The snowboard industry is undoubtedly one of the most innovative industries in winter sports. Both the invention of the tapered edge and the introduction of rocker technology originated in the manufacturing of snowboards. Both technologies spread successfully from the snowboard factories to the production of skis, where they helped significantly improve the performance of those products.
Member of the jury Severin Ebner explained how why this design received the award: "What initially looks like a kiteboard turns out to be an extremely well thought out concept. A real twin tip board with slide properties that are just as good as, if not better than, a board with a directional shape. The 3D powder hull design and the resulting concaves on the nose and tail ensure high speed, like on a surfboard. The rocker also makes it agile and facilitates turn initiation. Overall it is a very interesting, innovative board."
Whether the unusual construction of the 20/20 snowboard has the potential to become the next big winter sports innovation is easier to assess when you understand the background behind the concept. Alex Warburton, Brand Director and Product Designer at YES Snowboards, is the right person to talk to about this.
Mr. Warburton, in the product video for the 20/20 board, you talk about how the design of the board was inspired by the concept of planning hulls and surfboard shapers such as Bob Simmons and Daniel Thomsen. Can you explain in more detail?
Between 1949 and his early death in 1954, Bob Simmons worked intensively on various theories for his planning hulls. The over-arching theme was the sliding behaviour of his special surfboards.
Many of his ideas weren't properly understood back then and were only revived 20 years later. He didn't build his boards based on aesthetic or emotional aspects, rather he used scientific standards as his only foundation.
Simmons was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, studied at the renowned "California Institute of Technology", was a talented craftsman and obsessed surfer. It was performance that determined the design of all of his boards, without exception. The surfboard shaper Daniel Thomson currently adopts a very similar approach. This concept inspired me greatly during the development of the 20/20 snowboard.
What did the implementation of this look like?
The two examples mentioned cover a period of more than 60 years: Simmons theories from the early 50s and the modern approaches of Thomson from today. Both of them focus the design of their boards purely on the performance they are looking for. I didn't adopt a specific design idea from surfboard manufacturing. Rather, my intensive research on these design theories triggered the development of the 20/20 Powder Hull snowboard.
The outline and the base design of the board look extremely complex and innovative. How long did it take to develop, from the initial prototype to the series product?
We worked on it very intensively for more than three months, and needed three different prototypes alone before we found the right dimensions for all parameters. For the next generation that will be launched in winter 2016/2017, we have also experimented further with the flex and different lengths.
”It is difficult to produce the concave base”
Have you ever designed such a complex board before?
Compared with our 20/20 board, the outline of our PYL snowboard is quite a bit more complicated since the edge is composed of three different sidecut radii. So we already had plenty of experience with unconventional board shapes before the production of the 20/20.
However, the most difficult part of the 20/20 is producing the concave base. It is a real challenge for many snowboard factories. This type of base has been around since the 80s, when the Winterstick company were the first to experiment with it. The Äsmo Powder Surfers of Wolle Nyvelt and Stefan Gruber manufactured by hand also have a very complex base design.
No doubt it wasn't easy to mass produce this type of board?
You can say that again. Right from the start we expected that we would have to work hard to convince our factory to produce this board concept. Snowboard factories live on their efficiency and when you turn up with a product that is not in harmony with their traditional workflows, there is initially opposition.
So we had to work quite hard to bring people around to our way of thinking before we could start production at SWS. But we have a very good relationship with our manufacturers, so we were able to modify the manufacturing process optimally to suit the specific requirements of the concave base design.
Ultimately this is exactly the type of challenge that product design lives on. If an innovative idea was able to be implemented without having to be rethought and adapted, it might be an indicator that development didn't think far enough outside of the box. Only when such processes are possible, can innovation unfold.
It's not only the base of the board with its deep concave that looks really special. The design of the tip and tail are also unusual. Can you explain this in more detail?
The form of the tip and tail are a result of the position and function of the concaves on the bottom. To make full use of the Venturi effect of the concaves, I needed as large a surface as possible at the tip and tail. That allows as much air as possible under the board.
The outline must also blend into the sidecut harmoniously. All these factors ultimately resulted in the form of the tip and tail.
What was the initial reaction of team riders Roman de Marchi and Austen Sweetin when they tested the board for the first time?
I don't think that they expected something like this, but they were fascinated. The shape of the nose and tail looks very similar to a wakeboard or kiteboard.
That is difficult for die-hard snowboarders to accept. But it didn't take them long to get used to it. Naturally, Dustin Oritz's contemporary graphic design helped increase the acceptance. It is popular with early adopters and mainstream customers alike.
”It is simply unbeatable for freeriding tricks”
Is the 20/20 the first real twin tip to be used on powder from YES Snowboards?
Yes, that's right. As far as I know, it is the only true-twin freestyle board on the market that was developed specially for this area.
Does the board also work on hard slopes, and what does the edge grip look like?
Yes, the board is definitely suitable for the slopes. The base is totally flat along the edge and towards the centre we use a gentle rocker at the tip and tail. The sidecut facilitates aggressive turns and makes it possible to control the board despite its greater breadth. It rides like a standard broad twin-tip board on the slopes, and the 3D powder hull concaves of the base aren't noticeable at all.
Who should definitely get a YES 20/20?
Anyone who never goes on powder at their home resort doesn't need this board. But people who love riding through deep snow as much as flying over the kickers in snow parks should get one.
It is simply unbeatable for freeriding tricks and switch landings on powder. With its performance, the YES 20/20 opens up many new possibilities in backcountry freestyle in particular.