You persevered. You sweated, ignominiously landed on your backside and ignored the relentless pounding of fall after fall so that you could master the art of snow boarding. But now that you feel as cool on the slopes as you thought you looked when you first zipped up your baggy shell pants, you are helplessly addicted. And the snow is melting.
However, there may be an antidote: the Freebord.
In the same way that the skateboard first swiveled out of a surf shop as a means for surfers to practise their skills on land, the Freebord was invented for snowboarders who don’t have snow.
American Steen Strand did what many of the gaggle of foreign bankers and brokers who jostle each other in over-priced Roppongi bars boast they will do “one day.” He chucked in a highly paid but hated job on Wall Street, threw away his ties and spent his days snowboarding. Then he invented the Freebord.
It looks like an elongated skateboard and the simple concept behind the Freebord belies the fact that it took four years of studying for a masters degree in product design, numerous painful testings and credit cards (as Steen will tell you) “maxed to the limit,” before the 33-year-old had his prototype.
But don’t be misled that this is a skateboard updated for the Noughties. Steen points out that “there is a simple difference between a skateboard and a Freebord: Skateboards don’t slide. A Freebord slides exactly like a snowboard and this opens up a whole other range of motions and maneuvers.”
In other words, while Steen recommends beginners don’t try to get airborne on a Freebord, you can enjoy (on a dry road) the same swishy turning and twisting that you can get as you carve through the snow. This is achieved by the addition of central casters which simulate the snowboard’s base, allowing movement in all directions. The four outer wheels simulate the board’s edges, allowing the carving of turns and the dropping of speed (just like on a snowboard).
A vital element is a built-in spring bias that keeps the wheels straight — without this it would apparently feel like you were riding a wonky airport baggage trolley.
Snowboarders are obviously enraptured. Freebord sales have tripled since last year.
Originally, Strand and his partner — the equally fabulously named Baynard Winthrop — built the boards themselves. But the growing interest has moved them into a San Francisco warehouse with extra staff to produce the boards.
Steen told Simply Divine: “The total numbers are not huge — in the thousands only — but the growth is fast. We’re seeing pockets of riders pop up all over the world. They post messages on our bulletin (board) and tell tales of killer roads in faraway places. There’s a community building and that’s rad.”
If the approaching end of the boarding season is making you antsy, contact Sekino Racing Sport Inc. at (0467) 41-4500 or fax (0467) 47-0516 to get your hands on a Freebord.