A sport that continues to grow in popularity, many people are tempted to try snowboarding after seeing the pros flying effortlessly down mountainsides or performing amazing stunts on a half-pipe. The experts make it look so easy, but in reality it takes a great deal of hard work and practice to reach that level of ability. If you want learn to snowboard, we are here to help you get through the initial stages of learning by providing you with a number of helpful tips. This is a delicate phase for a budding snowboarder, as bad habits that you pick up during in these early stages can be extremely difficult to unlearn later, therefore it is highly recommended that you begin with a lesson with a qualified instructor who will provide you with a solid base from which to progress.
flickr image by arriba
Before you begin your first snowboarding lesson it is important that you ensure that you have the proper equipment. This must be set up in the correct way to prevent you from experiencing discomfort and physical obstruction as you practice the sport. To get an idea of the size of snowboard you will need, stand up straight and measure from the ground to between your chin and your nose to find the approximate length. The size of snowboard you ride can also be affected by your weight, as a heavier individual may find that a slightly longer board is easier to manoeuvre, whereas a person of the same height who weighs less may find a shorter board easier to control.
Another vital piece of equipment is a pair of specialised snowboarding boots. These must be a tight fit, without restricting your ability to flex your feet. Test the suitability of a pair of boots by trying them on and standing with your knees slightly bent, the soles of your feet on the ground. You should feel supported and able to flex your ankles.
The next step is to adjust the bindings on your snowboard to suit you. These are positioned on rotary axes and can be turned to the desired angle. Positioning the bindings symmetrically is a setting that is becoming more and more popular in snowboarding. With your boots fastened into your bindings, your knees will naturally rotate outwards, and the angle of your knees should mirror the angles of the bindings, as this will allow you to snowboard comfortably and it will also prevent your knees from locking, which can be painful and hinder your progression.
Once you have the correct gear you can then move onto a shallow slope to begin practicing the basic moves that will teach you how to control your board's speed and direction. In order to learn how to control your board using your feet you should practice going down the slope on your heel edge to begin with. To do this you should begin by sitting, facing down the slope with your feet fastened into the bindings. Lift yourself up carefully by bringing your weight forward over the board. As you descend facing down the hill apply pressure to the heel edge of the board by pressing down through your heels. By doing this you will find that the more pressure you apply the slower the board will travel, and by pressing hard you will stop altogether.
Next you should practice going down the hill on your toe edge, which is the same exercise, only this time you will be facing up the hill. Again lift yourself up and practice controlling the board by pressing your toes downward slightly. Pay attention to your stance while you are practicing this exercise. Your body should be straight and leaning forward, your rear tucked in, your head up, looking uphill. Once you have mastered your heel edge and toe edge you can relax in the knowledge that you can always return to either one of these positions if you should ever feel stuck on the slope.
The next step is to learn how to steer your board. In snowboarding your direction is determined by where you place your weight over the board, so for example when you are descending the slope on your heel edge your direction will be straight down the hill if your weight is balanced evenly. If you turn your head to the right and gently lean on your right foot, your board will head to the right in what is referred to as a "diagonal side slip" down the slope. Practice steering your board to the right then back to centre then to the left to create a zigzag track in the snow. Remember that the more weight you apply to the leading foot the steeper the angle of the board will become, until eventually you will be heading down the hill sideways on what is referred to as the fall line. The next step is to complete a turn by moving across the fall line from your heel edge to your toe edge. As you do this it is important that you continue to apply weight to the leading foot as you turn, so lean into the turn to maintain control of the board. This can be difficult for a beginner, as it takes confidence to lean forward while turning. Keep practicing to build your confidence and feel comfortable leaning forward on your board. Once you have mastered these techniques, you can congratulate yourself as you have learnt the basics of snowboarding.