By: Tim McManus
It was just a matter of time,when you think about all the "boarding" sports. Really, it shouldn't be surprising someone finally came up with a device that allows adrenaline junkies to hurl themselves down mountains with reckless abandon, even after the snow has melted.
Enter the Mountainboard.
These burly cousins of the boarding world are not just skateboards with Tonka wheels. We're talking serious downhill machines. The deck is a snowboard/wakeboard mix?an aspen core deck coated in fiber flex. The board itself is shaped like the arch of a foot, providing both bounce and even weight distribution when you stand on it. Mounted on high performance suspension and off-road tires, mountainboards also come equipped with slip-in bindings for more control. The V brake system is optional and suggested for beginners. Not very cumbersome, the brake system extends from the back trucks to a hand unit. Cranking on the brakes will definitely come in handy as a first time user gets used to the rail-to-rail turns.
In 1993, Jason Lee and Patrick McConnell created Mountainboard Sports as a way to get their fix after the snow melted and their snowboards were on the shelf. As a result, snowboarders were the first group exposed to the sport, but the demographic is growing. The next generation of mountainboarders includes skateboarders, surfers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts looking to charge single tracks, big air or on the street.
And that is the great thing about this young, but growing sport. Mountainboarding enables snowboarders to bomb hills after the snow is gone; skateboarders to expand their possibilities off-road; and surfers to carve even when it's flat. All you need is the hill and the gumption?gravity takes care of the rest.
Just riding these all-terrain skateboards creates instant stoke. In the last few weeks I've been thrown headfirst into the world of mountainboarding. It started with my friends Richard and Brent, who bought boards and started crashing single-track along with mountain bikers. And my first thought after watching Richard in the mountains of Greenville, SC was honestly, 'My buddy has gone crazy.' When a snowboarder crashes, they slam into snow: a soft place. When Richard toppled to the earth, he landed on the unforgiving dirt. But properly rigged from head to toe in protection (helmet, wrist guards, kneepads and elbow pads), he pressed on and started landing big airs. This sport has a slow learning curve, and you are going to crash.
Soon I was hearing exploits of 180's and power carves, so I decided to check it out for myself.
I'm at the bottom of the hill, looking up at the under belly of a dry creek bed. Richard is strapped in at the top of the hill on a narrow stretch of single track. As he takes off, I'm surprised to see the speed he generates. The board registers no resistance from bumps in the trail. Then, as he approaches the creek bed, he hops and because of the bindings, the board follows. Next thing I know he's 10-feet in the air, flying over me and landing on the other side. He completely bit it, putting too much weight forward and launching over his trucks, but it still looked fun. After he landed one, tweaking a method in mid air, and barreled down the trail hooting, I knew I had to try it.
I stepped into the bindings and it was go time. As I began descending on the rocky rooted single track, I was shocked at how well the shocks absorbed the bumps allowing for intense acceleration. Thankfully, my surfing skills were applicable and I was able to slow down by arcing rail to rail turns, cruising with no problem on and, at times, off of the trail. I must admit that I wasn't flying the first time down, but I guarantee I will be soon. Why? Because this is the closest thing to surfing I've done since returning from my last trip to Costa Rica.
Richard and I then took turns bombing down streets, and even on pavement, this board rocks. No speed wobbles here, the board stays steady even at terminal velocity. And freestylers revel in the big-air launches, instigating the same breed of maniacs who turn heads in BMX and snowboard Big Air shows. The mountainboard possibilities are vast and apply to all levels of adrenaline junkies.
In other words, you should have a Mountainboard stashed in your car right next to the Frisbee. These boards are killer no matter your skill level and you can ride them just about anywhere.