Boarding By Jake

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Boarding By Jake

"If you ever want to learn, I can teach you in two days," Jake had told me when I first met him several years ago on assignment in Vail, Colorado. "I'll have you not only up and riding, but hooked."

For the record, I am not a pessimist. I genuinely believed snowboard king Jake Burton Carpenter's claim that he could have me "up and riding" in a weekend. However, I am a realist and, as such, genuinely believed that over the course of those two days, I would spend as much time horizontal as I would vertical. But I simply could not turn down such an invitation from the master.

So last spring, I called him on his offer and spent 48 hours at Stowe, Vermont, mostly at the Burton Learn to Ride Method Center. On the hill, Jake offered encouragement and direction that was clear, concise, and visual: "Get your shoulders turned around so that when your knees are pointed uphill, you are not looking downhill."

I caught on to heel-side turns, but the toe-side turns proved more difficult. After several consecutive toe-side wrecks, Jake dropped to his knees and drew a diagram in the snow the way that kids draw sandlot football plays on their palms in a huddle. Unlashing his bindings, Jake stood me up, grabbed me by the hips, and walked me through the progression to help me gain confidence in waiting for the board to find its line before carving toe-side, then getting back in position to cut a quick heel-side turn.

As I executed the arcs, handily linking turns, I could hear Jake cheering like a dad whose kid just pedaled down the sidewalk without training wheels. I had actually learned to snowboard, for real, in two days.

Jake would tell you that I'm not special; snowboarding is truly easy to learn, albeit with the right teacher. Though he's not regularly available for private lessons (if ever), Jake will get you started here with five fundamental tips. Read on.

JAKE'S TIPS

"The first thing i always stress is the importance of taking a lesson. People should think twice before they grab a board and teach themselves, because the heel-side slam will happen. You should also get the right gear. One of the best things about snowboarding is you don't wear Frankenstein boots. Make sure the boots are laced up nice and tight and that there is not a lot of wiggle room inside. Choose a helmet that fits snugly. (Beginners should always wear a helmet.) Then choose the stance that is more comfortable for you; most people ride left foot forward, but if right foot forward (or "goofy") feels better, go for it.

"That said, here are what I consider the most important tips to having success-and fun-learning to snowboard."

1. PRACTICE SKATING
Find a flat area and work on skating-just like a skateboard-with your front foot in the binding and your back foot free. Practice pushing off on both sides of the board until you get the hang of it.

2. PRESSURE THE FRONT FOOT
The secret to snowboarding is keeping your weight on your front foot. Beginners have a tendency to press on the tail and lift the nose, but snowboarding is not like skateboarding. Nor is it like sailing, where you steer with a rear rudder.

On a snowboard, the front foot is the steering wheel, and only when you commit to driving with your front foot will you learn to snowboard-and enjoy it.

3. WEIGHT FORWARD OFF THE LIFT
Getting on a lift is easy: Just skate into position, then reach back for the chair, same as skiing. Getting off the lift is also a snap-so long as you're ready. As you approach the top, swivel your hips so that your board is pointed straight forward. Place your free foot over the stomp pad (between the bindings), then stand up with your weight on your front foot and glide off. No sweat.

4. KEEP YOUR DOWNHILL EDGE OFF THE SNOW
The second most important tip to remember is to keep the downhill edge of your board up off the snow. As you traverse, press the uphiledge into the snow, especially when your toe-side is uphill, to avoid the dreaded "heel-side slam" (falling downhill onto your back). When in doubt, fall uphill. It's a lot closer.

5. LEARN TO LINK TURNS
The trick to linking turns is waiting until the board is pointed down the fall line, then putting weight on your front foot to initiate the turn. As you are traversing the hill with your uphill edge into the hill, put your weight on your front foot, then lie the board flat on the snow (being careful not to go too far and dig in the downhill edge). Once the board is flat, the nose will naturally track downhill. When it does, press your weight onto your toes (for a toe-side turn) or your heels (for a heel-side turn). As the board slides around, make sure you get that downhill edge up off the snow.

Bio: Jake Burton Carpenter

There was once a boy who liked to Snurf. Jake, as he is simply and universally known, was 14 years old when he first mounted the classic toy Snurfer and slammed into a tree, breaking his finger. Jake's fire for surfing on snow was rekindled nine years later in 1977, when the impulsive 23-year-old traded a job in Manhattan to chase a dream in the hills of Vermont.

Burton Snowboards opened for business in Londonderry-in Jake's living room, dining room, basement, and barn-where a merry band of believers shaped, finished, sold, and serviced the first snowboards. It was hardly full-time work, though: Jake traveled back to New York in the summers to bartend and teach tennis. In addition to being the vision, Jake was the voice. He hammered on ski resorts to allow riders on their lifts, the key to growing the sport beyond its back-hill roots.

Today, Jake employs more than 500 believers worldwide, and his company's gear is sold in 36 countries. Jake remains the company's most dedicated product tester-especially when it's summertime and the test arena is New Zealand.

DATE OF BIRTH: April 29, 1954
RAISED: Cedarhurst, New York
RESIDES: Stowe, Vermont
JOB TITLE: Founder, owner, and CEO of Burton Snowboards
LEISURE ACTIVITIES: Surfing, cooking, eating, napping, swimming, and working out.
FAVORITE WEBSITES: surfline.com, weather.com
CELEBRITY BURTONPHILES: LL Cool J, Tony Hawk
AVERAGE NUMBER OF DAYS ON SNOW PER SEASON: 110
LAST TIME ON SKIS: "Ten years ago, when my then three-year-old wanted to ski between my legs. He's a snowboarder now."
IS SNOWBOARDING A SUCCESS? "I don't have a sexy answer for that. Maybe because it's taken so long-25 years-for all this to happen. Maybe someday I'll sit back and say, 'Wow!', but for now I just get turned on when I see people having fun snowboarding."

Buying Right
by Mary Catherine O'Connor

The snowboard learning curve is mercifully short and steep. You'll likely surpass the novice stage and Burton's Learn To Ride rental gear quickly. So when you graduate, plan on buying a snowboard package designed for intermediate riding. The setup-like this one from Burton-might feel almost too stiff and precise at first, but you'll grow into it quickly and appreciate the greater control and stability.

The Board: With a lightweight but strong core and an emphasis on edge control, the first thing you'll notice about the Custom ($470) is its snappy ride. So stay on your toes (and heels) because it's likely to be much more responsive than your training board. The upshot is, once you're ready to veer off the corduroy, this board can handle both the park and wide-open bowls.

The Boot: Loaded with smart engineering features (leave the molded tongue in for stiffness and extra turning response; pull it out for added flex) and some stuff you might not appreciate yet, like detachable metal ice spikes for hiking the pipe, the Driver (or the women's Sable, both $230) also scores high points for comfort.

The Binding: First, buy your bindings after your boots so you can try them on together. It'll let you gauge size compatibility and comfort. Yes, comfort. Snowboard bindings, after all, are the equivalent of the shell of your ski boot. Made with a light, carbon fiber-reinforced base plate; ergonomic ankle and toe straps; and tough, die-cast aluminum buckles, Burton's Mission ($200) holds you in well. As you progress, you'll find that small adjustments to your stance and forward lean can significantly improve your riding. Burton's Mission bindings are heaven for tweakers, thanks to a forward-lean adjuster you can change on the fly and a customizable high-back for optimal stiffness.

d some stuff you might not appreciate yet, like detachable metal ice spikes for hiking the pipe, the Driver (or the women's Sable, both $230) also scores high points for comfort.

The Binding: First, buy your bindings after your boots so you can try them on together. It'll let you gauge size compatibility and comfort. Yes, comfort. Snowboard bindings, after all, are the equivalent of the shell of your ski boot. Made with a light, carbon fiber-reinforced base plate; ergonomic ankle and toe straps; and tough, die-cast aluminum buckles, Burton's Mission ($200) holds you in well. As you progress, you'll find that small adjustments to your stance and forward lean can significantly improve your riding. Burton's Mission bindings are heaven for tweakers, thanks to a forward-lean adjuster you can change on the fly and a customizable high-back for optimal stiffness.

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