Proto HD/Genesis/Moto => Ripsaw/Genesis/Ion
In the interest of giving something back to this community (and the people who get here from Google, like I did some time ago), let me give you my review of the gear I've used over the last two seasons. Hopefully some of you will find it useful.
Rider level: Advanced.
Years riding: I rode a few seasons starting in 1998 and now I'm on the second season after a very long break. Previously skied for about 12 years.
Days a year: 15-20, hoping to improve on that this season.
Riding style: Aggressive all mountain freestyle (speed, carving, straight airs, switch, working towards more freestyle elements - grabs, spins, butters).
Rider specs: 180cm (5'9"), 78kg (172lb), 41.5 (8.5) shoe.
Binding setup: Centered, 23", 12/-12, F4.
Conditions: Usually no pow, mostly groomers, this season also park (no jibs), rarely off-piste.
Board: Never Summer Ripsaw 156cm 2015 (previously Never Summer Proto HD 157cm 2015).
Bindings: Burton Genesis M 2015.
Boots: Burton Ion 8.5 2016 (previously Burton Moto 9 2015).
I went back to snowboarding in the 2014/2015 season after around a decade without riding and wasn't sure what I wanted. I forgot what I used to love about winter sports the most (I actually skied far longer - starting at age 3). The first season back reminded me - it was speed and carving. Unfortunately the Proto I was on, did not deliver in that department. The pronounced rocker was scary flatbasing, the board shook like crazy at high speed and the carves were just not... Satisfying. Riding with advanced skiers, you need to keep up and that's not what the Proto was built for. So, armed with the knowledge of what I actually wanted, I dove back into gear research and emerged with the Ripsaw and the Ions to improve on the problematic aspects. Some of you are probably thinking it's a case of changing gear when technique is to blame and that may be true to some degree, but let me tell you, the confidence that new stiffer, camber-dominant setup gave me was exactly what I needed to progress and progress I did.
Following the Good Ride convention for board reviews:
Days: 8. A weekend trip to a nearby mountain and a week-long trip to Val Thorens (a good part of it spent in the DC Area 43 park, Meribel).
Conditions: Very good on day one and getting progressively worse towards the end, but not by much. The week before we got there, it kept dumping every day, but virtually nothing after we arrived. The weather was sunny and warm except for one day. The pistes were great at the beginning of each day, getting more bumpy as time went by, to reach the worst state around 16:00. Halfway through the day, ice would start showing up and things would get worse from there.
Approximate weight: Doesn't feel particularly light, or heavy.
On snow feel: Much better than the Proto, both skating and flatbasing. Not catchy, stable, responsive and springy. It feels pretty planted in harder snow, but gets surfy in soft snow, if you want it to (you get a choice - get lower on edge and compress the camber and it will hold on, but let it glide over the soft snow, without pressuring the camber much and it will let you relax and play). I don't have much basis for comparison, but I'm pretty sure that's what hybrid rocker was meant to be like from the start.
Powder: No powder this time around. On day one, the thicker snow off piste was still nice to ride in, afterwards it got covered in this hard shell of melted and refrozen water, making me stick to groomed runs and the park. I didn't feel the board sinking all that much (which was something I was worried about), but then the snow wasn't that deep either. I'll have to see later in the season, how the Ripsaw holds up in real pow. Where the snow was thicker though, the Ripsaw surprised me with how seamlessly it would switch from this planted feeling on hardpack to a surfy feel reminiscent of the Proto in softer, deeper snow.
Turn initiation and carving: This is what I got the Ripsaw for. Turn initiation is a notch more dificult, than on the Proto. The first heelside carve I made on this board caught me off guard - I was pretty low to the ground already, but my turn was not even half finished. But the Ripsaw is still quite forgiving and allowed me to correct my mistake. You can get used to it within a day and have a good time, but I only fully understood how this board turns after 3-4 days on it. The Ripsaw wants to carve and it will allow you to get your chest to the ground even at low speeds. It seems to like shorter radius carves especially and it will let you make those in very rapid succession, springing you from one to the other, letting you literally jump from turn to turn, once you catch the right rhythm. It's a ton of fun and is, a bit surprisingly to me, a great way of getting by in bad snow conditions. Late in the day, when ice shows up and the snow gets uneven, with more and more bumps, the short turns are less of a commitment - hit an ice patch ? Correct and move on. With a longer radius carve, you're making a larger commitment, drawn over a longer period - with every second, the risk of your edge slipping grows. Doing these quick, jumpy turns, even though looks very aggressive and risky, actually minimizes the chances of being unable to correct for problems caused by the terrain. Medium radius carves feel great and the board gives you confidence to lay into them really hard. Long radius turns however feel a bit less smooth. You can feel the sidecut wanting to turn more tightly, but those widest turns are usually made in good conditions, where this is not much of an issue. Skidding turns on the Ripsaw is much less fun. You can do it to the point where your board is at 45 degrees to the fall line. Anything past that and "you're gonna have a baaad time". Of all of Ripsaw's qualities that could make some people hate it, this is probably the most likely. Also worth mentioning are the two camber zones, which do act independently. Whether that's good, or bad, depends entirely on the rider. Once you realize it, you can start using it to your advantage (with some getting used to), but it might also end up being a headache if you misuse it unintentionally. For instance, late in a carved turn, if you pressure the front camber section, you'll get a very quick, sharp response - it will do what you asked - your turn will become sharper and the camber zone will get loaded. You can use it in many ways - to avoid an obstacle at the last second, to get more grip, to do a sliding turn with your nose pressed (don't know what that's called), or to unload and get a boost for some other trick. A board that has camber from tip to tail, would give you a more toned down response - slower and less abrupt. But this is not an issue if you're in control of the board - it just opens up new possibilities.
Speed: A huge improvement over the Proto. The enhanced camber keeps you more planted, whether flat, or on edge and the stiffer flex and damping means the board is stable. The Proto felt like a panicked child at speed, screaming "slow down! slow down!". The Ripsaw feels at home going fast. It's just the right dampness for me - it puts you at ease, but doesn't let you forget just how fast you're going - a good balance. Going flat on hard snow does remind you about the rocker in the middle, but not too much. Nowhere near the auto-spinning effect of the Proto.
Uneven terrain: When the bumps are big and close to each other, the Proto does much better. The Ripsaw, with its higher stiffness, takes more work to navigate bumpy terrain and requires you to be more technical. If you're exhausted and the conditions are bad, it will not be fun. Otherwise, not a huge deal.
Edge hold: The camber profile, the flex and the sidecut combine to create great edge hold, that is easily controlled. I don't know how much of it came from the boots and bindings, but I could always get a good, precise feel for how the board turned and how it gripped.
Flex: The Ripsaw is given a 7/10 rating for stiffness. That's probably what gives most people pause, when considering this board. I was among those people, but I can tell you now - don't worry about the flex. It felt great wherever I went. It's a major component to the edge hold and the stability at speed, it gives you tons of pop and comes in very handy when landing (together with the camber profile). It can be exhausting in bumps and could be a problem for jibbers (?), but otherwise, it's a great asset. If you want to butter, the Ripsaw certainly bends, but not at all like the Proto. It will take more pressure (from weight, or speed) and it will want to snap right back. You can store a ton of energy by bending this board, so any tricks involving jumps will benefit, but drawn out presses will not look as impressive, or be as effortless to hold.
Switch: It's a true twin with a centered stance. I've never ridden a twin asym - that might be the only better option for riding switch.
Jumps: Great. You can really load it for an ollie and it will react quickly and give you a lot of pop. The Ripsaw also gives you a bigger margin of error when landing. If you're on your back leg too much, the board will get you back into the correct position, as soon as it hits the ground and starts bending. Definitely a confidence booster on jumps.
if you don't get to ride a lot of pow and don't jib, this is a great board that will deliver in every area. It's definitely meant for going fast and carving, but don't think of it as a groomer-only board. It's great for riding switch, jumps, pipe... It's very versatile and for a rider like me - a one board quiver. The only way I could justify buying a second deck, is if I was going to ride in waist deep pow. I'm still curious about hybrid camber, but I'm probably sticking with the Ripsaw for the next few years.