Do I have to like physics to snowboard?

Snowboarding seems to create an unusual type of oxymoron, do you have to have advanced physics knowledge or is it something that you can simply feel? This is a strange sort of question as snowboarding is firmly grounded in physics while the culture surrounding it is seeming based upon less scholarly ideas.

The answer to this question depends upon the rider and their own innate ability to feel and comprehend the world around them as they experience it. A person can study all the laws of physics and understand every force that is exerted upon a snowboarder but not be able to stand on a still snowboard. Conversely a person may be able to Ollie into a 360′ degree spin but not know the definition of centripetal force.

An interesting example of this oxymoron is swing weight. Most advanced snowboarders know that the lower the swing weight the better the snowboard is for tricks. The question that needs to be answered is why?

Swing weight refers to the amount of weight that a snowboard feels like when trying to turn. To explain this a little better lets go back to our high school physics classes. When turning on a snowboard you are creating a center point for centripetal force based upon the inner edge of you shoulder and sliding the snowboard around this point. Since the snowboard turns on a radius based upon your shoulder we would calculate force like this:

F-centripetal = (mass)(velocity^2/turn radius)

As you can see, centripetal force is proportional to the square of the velocity, implying that a doubling of speed will require four times the centripetal force to keep the motion in a circle. Without calculating g-forces and assuming a constant turning radius and shoulder height, this means that if your snowboard feels like it weights 5 pounds when turning at 2 miles an hour it will feel like 20 pounds when turning at 4 miles an hour.

This information should give us something to pause and think about, how we want our snowboard to respond and how we ride it. The higher we stand up on our snowboard the greater the force required to turn the snowboard. The faster we ride our snowboard the more force required turning it. We can decrease the force required to turn our snowboard at higher speeds if it is stable enough to allow us to lower our center of gravity by leaning down.

When putting these ideas together it quickly becomes obvious that swing weight is especially important for a freestyle snowboarder. A freestyle snowboarder will want a lower swing weight as they will be demanding hard, fast and tight turns when performing tricks and do not wish to become fatigued from having to exert excessive force to do so. However, a Freddie snowboarding may find greater stability with a higher swing weight and can compensate for this by leaning down when cornering as needed.

As you can see, the swing weight of a snowboard does impact the performance of the snowboard. Since the effects of swing weight are rather complex this is not something that should be on the forefront of a snowboard buyers mind. Instead swing weight should be something that is considered when comparing a snowboards specifications to your riding style before purchasing.

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