Some boards are built to fill a niche; soft boot boards really have several categories: pipe, park, rail, pow, big mtn., bx, and the self proclaimed “freeride” do it all stick.
Each style of board provides a very unique ride with even the sloppiest soft set up providing the input.
While the soft boot market is currently large enough to support several shapes and flexes, the Swoard may be the first board to enter a Hard Boot market here in the U.S. and fill a possible East Coast niche. Hopefully the Hard boot world is ready for an EC board.
The more alpine product out there the better!
Hardbooter had no plans to review the Swoard at all this year.
To be honest, the shape seems more like a step backwards to the days of long slow edge changes on silly fat boards.
This board may need to hit the Gym to drop a few centimeters at the waist-line.
When boards vary in length, width and symmetry, riders mirror the range of shapes and dimensions with their own array of styles. That is what I found the Swoard is all about; a different style.
The EC guys claim that the board brings out an all new, all improved style.
After chatting with several riders who were new to the sport and had been amazed by the EC web site and sold on the fact that this was the only way to ride alpine, and all that “skinny crap” I had been riding for years was, well, all wrong, I jumped at the chance to ride a Swoard.
I met a guy named John-Paul at Park City Mtn. Resort at the end of the season. As we exchanged introductions in the lift line, I learned that he was from Chile and was visiting Park City on business.
As the introductions passed and we got to talking about Hardbooting, I found out that he did some South American distribution work for Catek and Swoard on the side. John-Paul was stoked on the Swoard and Jeff Caron’s product, and after verifying we were both in the same shell size, I hit him up for some Swoard time.
He was quick to accept and, perhaps, just as excited to try out the stick I was on.
After some (allen) wrenching I had the Swoard 175 with hard flex pattern ready to ride and we were headed for the top on the Silverload chair.
The first turns happened on a mellow pitch leading to some steeps and I felt like I was learning how to ride my Checker Pig G6 all over again!
After a few more turns I even felt some-what like a younger man on a Rossi GS board in the early 90′s with huge edge angles and without any drag. Images of Shannon Mellhuse laid out on the snow half carving, half controlled sliding flashed before me; a very EC style turn but a decade before its creation?
As I aggressively charged on to a steeper pitch and opened the throttle up a little more, another vision appeared of Cliff and the Buttermilk crew riding softly on wide boards in Ride the Edge. (I always wondered why they did not charge at all? They rolled on edge and laid and dragged then flopped to the other edge, much unlike the railed New England style I knew so well) I mimicked the smooth layout style I had mastered watching the video over and over and it almost felt as though I was rediscovering a long lost turn.
The Swoard started the turn very nicely each time and at slow speeds. (under 15mph) It held a nice clean line, almost diving into the snow and begging me to lean until the snow impeded my angle.
Crossing the fall line I rolled onto the other edge.
The transition seemed to hang for just a moment and then smoothly began a new turn that then seemed to tighten a bit more quickly then the last.
Now as the pitch began to force me to accelerate I really tried to stand on the board, ripping across the fall line slightly up hill to dump speed and maintain control.
I dragged my body inside of each turn I lay out as much as possible between the edge changes, with the moist late season Utah snow sticking to me as it sprays everywhere but holding up very well under the big fat platform of the Swoard.
For just a moment a smile creeps onto my face as I imagine the Swoard trenching through some wide-open, European face, railing laid out turns on and off the cord.
It all makes sense!
I understand the boards niche and it’s only my first run on the thing.
I drag out a toeside edge to really build some speed and see what type of edge hold the Swoard really has.
As my speed creeps up into the upper 20s, everything changes.
The once solid platform now begins to bounce and chatter! I fight for edge hold and balance as I rip the middle of the turn.
The tail folds just behind the back foot, not much at first but just a little as I exit the heelside.
I throw my self over the board and allow the board to pass under to try and minimize the force onto the nose after feeling the board fail at the exit of the last turn.
The nose begins to hook up but I cannot hold a railed turn at this speed.
I reach out and through the apex of the turn trying to salvage what’s left of the bounce and chatter to still maintain control.
I almost felt as though I made the turn wrong.
Maybe it’s my fault the board is having such a hard time keeping up because it failed so soon and at such a slow speed. I spot some fresh cord off to the side and head for it hoping that my heelside will hold up on the yummy spring snow.
After allowing the time for a solid EC turn initiation, I commit to the heelside and am only faintly rewarded for my input with a bouncy nose.
This redirects me slightly before the board folds (arrows) between my feet and slides out 4 to 6 meters before I regain control.
I try 10 more turns with proper EC style and receive little help from the board. I revert back to my racer roots and go into fight mode struggling to regain control.
I dump speed and try to maintain turn shape and control the entire pitch.
Magically and around the same speed that it all fell apart, it comes back together. I’m back to the photo quality EC turn and the Swoard feels like a snowboard again only giving me a bounce or bump when I try and push it too hard reminding me to back off the throttle and stay slow and low.
As I work the Swoard through the end of the run I really got a chance to feel the board and its purpose much like the beginning of the run were I could see the niche it fills.
The rest of the time I spent on the Swoard was not as satisfying as that first run, perhaps because the board failed at the same speeds that some freeride softboot boards can handle.
Possibly I was disappointed by the ride because I have ridden better stock boards from almost every major manufacture than this “Extreme Carver” from Swoard, over the years at less cost regardless of shape.
I would love to see a shape similar to the Swoard show up in a more stable product.
Although anyone riding before the days of the four hole pattern may not see anything revolutionary in the shape or ride of the Swoard, the guys at Extremecarving.com have done a great job at marketing a old shape with a new attitude.
They have clear and simple ordering guidelines for any one wishing to purchase a Swoard direct from them.
They do still use a height guideline for size selection, a process considered out dated by most manufactures.
Swoard does take into account rider weight, foot size and ability, to match rider and board.
Unfortunately at this time Swoard has lost the factory making their product and is shopping around for a new facility.
With so many Swoard fans it will hopefully only be a matter of time before they are pumping out product again.
The Swoard product has all the versatility necessary to provide entry-level riders with a tool that carves a very clean line.
Unfortunately the board fails at speeds well below that of a true “race” board.
The wide width of the board has several benefits.
It allows the rider to run less angle and provides better float in crud and variable conditions allowing the board to be more stable at slower speeds.
However, other boards provide the same rider angle options by simply incorporating lift on a more narrow board.
The Swoard might be in your quill as a specialty board if you’re not willing to ride softies but still want to ride the crud and pow and have a bit of money to burn.
But if you are rider who prefers speed on groomers, this board will spend more time in your quiver than on the snow.
Test one out if you can but I have found that the Ride Timless, Salomon E.R.A., Burton Custom X or T6, Nitro Darkhorse or Natural all held an edge as well or better then the Swoard with Cateks on them.
September 3rd, 2004