Those who can...

Occasionally I receive some goodies from Rome SDS in my inbox (I think it has something to do with their affiliation with CASI). There doesn't seem to be a discernible pattern as to when they arrive — I haven't made much of an effort to notice a pattern mind you — which makes it a pleasant surprise every time. The most recent newsletter included a link to a Shred TV video: a trick tip by Johnnie Paxson to learn/perfect nollies. After viewing the video, the instructor in me decided to add his own two cents.

Rome SDS Shred TV Trick Tip: Johnnie Paxson explains the nollie

Paxson does a decent job at describing the mechanics involved in nollies, however, the demonstration does not adequately illustrate them. The problem is two-fold: 1) what Johnnie is demonstrating is more of a pop than a nollie (more on this later), and 2) the demo nollie was so extreme that only expert snowboarders would be able to emulate it; which kind of defeats the purpose of doing the demonstration in the first place.

When snowboarding, there are three ways to generate lift (i.e. get air):

  • Coast: This involves allowing the terrain to generate lift for you. This can be achieved by riding over bumps, off cliffs, or any other obstacle that causes you to lose contact with the snow; unless you actively do something to prevent it (by flexing and/or extending for example).
  • Pop: This involves using your legs to generate lift (think of hopping). This will generate more lift than the coast method — when hopping off a feature that would otherwise get you airborn via the coast method for example — and has the added advantage that it does not require a particular terrain feature to execute.
  • Ollie/Nollie: This involves using the flex of your snowboard to generate lift. This can be achieved through the appropriate shifting of your center of mass and independently flexing and extending your legs (i.e. front leg flexes, back leg extends). Ollies/nollies are, by far, the most efficient way to generate maximum lift, however, they are also the most complicated because they require you to come out of your center of balance in order to execute them.

If you look carefully at Johnnie's video, he actually pops rather than nollies. Notice at the 0:13 or 0:14 second mark of the video, there's only a nominal amount of flex in Johnnie's snowboard; not enough to generate much in terms of lift. Although his description is correct, in his demo he's using more leg pop than board flex to generate lift.

The fact that Johnnie is not actually demonstrating a nollie can be forgiven due to the large size of the obstacle he's jumping over (the timing required to nollie over even the smallest obstacle can be tricky). However, this brings up the second problem I see with the demo: the fact that it seems to be targeted at snowboarders who have already mastered nollies. This is good for producing snowboard videos that are meant to excite the viewer, but not so much for learning. It's kinda like showing someone clips from The Fast and the Furious to teach them how to drive a car: although entertaining, it's not very educational (a subtle difference that seems to be lost on some).

Professional snowboarders are conditioned to push the limits of their riding (especially when there are cameras around, its the nature of the business). This highlights an interesting problem that arises when asking professional snowboarders to teach: what they do is generally beyond the capabilities of their students, otherwise they wouldn't get paid to do it. Professional (i.e. certified) snowboard instructors are conditioned to tune their riding to the level of the student, this is more useful as a teaching tool, but can be far less exciting to watch. This is one of the greatest challenges in teaching: crafting lessons that are both practical and exciting. That's not to say that the Rome trick tips are not useful, but the average snowboarder should not expect to be performing nollies over highway dividers or they will be disappointed in themselves. On the other hand, the Rome Trick Tips are a good way to get people excited about snowboarding so they are definitely worth taking a ride over to the Rome SDS Shred TV micro site: these guys can definitely "do" what they describe, but the jury is still out on whether or not they can teach it.

Winter Matters Bubble

Creative Commons License
This work by Marc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.