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Learning to Ride: Freebord First Impressions

By March 20, 2012May 19th, 201415 Comments

Anyone who has ever stepped on a Freebord knows there’s a learning curve. There are a lucky few who pick it up quickly, but for the rest of us there’s a period of uncertainty about how the board works that can be frustrating. That’s why earlier this year we hooked up a snowboard instructor with a Freebord so he could document his experiences learning to ride. The following is the first in a series of blog posts designed to address the learning difficulties Freeborders face from a technical/teaching perspective. If you’re new to Freebording and have had difficulty learning to ride, read on and stay tune for the next installment of “Learning to Ride: Freebord First Impressions.”

Part I: Reality Check
By Michael Harrington
AASI-Certified Snowboard Instructor

“Just like learning to snowboard, it may take several days or weeks to get the hang of it – even if you rip on snow.” —

“Yeah, but I’ve been teaching snowboarding longer than some of these guys have been alive,” I thought to myself. “If it’s just like snowboarding, I’m crushing this thing in minutes.”

I should probably explain the bold statement above. My name is Michael Harrington and I live in Stoughton, MA (halfway inbetween Boston & Providence), where I am an AASI (American Association of Snowboard Instructors)-certified Level 1 snowboard instructor. I’ve been snowboarding since 1990, teaching since 1991 and I’m currently the staff trainer at my local ski area.

Another staff trainer from a Vermont mountain turned me on to the Freebord a few months ago and I thought it had some serious potential as a tool for training our new and returning instructors in the early-season. At an area that wasn’t able to open until the day after Christmas last year, that’s a lot of lost training time for the staff.

So I contacted Freebord and after a couple e-mails and phone calls, they were gracious enough to send me two decks so that my buddy Dan (the other snowboard trainer at Blue Hills, MA) and I could put it through its paces to see if our theories held water: Could we teach ourselves to learn to Freebord using our considerable experience teaching people how to snowboard? Would what we teach beginners on the snow work on the pavement?

Fast-forward to Sunday, March 11th — an extra hour of sunlight, temps in the low-60’s– perfect. The board is all set up and I take it to the parking lot of my kids’ elementary school, which had a nice mellow pitch with a good fall-line and no car traffic. I’m all geared up — in addition to my helmet, I’ve got my vert ramp kneepads on, wristguards, and a pair of impact shorts. I stand on the board, get myself into the bindings, hop myself into pointing straight downhill, and…nothing. It won’t roll. Not being comfortable skate-pushing into a downhill start, I look for some slightly steeper pitch. OK, let’s try over here…OK, NOW it’s rolling. Yeah, it’s moving, alright, but in completely the opposite direction I want it to. I can’t get it to roll straight downhill, and when I can, it feels like it wants to do nothing but spin 360 underneath my feet. Shouldn’t I be able to get this thing to make a J-turn, or at least travel across my little “hill” in a shallow traverse?

OK, Merriam-Webster “Word-of-The-Day” time. Today’s word is hubris. Hubris means “exaggerated pride or self-confidence” as in, “Michael’s inability to immediately rip on the Freebord was brought on by his hubris.” I’m more than a little disappointed right now — I really thought I was going to crush this thing. To borrow a phrase from the Red Sox radio guys, “And, at the end of one, it’s Freebord–1, Harrington–nothing.”

Tomorrow is going to be another 60+-degree day, though, and, being the stubborn Irishman that I am, I am not TOTALLY defeated. Round Two soon approaches…stay tuned for the next installment of “The Geezer Freebord Chronicles,” coming soon.


Progression and innovation is what drives us. Through years of evolution and rider driven design, Freebord has engineered a setup that rides exactly like a snowboard on pavement.


  • Paul says:

    as a fellow instructor I know what you’re going through. I picked up freebording pretty fast but I definitely had a bit of hubris too when I first started! (great word by the way!)
    I’ve taught a few of my friends to freebord now that i’ve been ripping it for a while. The whole progression is backwards – you have to start with intermediate carves on very mellow terrain, changing edge very early whilst traversing and holding the carve right through the turn. Once the carve and in particular the quick edge change are comfortable, progress to sliding turns by using the torsional flex of the board to unweight the back wheel a little during a carve. then work your way up to falling leaf (overslides).
    Hope this helps alleviate your hubris a bit! – Paul

  • Jake Dahl says:

    I, too, just started freebording this week.I am a very experienced snowboarder as well and thought it would be just as easy as you did. I ran into the exact same problems you are. Just this morning I watched freebords instructional video on starting out. After following the steps that they suggested my first run of the day was flawless. The key thing thing for me is to keep my knees almost uncomfortably bent too much and rotate my turns around my hips. Stick with it and it truly will start feeling like you are on your snowboard!!

    • Michael says:


      Funny that you describe it as “almost uncomforably bent”–I spent a day during February vacation week riding with a guy with a much higher level of certification than I have, and we spent an hour+ just riding in a much deeper stance than I was used to. He called it “an extremely athletic stance”, and the discomfort you describe is that muscle tension from riding so deeply flexed. It’s like pausing @ the bottom of a squat & leaving it there. Two good things come from it, though–increased leg/hip strength (more riding/Freebording endurance), and since you’re flexed, you have movement options when things go bad. When you’re too tall, you only have so much extension left in your ankles & knees before you run out of room to “move”.

  • scrub says:

    Having more experienced riders around is definitely a huge benefit when learning. Monkey see, monkey do. You wouldn’t just mail a snowboard to a first timer and tell him to set it up himself, go pick a hill and ride it down. Take a lesson if you can.

  • Gavin Grove says:

    After seeing the freebord videos, I fell in love with it. Im not a snowboarder, rather a skater through and through. the first time i stepped into one it slid right out from under me. ive put a solid 10 hours in and can carve now, but i cant figure out to smoothly transition between stances for speed control. Any tips??

    • Switch-up says:

      Transitions become much smoother as you ride a steeper hill with a little more speed. Practice, practice, practice. As you get more comfortable you will be able to float in the transition instead of rocking from heal edge to toe edge. Believe me, at some point it just clicks. Good luck,

  • Eric Christensen says:

    So with the older freebords, like the first years of them, can you replace baseplates, like the brand new G3? The only reason i ask is because it doesnt look like there are any screws to take it off.

  • David Brody says:

    I have been snowboarding since my teens and I am 43 years old. I also have taught numerous friends how to snowboard. My wife bought me a freebord for Christmas this year. I have wanted one for some time. I currently live in Dutchess County NY. There are 1000ft mountains in my area and my street in particular is an intermediate slope. On my mountain bike without brakes I average 30 to 40mph. My whole area has some sick downhill. I have a sector 9 longboard as well and will not attempt my street. But I have in winter snowboarded down my street without problem so I figured I would freebord it. I watched the instructional video padded up ans went for it… OMG! Did I take a header… I am sure it will feel like snowboarding but I can’t control the slides… Needless to say I am frustrated! Board sports usually comes easy to me but getting the board to slide on pavement is not easy to control. Especially since I ride a Burton 162 Custom ans the freebord is only 80cm. I want to ride but I can’t risk breaking my body doing it. My left shoulder is not feeling to well after my last fall. I can carve on a 10 to 20 degree slope but slides are tough. On steeper terrain I am afraid to fall again. Need help once shoulder heals up. Or should I wait till snowboarding season is over ro try again?

  • damian says:

    I am from Alaska, have snowboarded since first grade, alot, in Tennessee now, bought a freebord, set it up, and yeah, im in the same boat. Im sure it will feel right, but it is like learning to snowboard all over again. The board is not listening, and doing what my snowboard douse. I think, my snowboard moves. The feeebord is like no, we dont work like that, its dark out now, ill work on the low stance tomorow, thanks guys.

  • Spencer Whitney says:

    I am turning 39 next week and my loving wife bought me a gen2 she found on Craigslist. I have been coveting a freebord for almost a year so I was stoked. Just like you all, learn to ride video, pads, 14 year old son laughing as he flys by on his sector 9. I was having problems with the edge wheels grabbing too much and the board bucking me off. I loosened the king pin and now if I am not very careful my board slides like it is on ice. I also learned that asphalt rash hurts more. Oh and do not ride on wet pavement.

  • Dave Brody says:

    OK my shoulder is starting to feel better but heel slides just don’t want to happen……and too afraid to go fast and fall again…….UGH I am soo frustrated…..toe slides are coming along though……need people to ride with….FML

    • Noah H says:

      Hey guys, I’m 14 years old and have been snowboarding for about seven years. I just started freebording, and it is way harder than I imagined. Plus I live on a road that is tilted (a cross-section would look like this: .–******–.). I need help on how to make more aggressive turns, and carve on my heel edge. Any responses are greatly appreciated.

  • Dave Brody says:

    SO the boarding has been coming along as I am able to do a 1/4mi bunny slope without problems anymore. I still can’t ride fakie like on my snowboard. I would like to be able to get some base spins down and switch footing on turns like in the videos but I am still afraid to gain too much speed….falling is not an option so I will take it slow and enjoy my new progress……It will come It will come…..starting to feel like I am on a snowboard, edge to edge. SCHWEET!!!

  • Joseph Krol says:

    Okay I got my board off a guy I work with. I’m 5’11” and I have the 75cm one. I think my snowboard is 150. So there is a sizable difference.

    My biggest problem is the fact that the two safest, least driven roads by me, are roads that I attain speeds in excess of 20 mph on. Highest speed I recorded so far is 25mph. I don’t ride a longboard, so this speed causes me a little discomfort. Moreover, when I fall, it’s at these speeds. I’ve slid ten feet with my body. How do I better learn to control the board at such speeds without potentially getting my life wrecked?

    • Avatar photo Stevie-B says:

      Hey Joseph! Do you have any mellow parking garages in your area? Parking garages are a good spot to start out. Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we can try to help you out a little more. Thanks!

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