What will I outgrow in a "beginner" board as my skills progress? What in an "intermediate" board will make it harder for me to learn (and easier for me to hurt myself.:P)? (and what's the real difference between beginner and intermediate boards)
IMHO, the major difference between a beginner board and a intermediate board is stiffness and quality. However, is you stick the brands that have been mentioned, you'll be all set for quality. Even their "low end" boards are great rides. As to stiffness...new riders don't go that fast. Hence, a soft board that turns easy makes learning much quicker. However, soft boards can be rather unstable at speed. Hence, once you are able to go a lot faster, you might want a board that is more stable (i.e. stiffer) at speed. Also, a longer board will go faster than a shorter one, but is a bit hard to meanuver. That said, often people start out on a shorter, softer board and move up to one that is a bit longer and stiffer. Therein, is the difference between a beginner board, and an intermediate/advanced board.
However, these are only guidelines. Many people, including myself, deviate from them. Most of the time I ride a short, soft pure-freestyle board all over the mountain. No question, it is
a bit shaky at speed, but I've been riding a long time and no how to make the best of that. The compromise is also something I am willing to live with. My housemate hates
my board for the exact reasons I love it. He rides a much longer and stiffer board. Also, most new riders are not able to grasp the nuances of the various tech stuff that goes into a board. I know for me it was a few seasons before I was able to really tap into that stuff in a real way. My guess is that that holds true for most new riders.
So, what can you take away from all this? The truth is, you wont really know what board is "perfect" for you until you have both been riding for awhile, and have ridden a number of different boards. I've been riding for 20 years, and I still don't know what board is "perfect." Do some research (and you clearly have), use some common sense, but don't worry about getting too
hung up on tech specs at this point.
Hope this helps somewhat