California-based Signal Snowboards recently fulfilled the dreams of board sports enthusiasts everywhere in its "Every Third Thursday" Web series by building a hybrid board capable of surfing both waves and powder stashes. If you think that the board can't possibly shred on both water and snow proficiently, Signal took it to the beach and mountains to prove it.
Since surfing predates snowboarding by thousands of years, snowboarders have long been taking inspiration from their beach-bound brethren, attempting to replicate the feeling of surfing on snow. The invention recognized as the first snowboard was called the "Snurfer" and, more recently, binding-less snowboards referred to as noboards have been used to mimic the free-form nature of riding the sea with nothing more than bare feet, a little wax and a long piece of foam.
Near as we can tell, not nearly as much time has been spent on developing a board that can actually surf the snow, pack up for the shoreline and surf the breaks without missing a beat. Signal seems to have developed its very own niche. And when you have a snowboard factory and plenty of connections in the greater board sports world, you come out with a high-end piece of gear with the perfect name: Fish Out Of Water.
"What if you could create this cool feeling where you felt like you were surfing," Signal founder Dave Lee explained to us. "There's this whole group of snowboarders out there that definitely don't leave the ground and do feel like they just want to go out and carve. Let's take it back to the surfboard idea - it has to float and it has to be surfed, so that it pushes us to be more surf-like, you know, and get us out of using our own materials."
Signal had the idea in the hopper for around a year and eventually got some friends from the surf industry to help out. The team made the vision come to life by essentially injecting snowboard edges and binding inserts into a surfboard, building a board with a surfing body and snowboard soul. They then made the necessary tweaks to give the board the proper characteristics for each sport. According to Lee, it was the longest of Signal's many "Every Third Thursday" projects, taking about a week overall.
Not being content to just create a piece of art and hang it on the wall, Signal got some help from pro surfer Rob Machado and the waves of southern California in demonstrating the board's abilities in the surf. They then headed north of the border, where pro rider Curtis Ciszek and the Signal crew tested the board in the powder-drunk haven of Nelson, British Columbia. Certainly, having two professional athletes at the top of their game made the board look extra functional, but it appears to legitimately handle both snow and water with ease. And no one's left complaining.
"Immediately when you drop in on that thing, it feels really good in powder," Lee said. "Because it has rails and it really was more of a surfboard than a snowboard, it definitely needed a decent amount of snow. I could ride it on the cat track, and it was fun, but it was most fun with a good foot [of snow]. Then it felt like you were surfing."
This video gives a narrated walk-through of the entire R&D process.