If you’ve ever heard people talking about camber and rocker on a snowboard, and wanted to know more about it, then you’re in the right place. Welcome to our quick and dirty guide on rocker and camber!
As if buying a snowboard wasn’t complicated enough already, now we've got to add in another element? Camber is a tricky beast to wrap your head around, but if you’re looking to pick up a new board, or just take your riding to the next level, then it’s an essential piece of snowboard know-how to master. Knowing your rockers from your cambers will allow you to optimise your board selection and your riding and dial in your style. So sit back, get comfy with your snowboard jackets and snowboard pants, and read on to find out the differences between camber and rocker, and how it’ll supercharge your riding.
Rocker and camber are the two main ‘profiles’ we use when talking about snowboards. The reason we use the term profiles is because you can only see the camber profile when viewing a snowboard from… profile. To make matters worse, when people talk about the ‘camber’ of a snowboard, they may be referring to both rocker and camber.
Camber is the shape that the board takes on when viewed from the side. It may be concave, convex, or a little bit of both. And every wave, every dip, and every bulge will have a significant effect on your riding. So let's dig into the parts of the snowboard first so we can get a good handle on exactly how a camber profile is set up on a snowboard.
The parts of a snowboard remain the same, thankfully, across all shapes! You have a nose and a tail, which are the front and back of the board; the contact points, which are the widest part of the board at the nose and tail, which denote where the board begins to sweep up; the binding pack (or boot pack), where the bindings sit, the waist, which is the narrowest part of the board in the centre of the side cut, the side cut — the curved cutout in the side of the board that runs from contact point to contact point; and what we’ll just call the body — which is everything between the contact points.
While most snowboards have all the above parts, you may find some boards with flat cut tails that have no upsweep, or those which have a swallowtail, for example. That being said, we wanted to run through a quick list of basic snowboard shapes to make sure you have a good visual handle on what we’re talking about when we get to camber.
True Twin - True twins are completely symmetrical nose to tail and will have a symmetrical nose and tail length, flex pattern, and shape. Can be ridden in both directions. Great for park and general freestyle.
Directional Twin - Directional Twins will usually have symmetrical flex patterns (but not always), and will have a slightly longer nose than tail to help with float in powder. Can be ridden easily in both directions. Great for resort and park, and are also suitable for powder riding. A one-board-for-everything shape.
Directional - Directional boards will have a different front-to-back flex pattern, and are designed to be ridden in a single direction. A longer, wider nose provides better float in powder, and a shorter tail helps it to sink in. Most directional boards are designed for resort and backcountry riding.
Camber is just one part of how a board ‘feels’, and works in tandem with the shape of the board, the length, the sidecut radius (depth of the side cut), flex pattern and stiffness, and the construction of the board itself. While this article is about camber, it’s important to know that camber isn’t the only part of the snowboard at work when you’re riding!
Stiffer boards will be poorly suited to beginner riders regardless of their camber profile, and soft-flexing boards will be unsuitable for hard chargers even if they have an aggressive camber profile! Assessing all elements of the board when deciding on your next purchase is really important, but camber does play a big part. So let’s get into it shall we?
Let’s look at the main snowboard profiles you’ll encounter when board shopping. Each profile will have its own distinct personality — meaning it will ‘feel’ a certain way to ride. We’ve listed them out as broadly as we can to help you to get to grips with the different camber options available and what they might be like on the mountain!
This one’s easy (thank god). A flat profile will have no camber or rocker, and the board will be totally flat between the contact points. Flat profiles provide a predictable, more forgiving ride than a cambered board, but are also more precise and less surfy than a rockered board. Flat profiles are almost always found on beginner-focused boards as it’s just one less thing to worry about when you’re learning! It also helps to cut down on manufacturing costs, so a flat board will often be cheaper — even better for learners who’ll likely upgrade after a year.
However, the eternal battle on the mountain is whether camber is superior to rocker. But what are they?
Camber - A cambered snowboard is one that, when a board is laid flat on a surface and viewed from profile, the body of the snowboard curves up. This concave shape means that the contact points rest on the surface and the waist of the board is clear of it. This is what’s known as a ‘full camber’ profile, with one, arcing curve joining the two contact points. Cambered boards are more aggressive and precise, and will be less forgiving.
Rocker - A rockered snowboard is one that, when a board is laid flat on a surface and viewed from the side, the body of the snowboard curves down. The convex shape means that the contact points are clear of the surface, and that the board will rest on the body. It can then be ‘rocked’ back and forth, as the shape of the board resembles the bottom of a rocking chair (or rocking horse). Which is where the name comes from. A single uniform curve from contact point to contact point is called a ‘full rocker’ profile. Rockered boards are more forgiving and mellow, and have a looser, more surfy feel.
Now this is where things get interesting. As well as full camber and rocker, board companies have adopted a hybrid approach, with both rocker and camber elements combined. Rocker boards will have one single, uniform curve, whereas hybrid rocker boards will have both rocker and camber sections, with a rocker-dominant profile.
This means that the board will have some camber parts, but is still mostly rocker. Usually this takes the form of a large rocker section in the middle of the boot pack, camber zones under the boot pack, and then a rockered tip and tail which is sometimes called ‘early rise’. Rocker in the middle will retain a mellow, catch-free feel, and an early rise at the tip and tail will improve float in powder and accentuate the loose and surfy feel of the camber profile. The cambered sections will provide more stability at speed than a full rocker board, and will improve ‘pop’ when riding freestyle.
A full camber board has one uniform curve between the contact points, whereas a hybrid camber profile will have rocker sections, but will still be camber-dominant.
Camber dominant or hybrid camber boards will usually feature a large cambered or camber-flat section between the boot packs. This could look like one uniformly camber section, or two cambered sections under the bindings with a flat section in the very centre. Hybrid camber profiles usually have a rockered section out at the tip and tail then, which gives ‘early’ rise, combining the pop and aggression of a camber board with the forgiveness of a rockered profile.
Fully rockered boards aren’t very common in the industry. A fully rockered board will feel very loose and fun, and will be easy to ride in that it’s hard to catch an edge. Turn initiation will feel vague and numb, so the board is likely to slide around a lot. This encourages buttering and a more laid-back style of riding. Jibby riders who like messing around on boxes and rails, who want to just play around on the mountain, will enjoy a rocker board.
The main drawbacks are that rocker boards generally have a mellow flex pattern to make them more fun, so will be unstable at high speeds. They’ll also be difficult to control over uneven ground, and won’t be responsive or precise at the best of times, and especially not over hardpack or ice. You’re going to be sliding around whether you like it or not!
If you want something laid back to have fun on, you don’t ride fast, and you prefer rails and boxes and smaller features to big jumps and charging pistes, then a rocker board is a good choice for you!
Cambered boards have been around for as long as ‘modern’ snowboards have been, and remain popular among more advanced riders for their high energy and aggressive styles. A camber board offers pop and precision, but lacks forgiveness.
As a rider presses down onto a camber board it will flatten, and charge the board up. The board will want to spring back into its natural shape, so when a rider ollies or ‘pops’ the board will help them do so. This helps with initiating bigger jumps and also spins. The board also stiffens when ‘loaded’ like this, so becomes more stable when lining up for a jump or when landing.
This extra stiffness also provides better edge hold at speed, so when travelling quickly, camber boards stiffen and become more precise and responsive, which means they handle better. This makes them more suitable for advanced riders who operate with little margin for error anyway, but makes them difficult to deal with for beginners or those working with lower speeds as they’re very ‘hooky’ and will offer little in the way of forgiveness.
You may want to choose a camber board if you’re progressing your park riding, hitting bigger features faster, and need more pop and precision. A camber board will help an advanced rider to tackle bigger spins and tricks, will be easier to initiate turns on and hold edges with, and will make charging the mountain at speed a lot more fun and stable.
Camber and rocker dominant hybrid profiles offer a good middle ground, but will ultimately form a spectrum of camber profiles from full camber to full rocker. Deciding which kind of dominant hybrid you want comes down to precision and forgiveness if you want to make things as simple as possible.
A camber dominant profile will provide some of the precision and pop of a camber board with a larger margin of error baked in for those riders who are looking to progress their riding but still need a little leeway. Poppy yet forgiving.
A rocker dominant profile will have all the forgiveness and surfy feel of a rocker board, with a little more precision for those riders who like to mix things up, keep it mellow but also push themselves when they feel like. Surfy yet still liable to hold an edge!
Hopefully by now you have a good handle on rocker and camber, and you’re well on your way to choosing the right profile. If not, let’s go over it one more time!
Full rocker — surfy, loose, great for slower, freestyle focused riding where precision and edge-hold don’t matter. Not ideally suited to beginners due to its liability to slide around.
Rocker-dominant hybrid — forgiving and easy-going, with a little extra pop and edge-hold for those looking to ride everything, but still want a loose and surfy feel. Ideal for progressing riders who still need a safety net as they move up to that intermediate skill level.
Flat profile — ideal for beginners, a flat profile is predictable, stable at low and medium speeds, and offers a good balance of easy-going turn initiation and edge-hold.
Camber-dominant hybrid — a great profile for those looking to ride the whole mountain. Poppy and offering good edge hold, but with some extra forgiveness, this profile will suit most riders, especially those looking to progress their riding speed and their freestyle riding.
Full camber — dialed in, precise, unforgiving, and full of pop and energy. Full camber boards suit confident riders who want to ride fast, hold an edge, and throw down on bigger features. Camber is the toughest profile to ride on, but offers the biggest advantages for those with the skills to put it down time after time.
Hopefully that gives you a good idea of what you’re going to want to ride next, and what profile will be best suited to your long term goals! For any more questions, check out our other articles on snowboard shapes and gear, and of course, reach out to our CX team if you need anything else.
See you out there!