So this is the New(ish) Big Thing. Before, there was camber (Well, to be fair, there still is. It hasn’t gone anywhere, you can still buy most snowboards with regular camber). This means that when you lay the board down on the floor and get your head down to its level, you’ll see a gap between the floor and the base, under the bindings. This is what gives it that ‘spring loaded’ feeling. The pop you give just before a jump, the way your board flicks from turn to turn, this stuff is due to the camber.
However, the first time your face connected with a box? This too, is because of camber. When you ‘tomahawked’ (cartwheeled, as we say in the UK) down a powder run because your nose dug into the snow, this can also be blamed (partly) on camber.
So along came Reverse Camber or Rocker. We’re back to laying the board on the floor again. This time, there’s no gap between the board and the floor under the bindings, the gap has moved to the ends. It has become more banana-like. What does this do? Well firstly, it means that there’s less edge in contact with the snow, therefore less edge to catch (so less face/box encounters). It also means the ends of the board are pointing out of the snow (so less end-over-end nose-caught-in-powder incidents). So that’s two problems solved, right there. What’s more, as a bonus, initiating a turn is even easier on a rockered board, and buttering becomes, well, bread and butter.
But wait. No one can really claim that they ONLY ride powder or they ONLY ride boxes and rails. What about when you’re just messing about on the slopes, transporting yourself between bars, or dare I say it, freeriding? That’s where the reverse camber thing falls down a bit. With less edge in contact with the snow, carving becomes more difficult. Going along edge to edge on hard snow becomes a bit sketchy. Side-slipping down windblown, icy 60 degree mountainsides to get to the start of that awesome couloir becomes impossible. So they did the obvious thing, and combined rocker and camber into a single board. This is usually called Dual Camber.
Now, we have a board with a gap between floor and the board under EACH binding, a point in contact with the floor BETWEEN the two bindings, and the ends pointed up like a rockered board. In profile view, it appears as a kind of 1930s style curly moustache. The idea is that this offers the best of both worlds. The camber under each binding means you still get the ‘pop’ for jumping and flicking the board in and out of turns. You still get the powder performance from the rockered tip and tail. You get more edge in contact with the snow when carving than on a rockered board. And with rocker between your feet, you get the reduced edge contact on rails too.
You’d think that this argument was settled then? Dual Camber all the way right? In the same way you get people riding straight skis from the 80s who will never change their ways for whatever reason, regular camber will be around for many years to come. To be fair, camber does lend itself well to freeride and carving. It’s less forgiving for beginners in terms of catching edges (especially when it comes to your first time on a box in the park). I see this as a good thing – if you learn the hard way then you’ll be a better rider in the long term.