The best high-adventure treks are planned, and carried out by our Varsity Scout youth. This high-adventure activity on mountain boarding can provide positive learning experiences to help your young men to mature and to prepare them to become responsible adults. Encourage your Varsity Scout youth to seek out these programs; it’s what keeps them high on Scouting and in the Church.
Mountainboards are extremely rugged, meaning they can maneuver over any terrain imaginable. Mountainborders can be found on single-track mountain biking trails, on dirt ATV trails, in state parks, on gentle grass hillsides, on gravel roads and city sidewalks. There is a reason mountainboarding also gets called “all-terrain boarding”, and that’s because it really can be done on all surfaces.
Last July for our On-Target activity we ran into some young men and women who were mountainboarding at a place I call “Little Moab” just south of Lake Mountain. There is an area of low rolling hills with trails going in every direction. We stopped for a minute and I talked to one of the adults with them. Turns out they were a Venturing group from North Salt Lake area.
One of the Venturers came up to me and I asked him about mountainboarding. He said, “It’s fun and it’s exciting. If you guys like snowboarding, then they’ll love the sensation of mountainboarding down the hill, and they’ll love the thrill of achievement.”
The nose and tail of a mountainboard deck are angled like a skateboard, but they don’t serve the same function. Skateboarders use these flared edges to make sharp turns and to initiate certain tricks. Since mountainborders are strapped into the board, they don’t use the nose and tail in the same way. On mountainboards, the nose and tail are angled to allow the rest of the board to be lower to the ground giving the rider even more balance and control.
One of the biggest differences between a mountainboard and a skateboard are the tires. Skateboard tires are solid plastic and can rotate on bearings. Mountainboard tires are like miniature mountain bike tires. They’re between 8.5 M 10.5 inches in diameter and have knobby rubber tread and are filled with air. The pressure in the tires can be adjusted for greater traction or speed.
Tires are attached to axles called trucks. Mountainboarding trucks are thicker and longer than skateboarding trucks and made of aluminum. The trucks are attached to the board using a unique suspension system called a channel truck. Channel trucks pivot on a central pin, like a see-saw. This pivoting design offers a large range of motion. The trucks are cushioned by springs and shock absorbers on both sides of the central pin. This allows for deep, carving turns even at high speeds.
Most mountainboards come with bindings. Unlike snowboard bindings, mountainboard bindings are “heel-less”, which means only the front part of the foot is strapped to the board. This allows the border to easily step in and out of the bindings while writing. Mountainboard bindings can be as simple as rubber stirrups, although most use either adjustable Velcro or ratchet-style straps.
The deck of a mountainboard — the board itself — looks a lot like a snowboard. It has roughly the same dimensions and is built from the same materials–wood and carbon fiber. Mountainboard decks are more flexible and springy than skateboards, contributing to better shock absorption and smoother steering control.
So, how safe is mountainboarding?
It’s as safe as any other physical activity, and as long as your Varsity Scouts follow a few basic safety guidelines there is no reason for them to get anything more than a few bumps and bruises. I would recommend wearing all the gear: helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards, leather gloves, long pants, kneepads, sturdy shoes, eye protection. The safer you feel, the better you will ride and when you do take an eventual tumble you’ll get right back up and be ready to ride again.
As a rider, the key to staying upright on the mountainboard is to remain balanced over your center of gravity. The center of gravity is defined as the average location of the weight of an object. In humans, the center of gravity is in the hip area. To keep balanced, mountainborders bend their knees slightly and hold their arms out.
To turn or steer a mountainboard, writers rely on Newton’s third law of motion which states that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. When a mountainborder leans hard on his heels on the left side of the board, he is directing force to the right. According to Newton’s third law, the ground produces an equal force in the opposite direction, pushing the board to the left. The net result: the harder you lean to one side, the sharper you’ll turn to that same side.
To steer a mountainboard, you apply pressure to either the toll or the heel side of the board and shift your body weight into the turn. The idea is to carve smooth interconnected turns. As you approach the end of a heel-side turn, you carefully shift your weight in the other direction to execute a toe side turn. To slow down, turn up the slope of the hill. If you feel like you’re going to fast, simply lean into your turn until the nose of the board is pointing slightly uphill.
To stop a mountainboard, turn very sharply up the hill, allowing your board to slide sideways. To help initiate this slide bend down and grabbed the front side of the board and pull up as you turn. You must master the slide before attempting to ride down steep terrain.
Remember that mountainboarding tires are inflatable. That means you can adjust the tire pressure based on your skill level and type of terrain. Lower tire pressure means you’ll move slower and have better traction on rough terrain. Recommended tire pressure for beginners is between five and 15 psi.
Mountainboarding is essentially snowboarding but done on grass, dirt or pavement. With a mountain board your terrain is limitless and you can ride all year long. Although it draws a lot of similarity from snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding, mountainboarding has developed into a sport in its own right with its own culture and history and includes racing, freestyle and kiting disciplines.
You really need only a 5° slope to get enough speed in which to go. Generally grass hills are an ideal place to learn. Additionally you can ride in BMX tracks, dirt roads and pavement. The question is more “where can’t you ride your mountainboard?” The answer is you can ride it almost anywhere you want.
The Venturing leader told me: “mountainboarding is quite easy to learn for anyone with generally good balance. In fact it is much easier to learn than snowboarding. Within one hour most of your Varsity Scouts can learn how to turn in both directions and board in total control”.
To teach yourself the basics, start here:
You’ll need a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, kneepads, a mountainboard, and the grass slope. Give your board a quick check over to make sure it’s safe. All the nuts and bolts should be tight; there should be about 10 psi of air in the tires.
To set yourself on your board, place your feet in the bindings and position each foot across the board with approximately the same amount of shoe hanging over the edge of the board on both the tow-side and the heel-side. You can then adjust the foot straps to provide secure fit. You should try to keep your feet perpendicular to the board when tightening the bindings. This way when your feet naturally spread, they ride the bindings and hold your feet tightly. If you have heel straps on your board, secure them around your heels to hold your feet into the bindings.
There are two ways of stopping a mountainboard safely. 1. Stopping by turning uphill, and 2. stopping by sliding sideways. Practice these two different techniques to find out which is best for you. A third way to stop or slow down is by using a grab handle/break set up as shown in this picture. This third method is especially helpful for beginning mountainborders.
There is a good chance you will fall at some point while mountainboarding, so it is a good idea to learn how to do it as safely as possible to reduce the chances of injuring yourself. The best way of avoiding falls is to always be in control and ride within your limits. If you ever find yourself going too fast, or you feel like you’re going to fall, crouch down low. This will give you a lower center of gravity and will mean you will wobble less. And when you fall, you will be closer to the ground.
If you are completely out of control and are sure you’re going to fall, it is better to fall on purpose in a controlled manner than to fall by accident. To fall in a controlled manner you should crouch down low and gently slap the ground between your toes with your wrist guards. Your hands will then act as an anchor and pull your body around so your head faces uphill and your board is sliding downhill.
Your elbow pads will then touch the ground and then your knee pads and you will slide to a stop. Falling in this way means that only your pads touch the ground and because of the body position, your head doesn’t hit the ground. The second thing to learn as a beginner mountainborder is how to fall. Whatever you do, don’t try to jump out of your bindings and run out of the fall. That is much more dangerous than just falling with the board, because you risk serious ankle injury. Another way to fall is to bend your knees fully, lean back and tip over onto your rear end.
Our older Varsity Scouts consider high adventure the highlight of their outdoor Scouting experiences. We need to plan and safely carry out new and exciting activities. Encourage your Varsity Scout to seek out these programs; it’s what keeps them high on Scouting and in the Church. High adventure challenges and inspires our young men, and broadens their leadership skills. This is why we asked the Varsity team Coaches make high adventure opportunities, such as mountainboarding a priority, promoting participation by team members who were qualified for these elite outdoor activities.