For years, snowboarding novices have been forced to meet the sport with a combination of terror and pain. Even the smallest bunny hill is horrifying to look at when your legs are locked into a device that you have no idea how to use. One wrong move and you're eating an unpleasant mix of snow, ice and pride. The new Streetboardz Boarder Kontrol takes some of the intimidation out of learning by giving beginners something they've always wanted: instant braking.
Stopping a snowboard really isn't that difficult. However, unlike in a car or on a bike where you have an intuitive brake that slows you down instantly, carving into a stop on a snowboard requires a little bit of athleticism and technique – athleticism and technique that most people are not born with but can develop over time. In short, almost every beginner has trouble stopping.
The Boarder Kontrol board gives beginner snowboarders a key advantage that they've always been missing: a brake that requires no real technique or training. The rider holds a leash while descending and can pull up on it at any time to activate the rear-mounted brake. Similar to the brakes used on some sleds, the Boarder Kontrol brake digs into the snow and brings the board to a stop. It can also be used as a speed check. The brake stops the rider in a straight line, but the curve on the metal blade allows the rider to carve and turn while he's slowing down, which should help build technique. The leash can also be removed so that the board can be ridden without the "emergency" brake.
Streetboardz says that the brake blade is easy to remove so that the boards can be easily stacked and stored. We'd imagine the large slit across the width would prevent it from ever functioning as smooth as a standard snowboard, brake on or off, however.
Australia-based Streetboardz designed the Boarder Kontrol system specifically for beginners. Obviously, once a rider learns how to carve and stop, he'll have no use for the added hardware. As such, the company isn't focusing on a retail model, but hopes to supply schools and rental shops at ski resorts around the world. It has been testing the board in conjunction with Australian resort Thredbo and plans to launch a fleet there this upcoming winter. It has also been talking to ski resorts in North America and Japan. With sizes ranging from 110 cm to 155 cm, the boards will be available to both children and adult beginners. While the application of the Boarder Kontrol is very limited (i.e. the first day or few of learning), it seems like it could prove a valuable training tool.