouldn’t worry about it all. Don’t not do something on your board just because of fear of that, if it’s something you like to do on your board. Well, that’s my perspective on it anyway. You’re not going to end up with a noodle just practicing some butters
Mark V-S says
Firstly, great job on the site – super informative. I need some advice as I am looking a a new board, I ride a ’09 Forum Seeker most days with an ’09 Arbor A Frame for groomers. I used to be pretty dialled in to the latest board developments, but children put a stop to new boards for a while and now I see that tech has moved on. I want to stick with a stiff free-ride board, my issue is that in Sweden I cannot test-ride, so I have to get it right straight out of the box, particularly given the price tag. I liked the look of the Jones Mountain Twin or Capita DOA, but then there is the Ride War Pig which seems to be a whole different issue with sizing. I am an aggressive rider and like to hit it hard and fast, I need a damp board that carves well but can still grab a bit of pow and nip in the trees. I am 5’8″ and 182lbs and ride a old pair of Burton P1s and Thirty Two TM2 XLTs. I guess I need to know whether to stick with a standard camber board or change it up, and if so is the War Pig for my ride style. Any advice is appreciated.
Thanks for your message.
Based on what you’re describing, I wouldn’t go Warpig. Just because I think you need something more aggressive. Equally I wouldn’t go DOA, because it’s more freestyle oriented, and I think there are better options for your style. The Mountain Twin might work, but it’s still not that freeride oriented – and if you’re looking to go stiff again, like similar to something like the A-Frame, then all of those will probably be too soft for what you’re looking for.
Based on what you’re describing, I would go for a freeride board. Check out the following for some good options:
>> My Top 5 Freeride Snowboards
I think those would be better suited to what you’re describing. If you were convinced to go Pig – then I would go for the Ride MTNPIG (for a more freeride oriented and a more traditional width version) or the SuperPig (still short wide but stiffer more freeride). I haven’t ridden either of those, but I would say they would suit you more than the regular Warpig.
Hope this helps
I’m really curious about the between board flex and weight of riders.
For example, flex 5 medium snowboard deck could be stable for a rider, weight 180lbs, for over 40ft big kicker and riding all mountain and might be stiffer for a rider, weight 150lbs.
So, flex 4 medium-soft could be suitable with a weight 150lbs rider for over 40ft big kicker and riding all mountain.
Does it make sense?
Thanks for your message.
Yeah what you’re saying makes sense for sure. But it also depends on size. So a longer board is also going to feel stiffer for a lighter rider than the same board in a smaller size. So, a board that’s rated as 5/10 flex, is that flex for that size for a particular weight – and for a particular size can feel softer or stiffer depending on the rider’s weight. But assuming you get the board in a suitable size for you, then it should feel roughly the flex that it’s rated at (though, IMO, some flex ratings can be a bit off, but that’s another story).
Hope this makes helps and makes sense.
First off…super job on the website! So much information jam packed into one place makes it very easy to do research.
A little backstory on me…I used to ride enough back in the late nineties and early two thousands that the largest board I ever went with was a 159 and at that time I was around 225-235lbs.
Then my schooling and new job of being a teacher kind of got in the way of riding (not to mention the $ getting to/from the mountain and lift tickets). Fast forward 13 years and a “little” extra weight @ 300lbs now.
I recently just got the Smokin Big Wig 162, K2 Maysis Boots sz11, and Flow NX-2 GT xl bindings. Cost me a small fortune but I’m stoked overall with the setup as I had been saving.
My question is: being a bigger guy that usually rides a shorter board and I couldn’t tell you what the flex rating of my last board (159 Airtime Board) was….should I be riding a board with a more stiff flex rating if I want to keep in the 162-164 range? Say like a 7-9?
Also, I found that the Directional Early Rise camber…rocker camber rocker is a nice blend for me since I have no experience with all these new camber profiles.
Any insight would be great and keep up the good work with all the information!
Thanks for your message.
Yeah, I think going with something that’s a little stiffer flexing, if you’re going to be above the weight recommendations is a good idea. The stated flex rating is going to feel softer, if you’re above the weight recommendations, so if you were to get something with a flex rating of 7/10, then it might feel more like a 6/10 or 5/10, depending on how much above the recommendations you are.
I’m not familiar with the Big Wig, so I couldn’t say for sure what the flex is, but from what I can tell, doing a little research it sounds like it’s maybe about a 6/10?
But if you’re enjoying riding the Big Wig, then no reason to change, but if you’re finding that it’s lacking stability at speed or something like that, then going stiffer is a good idea, if you want to keep in that size range.
Hope this helps
Thank you for your recent insight Nate! I have one more question/comment…I’m not sure the flex rating of the flow nx2 gt bindings I chose match up with the Smokin’s Big Wig’s flex (approx 6.5), which quick side note: love the board . I’ve been at it again researching to get the best bindings for the board I have and you really do have the best information.
I’m leaning towards the K2 Lien AT but the Union Strata looks to be a comparable binding for my style of riding. Really, both bindings seem like they would better match the board flex. I almost sprung to get the Union Falcor because I found a sweet deal, but I’m thinking that may be a little more stiff than what I should get…humbly speaking to my ability.
I like my ankle to be relatively locked in if that helps at all.
I’m open to other suggestions as I’d rather make an educated decision vs just getting something.
Thanks again for your time and the most excellent work of reviews!!
I think the K2 Lien AT would be a good call. Just that it has slightly better ankle support than the Strata. The Strata isn’t bad, but since you prefer a locked in ankle feel, I would look more at the Lien AT. Another option with a similar flex, would be the Burton Cartel Re:Flex.
Apologies for the late reply, on vacation, so taking a little longer than usual to reply.
Thank you Nate! I’m hoping the shop I got the Flow NX2 GT bindings will exchange them out for the K2’s as I already noticed a defect on them as well. I loved my old Flow bindings from back in the day but these newer ones are way too stiff and to top it off I’ve been struggling to get my boots in without having to constantly adjust the strap settings. I really appreciate the response and really am just super grateful for your time. Hope your vacation is amazing!
You’re very welcome Daniel. Hope you get the exchange OK and hope you have an awesome season!
Is a mens snowboard flex rating the same as a womens snowboard flex rating? As in, a flex 4 mens is equal to a flex 4 on a women’s board?
I am looking at getting the 2018 Nitro LECTRA 149cm, which has a flex rating of 3, but I have relatively large feet for a woman (size 9 US) and the board is quite narrow (238mm wide). I have done more research and was looking at a 150cm mens 2019 Salomon SIGHT which has a flex rating of 4 and is a wider board (245mm). I am 5’7 and 59kgs (130lbs), what is my better option? I’m tempted to go with the Salomon to avoid toe-drag but worry it’ll be a lot harder to manoeuvre as it is a guys board.
I’m a beginner who’s been out 8-10 times, and am ready to buy my own gear. I don’t have a particular riding preference as I am still learning control and turns, but am unlikely to go into doing tricks or huge jumps.
I hope you read this!!
Thanks for your message.
Typically women’s boards tend to be a bit softer by flex rating. But not always and not by too much.
Just to clarify, do you have a women’s US 9 or a men’s US 9. If a women’s 9 (equivalent of a men’s 8), then you should be fine on a 238mm waisted board. If you ride with a really straight back foot (e.g. if you have binding angles like +15 on the front foot and zero degrees on the back), then it’s probably too narrow. But anything more than a 6 degree angle on the back and you should be fine. If it’s a men’s US9, then it will probably be too narrow.
Also, size-wise, I think you would be better off going with something around 145, 146 as a beginner. You could ride 149, 150 once you’re more advanced but I would too long to be ideal at this stage, IMO.
You would still probably get on the Lectra 146 width-wise, assuming Women’s US9, and if you were riding with binding angles something like +15/-15.
If you are going to go with a men’s board, it might be best to pick something with a 2/10 or 3/10 flex rating, just to be sure.
If Men’s US9, then you can probably go as narrow as 240mm at the waist, but only if you have angles like +15/-15. If you ride with a straight back foot, then you would be better to go at least 248mm. I know you probably don’t yet know your preferred binding angles but hopefully that gives you a ballpark figure.
But yeah, if you can confirm whether your boot size is a women’s or men’s size, then I can have a look into some boards that I think would be a good fit, if you would like.
Hope this helps
hey Nate! i am 5’11 190-195 lbs. my suggested size is 161 i have been looking at the burton “Clash” board. would it be ok to get a 158 (W) or a 160 (W) i am also a beginner.. will be doing alot of downhill slopes but want to try to land some jumps soon also… appreciate what ur doing here.. would love some feedback
Thanks for your message. As a beginner I would say 158 would be a better length for you. And if you’re going to be learning jumps, that will be the better length too. In terms of width, if you need to go for a wide board – the 157W would be a better bet than the 160W. The 158 if you don’t need to go for a wide board. If you can let me know your boot size (or shoe size if you’re not sure of your boot size yet), I can give you my opinion on which will be the best in terms of width.
Hope this helps
thanks man!! cant believe u responded so quickly… my boot size is 11.5 so i think i need the wide board?
Yeah, most likely a wide for most boards in most situations. For the Clash, you will need to go wide – the 158 would be too narrow, regardless of binding angles and boot brand. The 157W should be fine, in terms of width, but if you ride with a very straight back foot, it may make even that too narrow. But if you ride with a reasonable angle on the back foot (12-15 degrees), then you should be fine. If you have low profile boots (like recent Adidas, Burton, Vans or Ride boots), then you could get away with something a little straighter on the back foot, if you wanted.
i can t find anywhere the flex of the rossignol board sultan 2010(black color)…
Could do give me an help to describe the flex of this board please?
I haven’t ridden the Sultan but did find this – Rossignol Sultan at Snowboards.com – which says it has a mid flex. Can’t confirm this as, like I say, I haven’t ridden it.
Hope this helps
I’m at patch city ATM and I’m loving it! Rented a board because I outgrew my old one.
My rentail (I assume) is straight down the middle. 160 cm and I’m 5’10 155lbs. It’s been great carving down the paths and not stalling on the flats.
Problem is, I love running through trees, fresh untouched powder! 160 cm isn’t ideal for that though. I was thinking about downing on the length for easier turning but I don’t want to loose the speed. Would upping the stiffness help that?
Upping the flex would certainly help to increase the speed – it would also be a more advanced board to ride (which might be fine – not sure what you’re ability level is). The other thing is that if you were on a rental board then it would likely have been slower than a board that you would buy (they’re usually a bit heavier, clunkier and have an extruded base) unless you hired a performance board? Having the 160cm would have certainly made the board faster – but that might have been in spite of.
Assuming that you didn’t hire a performance board, then just buying will mean you will likely get a quicker board, even if you size down from that.
In terms of length, I would say that something around a 157cm would be a good size for you – based on your height/weight, an assumption that you are a reasonably advanced level and an assumption that you don’t really hit the park?
I think based on what you’re describing that an all-mountain or a freeride board is what you’re after. Check out the links below for some options. The Freeride boards will certainly be a bit stiffer on average – will float well in powder and carve well and are great for speed. They are otherwise reasonably limited – but if you weren’t into anything freestyle, then they would be the kind of thing I think you’re looking for.
~ My Top 5 Freeride Snowboards
The All Mountain boards are more versatile but in that versatility sacrifice a little bit in terms of powder, carving and speed, when compared to the freeride boards.
~ My Top 10 All-Mountain Snowboards
Hope this helps and gives you some options. I’ve made a few assumptions in there so feel free to correct any of those.
Ive been riding a fairly stiff board for years, but it seems to me that a medium or even soft board is more fun in most situations. Unless youre in knee deep powder a lot of the time where a long stiff board with the bindings set back 25mm or so would be best.
Yeah a stiff board is good for powder and aggressive faster riding. You’ll certainly get a bit more stability at speed with a stiffer board. But yeah for more freestyle type riding and more casual fun riding a medium or medium-soft board can definitely be better. I would only really go for soft for jibbing/street riding but some people like soft for other things too.
This was very informal, thank you. I have been riding for a long time and I know what stiffness I like etc. But I have been riding Burton and I only really know their rating system. Can you tell me how a YES board rating compares to Burton? On their 2016 website their rating system only goes up to 5.
Thanks for visiting.
It’s a bit of a pain that there isn’t a universal flex rating system.
In terms of YES’s flex ratings you should double they’re ratings to get a rating out of 10. So if the board you are looking at has a flex rating of 3/5 then it is a 6/10. Then you can compare that to Burton’s ratings out of 10. This may not be an exact comparison but should get you pretty close.
Hope this helps,
There’s a LOT of detailed specifics here, and on the rest of the site. Nonetheless, it’s written in a very readable style, and even to someone like myself (who knows nothing about boarding) it was easy to understand and was interesting, even to a complete noob like me! Nice site.
Hey Phil – thanks man! Glad to know that it was easy to understand. I try to think about new snowboarders when I write so that it’s easy to understand – good to know that it’s working. Thanks for reading and the feedback.
This is a very good explanation on flex and generally what riding style is best with certain flex. You are very right about the need for a standardizeed system to measure flex. Nothing is more frustrating when trying to buy a new board than having to decide what its flex is. At one point you begin to just know the brands standard.
Hi Bryan – thanks for your input. Yeah you do get to know the brands standard after a bit but would definitely be easier if it was a standard flex rating across brands – especially for those new to snowboarding.