Riding switch, is difficult but not impossible. When I became a snowboard instructor, I realized how weak my switch riding was. I was teaching a class of elementary school students. One kid was in 3rd grade, and amazing on a snowboard. I had a few older kids that needed some extra help.
How do I motivate the older kids, while keeping the younger one engaged? I told him to start riding switch. He was eight years old, and started to whine about it. Finally he asked me to do it, which floored me. I hadn’t ridden switch in years, so I changed gears. I told him we’d learn switch together while I taught the others carving techniques. It became a difficult day focus wise, but everyone had an epic time.
I felt it was wrong for me to ask a student to learn a skill that I hadn’t learned. So I resolved to fix that issue the following week. I didn’t know how bruised my back, head, and shoulder would get. It would be a pretty painful experience.
What Does It Mean To Ride Switch?
Riding switch on a snowboard is like riding goofy footed (if you ride regular). Most people ride with their left foot forward, and when they ride switch their right foot is forward.
This means they’re looking over the opposite shoulder and facing a different side of the run than before.
Becoming proficient with switch riding has helped many riders improve their regular stances as well. I highly recommend learning to ride switch.
How else are you going to land a 180 and ride away in style?
How You Can Improve Your Switch Riding? Day One!
The first time you try riding switch is similar to your first day of boarding. Here’s what I use, whenever I am trying to learn something new. It’s a short checklist
- Am I mentally prepared for this?
- Do I know how this technique is supposed to be accomplished.
- Is it going to be a good snow day?
- Are the hills going to be crowded?
Feel free to use my above checklist, it’s just common sense and some of the list happens automatically. Assuming the above list is good to go, I hit the hill and after an epic warm up, I get to work.
Switch Riding Is Painful
I’m not going to lie, I hadn’t hurt myself snowboarding like that in a long time. I tried to find a run where people wouldn’t see me, I’m well known at my resort, and I thought it was embarrassing.
It didn’t work, the bunny hill I was hoping to ride was closed. So I used a green run, that was right in front of the chalet. In my head I saw friends of mine coming out of the bar and laughing at me.
After a short ride on the chairlift. I strapped into my bindings, and I looked around. I knew riding switch was going to hurt, and possibly bruise me, but I dropped in anyway.
The First Switch Run
I couldn’t turn left, for some strange reason my buddy refused to make the movement. In my head I knew if my toe pressed down, the board would move. For some reason my toe was disobedient to my brain, and I was stuck making this glide to the right.
At the bottom I decided to think it all through. My stance was off, I was leaning back on the board, and to the side. I would need to fix that on the next run.
Also, I had to man thoughts going through my head. As an instructor I’m trained to see what is wrong, and to try and fix it. That was messing me up. So I decided to focus on one problem at a time.
The next run I am not allowed to lean back. I needed to stay centered over the board, and it worked. Probably a little too much, I almost spun the board around to regular stance.
Starting To Nail It
After what felt like an hour, but was probably 20 minutes, I started to break my old habits. I was able to do a falling leaf, first on my heels, and then on my toes.
I kept doing this motion on the next few runs. It mad each one painfully slow, at least my feet were learning how to engage the edges.
Then it happened, it was so sudden I didn’t see it coming. My reflexes kicked in, and I caught the wrong edge. My head was the first part of me to hit the ground. Luckily I’m always wearing a helmet. I rolled over and laughed a bit. Then got up and kept riding.
I would feel that later on that night.
Starting To Spin
After 45 minutes, I had multiple falls. My shoulder, head, and back were all aching. I kept going, and I almost succeeded with my whole endeavor. The one issue I had involved my left turns.
I used to have the same issue when I skateboarded. Turning left on fakie would freak me out. My body would lock up, and I would stop instantly. It didn’t help that I’d gotten a concussion snowboarding a few years prior.
I had to break this. Especially if I was going to be any good at riding switch. Then I remembered how I learned to use edges. It was when I was learning to snowboard. I would ride down the hill, spinning the board in a 360.
A decade before, it was how I perfected my riding on the toe side edge. If I do it now, I can break this horrible cycle, and hopefully get off the bunny hill.
Thankfully none of my friends had seen me yet, but I you can never be too careful when your friends are as ruthless as mine.
The Drop In Riding Switch
As I started the spin, I thought to myself how it might be too easy. Then I caught an edge, but I didn’t go down. Luckily, I’d caught myself, so I took a deep breath and kept going.
After four or five trips down the run, I can honestly say I that I was riding switch. It wasn’t pretty, and I wouldn’t win any races, but I could do it. Now I could teach my students with confidence, until we find another gap in my knowledge.
Fast Forward To My Class
A lot of my students refuse to try riding switch at first. They don’t want the pain and embarrassment of falling again. Some of them just got over it.
If you can dedicate yourself and start riding switch, it’ll improve your shredding abilities. You’ll be better than your friends in no time at all. While they focus on one end of the Snowboard, you’ll be focused on the Snowboard.
It’ll give more comfort when you’re riding onto a jump or rail. Why not pull a 180? You can ride it either way.
Should You Learn To Ride Switch?
Riding Switch is a skill, and that is something that needs to be maintained. If you don’t do it semi-regularly, you’ll only get worse. Personally I try to ride a couple runs switch every time I ride. I feel that keeps my skills sharp.
A fellow instructor that I work with, gives one day a week to riding switch. He does it for the entire day. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have that drive for it, but it’s admirable.
What do you think? What is the hardest part about riding switch for you? Does anybody have any horror stories? Let me know in the comments below.
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