Snowboard

5 Different Snowboard Shapes Explained (Simple Guide)

There are 5 different snowboard shapes:

  • Directional
  • Twin
  • Directional twin
  • Asymmetrical
  • Swallowtail

Each board shape is suited to different snow conditions. And works best with a specific riding style.

But to make the right choice you need to understand what each shape looks like. And know its characteristics.

This article teaches you about how different styles look and behave.

Let’s get started.

Directional

What is a directional snowboard?

Directional snowboards are only designed to go in one direction.

These boards have a clear distinction between nose and tail.

The nose leads the way, and the tail follows.

The nose will often be longer and wider than the tail. This helps keep the nose afloat when riding powder. And improves stability at higher speeds.

The stance is set back on a directional board. This means the bindings are set closer to the tail – again increasing powder float and speed stability.

The bindings will be set unidirectionally. Designed to only have one foot facing forwards at all times – since you won’t be riding switch.

The flex is stiffer at the tail. This allows for greater stability when carving at high speeds.

Best use

The directional shape can be applied to both powder and alpine boards. Although both types of snowboard have such different characteristics.

The directional shape of powder boards is wider and lighter. And a setback stance keeps the nose above the powder.

Alpine boards also have a directional shape but with a narrower nose. They use the setback stance to improve control when carving.

Worst use

Freestyle riders will avoid directional boards.

Riding switch is a huge part of freestyle. And you cannot ride directional boards switch.

Hitting jumps and rails is also better with centred bindings. And directional boards have backset bindings.

Directional Shaped Snowboard

Twin

What is a twin snowboard?

Twin snowboards are symmetrical. The nose and tail are identical in shape.

They are the most common type of snowboard because they can suit any skill level. And you will likely already be riding one.

The bindings are centred on the board. This makes riding switch easy. And any rider can jump on any board without adjustment.

The flex pattern is consistent. The nose, centre and tail all flex the same amount. Allowing you to ride in any direction.

Best use

Twin boards can suit riders of any level. Anyone from beginner-expert can use a twin board. The shape stays the same, but the flex will change based on the use.

Freestyle twin boards are lighter, shorter and more flexible. While all-mountain twin boards are stiffer.

Beginners will always start with a twin board. And that is what you will usually be given by any rental store.

Worst use

Twin boards are not the best for powder. They can be used in deep snow – but sink more than directional boards.

Alpine riders do not use directional boards. The centred foot position and even flex make them less stable when carving.

True Twin Shape Snowboard

Directional twin

What is a directional twin snowboard?

A blend between directional and twin boards.

Direction twin snowboards have a symmetrical nose and tail shape. And centred binding position.

This means they look exactly like a twin board at first glance.

But it’s what you can’t see that makes the directional twin special.

This type of snowboard is built to favour riding in one direction. So it does have a nose and tail.

It has a flex pattern that is stiff on the tail and soft on the nose. Improving powder float and carving stability.

But the symmetrical shape and centred bindings give you the freedom to ride switch.

Best use

Directional twin boards are biased towards powder and alpine. A stiff tail gives them power on the piste and floats in powder.

But they are very versatile. You can use this board in all-mountain conditions.

This board is designed to suit riders of all levels. It is the jack of all trades.

Worst use

Directional twin boards are not ideal for the park. They usually have an all-mountain design.

The uneven flex is not ideal for riding switch. Which is not great for freestyle riders.

Advanced riders may also want a more specialised board. Especially if they favour one type of snowboarding.

Directional Twin Shaped Snowboard

Asymmetrical

What is an asymmetrical snowboard?

Asymmetrical boards have a deeper sidecut on the heelside than the toeside.

This is because humans are not symmetrical from front to back.

It’s natural for humans to be heavier on the front. That’s regular physiology.

This makes it more challenging to turn on the heel edge. And the asymmetrical board resolves this issue.

Having a deeper sidecut on the heelside makes sharp turns easier.

Asymmetrical boards come in all shapes and sizes. But they usually have centred bindings and identical nose and tail shapes.

These boards have been around since the late 1980s – but did not quite take off as imagined.

The carving ability of symmetrical boards has improved so much since then. Making asymmetrical boards less popular.

Best use

During my time as an instructor, I have noticed that front-heavy riders benefit the most from asymmetrical boards.

The deep heel sidecut makes it easier to turn on the heelside edge. Important for people who are front-heavy.

Asymmetrical boards range from intermediate to expert ability.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Most of which are all-mountain designed.

Worst use

I do not recommend asymmetrical boards for park.

Riding switch is compromised because the heel and toe edge ends up being the wrong way around.

These boards are also not ideal for beginners. I prefer new riders to show up to a lesson with a symmetrical board. And learn how to use it properly.

Asymmetrical shaped snowboard

Swallowtail

What is a swallowtail snowboard?

Swallowtail snowboards have a V-shaped split cut into the tail. This split resembles a swallow’s tail when looking at the board.

The sides of the tail flair out and feather the snow when riding deep powder. This stops the tail from sinking.

The increased tail floatation reduces drag and makes for a smoother powder experience. I have ridden one before and it feels like a surfboard.

The swallowtail is another type of directional snowboard. It has a designated nose and tail – so not ideal for riding switch.

Some people also use call these boards ‘fork-tailed’. But I think that sounds a lot less cool!

Best use

Swallowtail boards are for powder.

They excel in the deepest snow. The floatation is amazing – surfing on top of the snow.

The design does give stability at speed. Straightening big powder faces at 60+ mph feels stable.

I used a swallowtail while working as an instructor in Japan. They have the deepest powder and the board was next level.

Highly recommended for off-piste lovers.

Worst use

Anything except powder.

Riding switch is off-limits because of its directional shape.

It can perform on the piste and feels stable on fast groomers. But that is not where it excels.

This is not a board for the park. But it can be used to hit natural features found in powder land.

Swallowtail Shape Snowboard

How do I choose a snowboard shape?

You choose a snowboard shape based on the type of terrain you want to ride. Each type of snowboard is best for different snow conditions. And is suited to specific riding styles.

Here is a quick list of snowboard shapes and their best uses:

  • Directional: Powder, alpine, all-mountain
  • Twin: All-mountain, all-rounder, park
  • Directional twin: All-mountain, powder, alpine
  • Asymmetrical: All-mountain, alpine
  • Swallowtail: Powder

Advanced and expert riders should have multiple boards. Then you can choose based on the snow conditions. And the type of riding you plan on doing each day.

What is the best snowboard shape for beginners?

Beginners should always start with a twin board.

This is the best board for learning. You can use it on all terrains. And it has consistent performance.

I recommend not changing from a twin board until you can already ride switch.

Any rental shop will hook you up with a twin board on your first trip. This is the most common type of snowboard.

Beginner Shaped Snowboard

Advice from an instructor

Testing out different board shapes is fun. And you might be able to have a full quiver if you are lucky enough!

Some of these boards can be expensive. So make sure you are capable of using it before splashing the cash.

And think about the snow conditions you ride most frequently.

I recommend everyone has at least one all-mountain twin board in their closet.

Then add to your collection after. Anyone frequenting a powder resort should get a swallowtail. That’s my advice.

Talking about snowboards is fun. But riding them is better!

Make sure you get on the snow this winter. You deserve it.