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Old 12-12-2008, 11:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
SublimE
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Default The Theory of no highbacks

If necessity is the mother of all invention then holding an idea in contempt before consideration is the dead-beat dad and progression becomes a proverbial Dodo bird. The idea of riding without highbacks draws such an overwhelmingly, unwavering rejection that I see it as a compliment. Trying something pales in comparison to the strides taken in order to avoid the inevitable.

When I started doing switch runs in contests, no one saw the logic, including the judges, as I literally wasn’t scored. Furthermore most of my contemporaries saw no point either, so I find it amusing that I get the same reaction now as I did then (verbatim); “you can’t ride like that.”

In the 80’s boards were wooden (sometimes drywall), edgeless, had ropes tied to the nose and we rode in socks with metal skags (whatever the fuck those are); so any support was welcomed. Unlike the west coast; Europe, Japan and the US east coast had been predominately ski influenced (into the mid 90’s). Predicated on the likelihood that the competitive forum would be racing (like skiing), the wide acceptance of the highback and stiffening of boots is put in perspective.

The lame-duck two-piece ski boot/binding design has remained unchanged (essentially), representing the best we can offer since 1986. The design factors of forward lean, stiffness and rigidity are taken from ski boots; which in and of itself is a testament to the importance of drawing influence from skating and surfing (wake boarders figured it out), not skiing. Let’s not forget; until the fish shape opened the doors to off center, directional boards, eventually leading the way to rockered bases; skiing also blessed us with camber.

In skating and surfing, maximum control is achieved by minimization of what’s between your foot and your board. Just as TV and junk food prevent people from being in touch with nature; the highback prevents riders from being in touch with their board. The loss of progression is put into perspective when you realize how much our mobility and balance have not only compromised our ability to manipulate a snowboard but remain untapped.

Before you convince yourself that you can’t turn on a heel edge without highbacks ask yourself how do surfers & skaters do it? They use their body to lean into the turn; without boots and in the case of surfing the boards are 18” wide, they’re working against a current and they’re barefoot (savages). Snowboarders can’t absorb kinks on rails because their ankles are locked; whereas skaters absorb kinks with their ankles. To allow this progress inhibiting, ski boot influenced piece of plastic to dictate every aspect of riding is embarrassing (I think).

Heels withstand weight and ankles are the pivoting point of balance; thus the use of highbacks cuts off the ability to balance and distribute ones weight. Theoretically your toes need support before your heels would. I’m sure someone is developing a halo like structure to ensure you don’t have to try at all.

The overdesigned, forward-leaning snowboard boot already does the high backs job for them. Boots ensure an unprecedented amount of ankle immobility; the stiffening support to the degree of non-movement is where it stands today. Riding with highbacks is comparable to limping years after an injury; your body works around the limp and doesn’t truly recover.

The marketability and overdesign of the highback is matched only by there uselessness, in short; highbacks are archaic, expired training wheels that are rolling the sport into an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

PS: Using lowbacks ‘back in the day’ has as much validity as using step-in (shit) bindings; they both inhibit the flexing of the ankle.

Standing up
You wouldn’t ever think of it, as it’s never been an option; it’s so nice to strap-in, stand-up and go without sitting or crouching. No need to dig a strap in pit when in the backcountry and easy toe to heel edge hops (visa versa) when compromised by steep conditions. I sacrificed so much comfort and stability over the years in order to let a 6” piece of plastic dictate how I much I could control my board. Every movement you make is predicated on the highback; the false sense of stability (via burning your quads) is of no advantage to the rider.

Turning
The feeling of digging in your heels so deep with all your weight then releasing the energy, rather than absorbing it, allow for more powerful, tighter turns than thought possible. Over-rotating heel turns and allowing the tail to dig in and the board to whip itself back to forward. Also you can absolutely destroy frontside lips, bashing the shit out of anything with all your weight on your heels.

Traversing
When forced to traverse on the heels, even a caveman will learn to ride switch. Traversing burns your quads because you’re squatting, flexing the ankles (like on the toe edge) allow a higher traverse sans the pain associated with heel traverses.

Mind & Body
The natural flow or chakras (look it up dummy) of ones body is skewed; ankles locked at 90° kink the body (ankles, knees, hips). The highback doesn’t allow the energy to be distributed throughout your body while on the heel edge. When applying pressure to the heel edge, most of your energy is apportioned to holding the squat position. Essentially you’re applying what energy is leftover after burning your quad muscles. The pain one feels after riding has way more to do with squatting all day than it does with riding. The psychological dependence on highbacks is strong, but the physical is nil.

Transitions
Halfpipe runs are predominantly ridden on the toe edge, as it’s easier to generate speed due to the flexing of the ankle when riding up the wall. Ever notice on quarter pipes and heel edge walls that riders are locked? The highback inhibits the rider from pumping the wall (hell edge) or springing off the lip; instead riders float off the lip (not pop) as they run a flat base on heel edge walls. Take Danny Way; he goes just as high as the best snowboarders with half the speed (after landing a back flip) because he pumps the transition then pops off the lip, snowboarders have only momentum.

Landing
In the air, your ankles want to flex (slightly) to keep balance; highbacks inhibit the natural balance resulting in snowboarder’s “opening up” before landing. Staying tight by minor ankle adjustments is how skateboarders do it. On frontside walls, instead of having to be over your board, you can push the board in front of you (stalefish, lien-crooked cop). Then your feet can adjust for the transition easier when your board in front you; like a proper FS Ollie when skating It also literally answers the age-old question of why straight airs are so hard.
February 2004

I rode a snow-skate (RIP) once at Snoqualmie Pass; Mike Olsen let me take a run on his. First thing I noticed was that I cold push my back leg out on a heel turns. It made me wonder, as my balance wasn’t compromised why snowboards even had highbacks.
January 2005

I needed to commit myself to the concept, so I clipped my highbacks off with shears and strapped in. I realized that if I can skate 20’ (coffee in hand) to chair 7 without falling, then I’ve proven that I’m able to ride without highbacks. The very first thing I noticed is that I didn’t notice anything at all; no really… I can’t stress it enough, nothing, zip, nada.
December 2007- April 2008

This is when it evolved from shits & giggles to being an absolute benefit to snowboarding. Reason being; I rode everyday and was able to utilize this factor to change the way I stand on, turn, jump and land a snowboard.


from The Theory of No Highbacks by Mike Ranquet | Transworld Snowboarding

sounds like his logic is on point anyone every tried this?
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Old 12-12-2008, 11:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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haha, well here you go!

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Old 12-12-2008, 11:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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i tried to tell you you where crazy dog!!!!!!


haha sublime brought this up at my house. i think its crazy. like soooooper crazy. i cant belive it was so great that it wouldent be a hell of alot more popular.
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Old 12-13-2008, 12:02 AM   #4 (permalink)
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It has its uses.
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Old 12-13-2008, 12:08 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It sounds to my inexperienced ears like a legitimate argument, a stiff boot plus a stiff binding seems a little overkill. Only think I have ever ridden though has been rentals with step-in bindings, no high back, and a really stiff boot. I've noticed that some boots for strap in bindings are just as stiff, so really, you could go without a highback in theory. some sort of support up the leg boot or highback is necessary I would think
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Old 12-13-2008, 01:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Isn't that basically just a step-in bindings? You just have super stiff boots and no highback.
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Old 12-13-2008, 02:03 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
Isn't that basically just a step-in bindings? You just have super stiff boots and no highback.
thats what i thought i did the burton learn to ride when i first started snowboaridng, they used these. they were shit.
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Old 12-13-2008, 02:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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My second or third time I had to rent step-ins. They worked I guess. I wasn't a fan, though.
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Old 12-13-2008, 02:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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that article reads like a reformed smoker railing against tobacco.

highbacks are so popular because they work so well. they are efficient at translating rider movement into board performance and, with appropriate forward lean, they encourage efficient leg position and movement (hence performance).

if the author wants to start a no-highback revolution and ride like that, good luck to him. i'm also a fan of out of the box thinking and any attempt to make life easier/better for riders. in some cases, it's inevitable that somebody will try to fix something which isn't necessarily broken and the highback could be an example.
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Originally Posted by Sick-Gnar View Post
thats what i thought i did the burton learn to ride when i first started snowboaridng, they used these. they were shit.
burton ltr is all straps (and highbacks) now.

alasdair
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Old 12-13-2008, 03:37 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'll be doing the highbackless challenge this week and I'll be writing a post on my blog about it. Look for it on The Angry Snowboarder he makes some ok points. But remembering back 13 seasons ago when I tried it I can't say I agree with him. So I'll give it another go and write a response about it.
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